Travel #3: Casablanca, Morocco

One of the most modern cities in all of Africa, Casablanca, located in the Kingdom of Morocco, is this country’s industrial powerhouse. Not only is it the Kingdom’s top ranked city, but it is also the financial center on the entire Continent. Casablanca has a unique history as old as Rome herself, and is packed full of history and traditions that sweeten the deal when one considers somewhere to take an extended vacation! The city constantly falls on websites “top-ten ranked tourist destination places”

Even so, there’s great reason for the ranking because Casablanca has an area of 148 square miles, and within her city limits she holds 3.35 million people with 6.8 million in the surrounding Casablanca-Settat county! Casablanca is located in the state of Grande Casablanca, one of 62 provinces in Morocco. The area was settled by native people, called the Berbers, but most likely people who we would call Phoenicians which were ancient-Greeks in the 7th century B.C. The original name for the location was called, “Anfa” as the Berber kingdom of Barhgawata founded and built-up in 744 A.D. and this name is preserved today in modern Casablanca in a commerce district named, “Anfa Place”.

Anfa was such a great city during this time that it developed into a flourishing city-state written into the annals of history by Leo Africanius, a Roman historian. However in 1068, the city-state fell and came under the Empire of the Almoroavids, another Berber tribe of conservative-Muslims. The Almoravids went on to conquer the Kingdom of Spain and modern-day Portugal from 754 a.d-1492 a.d.  With the defeat of the Moroccans in Portugal with the completion of their Reconquista in 1292 A.D., the Moroccans were firmly placed on Portugal’s own expansion plans.

The Kingdom of Portugal began their gradual invasion of the Kingdom of Morocco at Sebta (later re-named to the Portuguese, Ceuta) on 21Aug1415 by Dom João I. The entire region became weakened and Anfa once again became a city-state and was targeted by Portugal for attack due to the city’s safe harbors for piracy. In 1468 A.D. under Dom Afonso V, Anfa was blasted into ruble and in 1515 A.D. the Portuguese re-built the former city into a military fort that was named, “Casa Branca”. The area was abandoned by the Portuguese in 1755 A.D. following the massive earthquake that rocked the region.

Casa Branca was re-built, once again, this time by King Mohammad Ben Abdallah with the help of Spanish engineers who renamed the old fort, “Casablanca” just the Spanish version of the Portuguese name. In my former article, you will note the name of the king listed was the neighborhood that was torn down in 1994 to make way for the King Hassan II Mosque. Casablanca developed industrially, and caught the eye of the Republic of France in 1906 A.D. in which all of Morocco was handed over to France from Spain and Casablanca became French with a sovereign kingship. The French built up Casablanca using shanty towns. Under France the country grew and was exposed to Western ways which set the country apart from other Muslim countries when their independence was granted by France on 02Mar1956.

After independence Casablanca has done extremely well for itself. It’s the seat for the Moroccan Grande Prix, and held the Mediterranean Games. The city is the largest economical city in the entire continent and is the most important and diverse city in all of North Africa. The number one rated tourist site in Casablanca is to visit the King Hassan II Mosque. This is one of the world’s largest mosques and is the largest one in Morocco. Your visit to Casablanca cannot be complete until you visit the city’s Medina and see authentic craftsmen selling and producing their wares!

Another tour hotspot is the palace of Mohamed V, a beautiful square home to the city’s administration, and is in neo-Moorish style architecture: the French Consulate, Bank of Morocco, Post Office, and court offices. However, the Palace itself is under renovation, and when I was there, most of the square was walled off and closed. It’s located on Avenue Hassan II and can be reached by the city’s tramway. When in Casablanca you must visit the suburb of Ain Diab! This location is home to the beaches and beach commerce, and is beautiful indeed.

If you are into historical religious sites, Casablanca has the beautiful Cathedral du Sacre Coeur and the Notre Dame du Lourdes. Both these sites are in desperate need of repair and restoration, and due to the Kingdom’s anti-Christian laws, the area has not been restored. However, money talks, and if the price is right, the guards will let you in for some good imagery. While you’re exploring near the churches, don’t forget to hit the central market, a five minute walk away!

This modern-day market is where all types of goods are sold, but be mindful, prices will be inflated there, and you’re best bet is to haggle for a lower price, or send a local in to buy the goods you want. While you’re in the region be sure to swing by Mohammedia, a peaceful port-city that is a fine place to relax outside the bustle of big-city life, and El-Jadida, one of the regions most historical locations, and an ancient Portuguese stronghold. There’s also Safi, another Portuguese stronghold and a sleepy port town. All these palaces have amazing cuisine, people, history, and culture that you must experience!

The city, its suburbs, and the surrounding areas are packed full of history; the likes of which will make you immersed in its richness. Roman, French, Portuguese, and Moorish architecture, cuisine, and culture is evident everywhere. The people themselves are walking history with their blood running as diverse as the areas history. Get to know many Moroccans. These people are some of the most welcoming, nicest, and beautiful people on Earth! Get out and inspire your own adventure!

 

-Anthony 

 

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