Casablanca

Short history

The roots of Casablanca stretch back to its founding by Berbers in the 7th century BC. Passed through the hands of Phoenicians and Romans, it became a crucial port, evolving significantly with time. Throughout the early 20th century, under French colonialism, Casablanca saw extensive urban growth, shaping its contemporary face and function as a key port. The city faced turmoil, including anti-French riots and bombings, but stood firm. After gaining independence from France in 1956, Casablanca quickly sprawled in terms of urban and industrial domains, thus becoming Morocco’s economic powerhouse. 

Geography

Casablanca sits along the Atlantic coast in Morocco’s west, surrounded by the Chaouia Plains. This position has played an important role in its evolution into a vital economic center. Its flat landscape has allowed for the building of Africa’s largest artificial port and rapid city growth. The city enjoys a Mediterranean climate with gentle, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, promoting an active outdoor life and verdant public areas.

The city serves as the capital of the Casablanca-Settat region, among Morocco’s twelve regions, and is divided into various districts and neighborhoods. This organizational structure supports effective governance and service provision to its growing population. The geographical and administrative setup of Casablanca is central to its reputation as Morocco’s leading economic force.

Population

Casablanca is Morocco’s economic and cultural center, home to over 4.27 million people. It’s the largest city in the country and plays a pivotal role in the Maghreb region. The city’s demographic is mainly Arab-Berber, mirroring Morocco’s ethnic composition. With Islam as the dominant religion, its teachings and traditions significantly influence Casablanca’s cultural and social life.

Arabic serves as the official language, with Moroccan Darija, a dialect of Arabic, widely used for daily communication among residents. Additionally, French holds a significant place in the city’s linguistic repertoire, a vestige of its colonial history, and is commonly employed in the realms of business, education, and daily life. This amalgamation of languages, coupled with historical migration patterns, contributes to the city’s culture.

Main sights

  • Ḥasan II Mosque: This immense mosque is among the world’s largest, has a remarkable minaret that dominates the city’s landscape. Positioned adjacent to the sea, it provides a beautiful view of meticulously crafted architecture.
  • Morocco Mall: Ranked among Africa’s most extensive shopping hubs, Morocco Mall delivers an expansive selection of shops, amusements, and culinary delights. This contemporary marvel is strategically located in Casablanca, offering a mixture of shopping and entertainment under one roof.
  • Habbous Quarter: This district presents a fusion of French colonial and traditional Moroccan architectural styles. Renowned for its markets, the Habbous Quarter is a go-to destination for genuine Moroccan crafts, aromatic spices, and exquisite textiles.
  • Casablanca Twin Center: A hallmark of urban progress, the Casablanca Twin Center graces the city skyline with its dual skyscrapers. 
  • Rick’s Café: Drawing inspiration from the classic film “Casablanca,” Rick’s Café offers a nostalgic throwback to the 1940s. This famed establishment allows guests to relive the magic of the movie era, coupled with delectable dining options in a memorable setting.

Food

The following are some of the city’s most beloved foods:

  • Couscous: This dish is a symbol of Moroccan cuisine, made from steamed balls of semolina and typically accompanied by a hearty meat and vegetable stew.
  • Tagine: Known for its special cooking method, tagine consists of a slow-cooked stew that can feature lamb, chicken, fish, or vegetables, all enriched with a variety of aromatic spices.
  • Harira: A staple soup enjoyed both during Ramadan and throughout the year, harira combines tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and lamb, infused with a proprietary blend of herbs and spices.
  • B’stilla: An extraordinary pie that entwines sweet and savory under one crust, crafted from layers of pastry filled with pigeon or chicken, almonds, eggs, and spices, finished with a dusting of sugar and cinnamon.
  • Mint Tea: An important element of Moroccan culinary tradition, this sweetened green tea infused with fresh mint is a staple beverage enjoyed at any time of day in Casablanca.

Fun facts

  • The Ḥasan II Mosque in Casablanca stands out with its 210-meter (689 feet) minaret, the tallest globally. Open to non-Muslim visitors, this mosque offers a view into Islamic art and spirituality.
  • “Casablanca,” or “White House” in Spanish, got its name from a small, white landmark house used by sailors, originating from the Portuguese “Casa Branca.”
  • The iconic 1942 film “Casablanca” was influenced by the city’s dynamic and enigmatic appeal, though it was entirely shot in a Hollywood studio, without featuring the actual city.
  • Known for excellent surfing conditions, Casablanca’s coastline caters to surfers of all skill levels and hosts yearly international surfing events, attracting participants and viewers worldwide.
  • Casablanca is home to the continent’s oldest stock exchange, the Casablanca Stock Exchange, founded in 1929, marking it as a key financial center in Africa.