Place des Nations Unies has had so much money spent on it lately. From being a rather shabby square with an underground shopping centre (which used to be under the painted metal globe) it is being gentrified before our very eyes. What is driving this is the new Casa Tramway whose construction required a complete remodelling of the square and reconfiguration of the chaotic and dangerous road system. The cars flow more or less freely now and the trams snake their way into and out of the square from Boulevard Mohammed V transporting 1000s of passengers in far more comfort and efficiency than the crowded buses and shared taxis ever did.
Many of the buildings have had a makeover. The venerable old Café de France has finally given in and is undergoing renovation. When I was in Casa last week, it looked like the old girl would be reopening her doors very shortly as a young vamp. Café Ramses was always pretty posh and new-looking but they have new chairs and it's had a bit of a makeover too.
The biggest difference is to the row of stalls opposite the rear of the hotel Hyatt Regency along the wall of the Ancienne Medina (although these are not strictly a part of the square, but their amelioration is part of the overall process and they can be seen from the square) and to the wall of the Medina. The walls have been repaired and the clock tower improved, as have the gates to the Medina themselves. These aforementioned stalls have been transformed out of all recognition. They have been refurbished and the ugly wooden hoardings that seemed to have been there for 30 years or more have been replaced with modern displays and a new covered passageway along the shopfronts.
There is now space, with the new road system, for the square to have a central area for sitting and seats have been installed there to match those of the newly pedestrianised Avenue Mohammed V.
It's a place now to see and be seen and even could be considered a hot cruising spot for all sexualities and sexes, even in the daytime.
Lastly, the square has retained its premier position as the gateway to most of the major sights of Casablanca. Back along Mohammed V there's the Marché Centrale, the Rialto, the Petit Poucet (just as it was when Piaf, St Exupery et al went there) and rue Colbert and its wonderful chicken or fish snack restaurants. There's the Ancienne Medina to one side and along the tramway in the other direction it's a 200 yard walk to Place Mohammed V for the fountains, pigeons, Mauresque buildings and water sellers. A little further on from there and you see the tree tunnel at Parc de la Ligue Arabe on your right and if you go through you can see the avenue of palms to the left of the tree tunnel. And now that the Tramway is fully functional, a 25 minute ride on the correct branch (not the branch line to Faculties Station) takes you to the seashore at Ain Diab, which is the last stop.
I have some photos somewhere of the square. I think they may already be uploaded as part of general Casablanca pictures but I'll try to get some of the square to add to this review once it's published.
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