Casablanca is on the site of Anfa, a prosperous town that the Portuguese destroyed in 1468; they resettled it briefly in 1515 under its present name. Almost destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, Casablanca was rebuilt (1757) by Muhammad XVI. It was occupied by the French in 1907. During World War II, Casablanca was the scene of one of the three major Allied landings in North Africa (Nov., 1942) and of a conference between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (Nov., 1943).
Casablanca (in Standard Arabic: الدار البيضاء ad-Dār al-Bayḍāʼ; Moroccan Arabic: dar beïda الدار البيضا , Spanish for white (blanca) house (casa) ; Amazigh: Anfa) is a city in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Greater Casablanca region.
With a population of 3.1 million (3.85 million in the "greater Casablanca" (September 2005 census), Casablanca is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. It's also the biggest city in the Maghreb and the sixth biggest city in the entire continent of Africa. Casablanca is considered the economic capital of Morocco because it is the heart of Moroccan business; the political capital is Rabat. It is also the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy.
Casablanca is the leading city hosting headquarters and main industrial facilities for the leading Moroccan and international companies based in Morocco. Industrial statistics show Casablanca retains its historic position as the main industrial zone of the country. The Port of Casablanca is considered as Morocco's chief port and as one of the largest artificial ports in the world. It is also the largest port of the Maghreb and North Africa.
During 14th century, under the Merinids, Anfa rose in importance as a port. In the early 15th century, the town became an independent state once again, and emerged as a safe harbour for pirates and privateers, leading to it being targeted by the Portuguese, who destroyed the town in 1468.
The Portuguese used the ruins of Anfa to build a military fortress in 1515. The town that grew up around it was called "Casabranca", meaning "White House" in Portuguese.
The town was finally reconstructed by sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah (1756-1790), the grandson of Moulay Ismail and ally of George Washington. The town was called Dar el Beida (white house) in Arabic and Casa Blanca in Spanish.
In the 19th century, the area's population began to grow as Casablanca became a major supplier of wool to the booming textile industry in Britain and shipping traffic increased (the British, in return, began importing Morocco's now famous national drink, gunpowder tea). By the 1860s, there were around 5,000 residents, and the population grew to around 10,000 by the late 1880s. Casablanca remained a modestly-sized port, with a population reaching around 12,000 within a few years of the French conquest and arrival of French colonialists in the town, at first administrators within a sovereign sultanate, in 1906. By 1921, this was to rise to 110,000, largely through the development of bidonvilles.
In June 1907, the French attempted to build a light railway near the port and passing through a graveyard. Residents attacked the French workers, and riots ensued. French troops were landed in order to restore order, which was achieved only after severe damage to the town. The French then took control of Casablanca. This effectively began the process of colonialisation, although French control of Casablanca was not formalised until 1910.
The famous 1942 film Casablanca underlined the city's colonial status at the time -- depicting it as the scene of a power struggle between competing European powers, carried out with little reference to the local population. The film's vast cosmopolitan cast of characters (American, French, German, Czech, Norse, Bulgarian, Russian and some other nationalities) includes only a single (uncredited) Arab character, "Abdul" the doorman whose role is marginal.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Casablanca was a major centre of anti-French rioting. A terrorist bomb on Christmas Day of 1953 caused terrible casualties.
In 1930, Casablanca hosted a Grand Prix. The race was held at the new Anfa Racecourse. In 1958, the race was held at Ain-Diab circuit - (see Moroccan Grand Prix). In 1983, Casablanca hosted the Mediterranean Games.
In March 2000, women's groups organised demonstrations in Casablanca proposing reforms to the legal status of women in the country. 40,000 women attended, calling for a ban on polygamy and the introduction of divorce law (divorce being a purely religious procedure at that time). Although the counter-demonstration attracted half a million participants, the movement for change started in 2000 was influential on King Mohammed VI, and he enacted a new Mudawana, or family law, in early 2004, meeting some of the demands of women's rights activists.
On May 16, 2003, 33 civilians were killed and more than 100 people were injured when Casablanca was hit by a multiple suicide bomb attack carried out by Moroccans and claimed by some to have been linked to al-Qaeda.
A string of suicide bombings struck the city in early 2007. A suspected militant blew himself up at a Casablanca internet cafe on March 11, 2007. On April 10, three suicide bombers blew themselves up during a police raid of their safe house. Two days later, police set up barricades around the city and detained two more men who had escaped the raid. On April 14, two brothers blew themselves up in downtown Casablanca, one near the American Consulate, and one a few blocks away near the American Language Center. Only one person was injured aside from the bombers, but the Consulate was closed for more than a month.
The Greater Casablanca region is considered the locomotive of the development of the Moroccan economy. It attracts 32% of the country’s production units and 56% of industrial labor. The region uses 30% of the national electricity production. With MAD 93 billion, the region contributes to 44% of the Industrial production of the Kingdom. 33% of national industrial exportations, MAD 27 billions, which is comparably with US $ 3.6 billion, come from the Greater Casablanca. 30% of Moroccan banking network is concentrated in Casablanca.
One of the most important Casablancan exports is phosphorate. Other industries include fishing, fish canning, sawmilling, furniture making, building materials, glass, textiles, electronics, leather work, processed food, beer, spirits, soft drinks, and cigarettes.
A Hewlett Packard office for French-speaking countries in Africa is in Casablanca.
There was a Sephardic Jewish community in Anfa up to its destruction by the Portuguese in 1468. Jews were slow to return to the town, but by 1750 the Rabbi Elijah Synagogue was built as the first Jewish temple in Casablanca. It was destroyed along with much of the town in the earthquake of 1755.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Casablanca was home to about 6,000 Jews - more than a quarter of the population. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Casablanca has been associated with Judaism more than any other city in North Africa. The Jewish population snowballed in the mid 20th century, partly because of the development of social support structures for Jewish incomers and partly, after the European Holocaust, because of an increased desire of some Jews for the protection of a large Jewish community.
Between the 1940s and 1960s, the Jewish population of Casablanca was around 70,000. Emigration to France, Canada, the United States and Israel from Casablanca has been substantial since then, however. Large numbers of expatriates retain Moroccan citizenship and a Moroccan identity. Fewer than 5,000 Jews remain in the city today. Here is a list of a few synagogues in Casablanca:
An Israeli theatre play, extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960's and later made into a film, was called Casablan, depicting the difficult life in a Jaffa slum of the eponymous young Morrocan Jewish immigrant, evidently originating from Casablanca
The French period New Town of Casablanca was designed by the French architect Henri Prost and was a model of a new town at that time. The main streets of the New Town (Ville Nouvelle in French) radiate south and east from Place des Nations Unies, where the main market of Anfa had been. The New Town is possibly the most impressive in Morocco. Former administrative buildings and modern hotels populate the area. Their style is a combination of Hispano-Mauresque and Art Deco styles.
Casablanca is home to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. It is situated on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic, which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor with room for 25,000 worshippers. A further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque's courtyard. Its minaret is the world's tallest at 210 metres.
Work on the mosque was started in 1980, and was intended to be completed for the 60th birthday of the former Moroccan king, Hassan II, in 1989. However, the building was not inaugurated until 1993. Authorities spent an estimated $800 million in the construction of the building.
The Parc de la Ligue Arabe (formally called Lyautey) is the city's largest public park. On its edge is situated the Cathedrale du Sacré Coeur, which is disused, but is a splendid example of Mauresque architecture.
The Old Medina (the part of town pre-dating the French protectorate) attracts fewer tourists than the medinas of other Moroccan towns, such as Fes and Marrakech. However, it has undergone some restoration in recent years. Included in this project have been the western walls of the medina, its skala, or bastion, and its colonial-period clock tower.
The city is served by Anfa Airport and Mohammed V International Airport, and its port is one of the largest artificial ports in the world.
The second station, Casa-Port, serves primarily commuter trains running the Casablanca - Kenitra corridor, with some connecting trains with running on to Gare de Casa-Voyageurs. www.oncf.ma
Casablanca is well served by international flights to Europe, especially French and Spanish airports, and has regular connections to North American, Middle Eastern and sub-Saharan African destinations. New York, Dakar and Dubai are important primary destinations.
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