Casablanca in some photographs, specially the outskirts looks a lot like parts of Dubai. Beautiful Spanish style haciendas, tile roofs, pretty landscaped gardens beneath the azure sky. Minus the sand and the dust in the air.
In the main city, French architecture prevails, making its mark over a city that is half lost in time, half very much in the buzz of a modern developing metropolis. Some of the older buildings are stunning. This was my first visit to Morocco, and in two days I felt I had taken a magic carpet ride to a place quite far away. Shining happy people, content with what they have, sharing their simple pleasures, laughing, gregarious, different from the wannabe Dubai world we live in. A real city, with real people, and a soul.
I had gone to Casablanca on a special invitation from Coca Cola Morocco and UM to share with them the State of the Digital Nation. In a half day session, to my rather pleasant surprise, I found a bunch of people in our industry on both sides of the agency-client divide, extremely aware of all things digital, interested , engaged and passionate. The UM bunch were amazing. Fikria Kirani efficiently runs a good media agency there. And Imad Lyoubi, the Account Director on Coke is an asset – a best in breed, if I may say that. And, on the client side, it was a thrill meeting up with a team who were totally with it – enthusiastic, participative, ready for a future we all know is around the corner – with lots and lots of digital in it.
Fikria and Imad were just the most gracious hosts – showing me around the Corniche, the beautiful old parts of town, indulging me in the most wonderful Moroccan food, harissa, tagine, melt-in-your-mouth cookies from a famous old patisserie – this was indeed a business trip I won't forget in a hurry.
But what really left an impression was the business side of things. Their knowledge of digital – online, social, search, mobile etc were par with any one I've met over the last few years, and their thirst for knowledge was pronounced and eager. With a fairly young population, digital engagement seems to have a bright future in that country. And I'm all the more blessed to have a little glimpse of it. Thank you Casablanca.