Casablanca

Destination Type : History & Culture

City : Africa Casablanca

Etymology

Casablanca (Arabic: ٱلدَّار ٱلْبَيْضَاء‎, romanized: ad-dār al-bayḍāʾ; Berber languages: ⴰⵏⴼⴰromanized: anfa; local informal name: Kaẓa), located in the central-western part of Morocco and bordering the Atlantic Ocean, is the largest city in Morocco. It is also the largest city in the Maghreb region, as well as one of the largest and most important cities in Africa, both economically and demographically.

Tourism

Casablanca is an average 3 hours flight from Europe and is home to a multitude of airlines, travel agencies and car rental companies. With its port and its marina, Casablanca is the first cruise port of the Kingdom. Casablanca is the third largest touristic city in Morocco and people come mainly for business. Although the economic capital does not have the same attracting sites as Marrakech or Agadir, the city attracts its visitors by its attracting nightlife and the large variety of restaurants and bars.

Main Sites

Casablanca is home to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. It is situated on a promontory on the Atlantic Ocean. The mosque has room for 25,000 worshippers inside, and a further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque’s courtyard. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 metres (690 feet). The mosque is also the largest in North Africa, and the third-largest in the world. Work on the mosque 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 historic Old Medina, the original walled city of Casablanca rebuilt by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah after the earthquake of 1755, represents Ad-Dār Al-Bayḍāʾ before French colonization. It attracts fewer tourists than the medinas of cities such as Fes and Marrakech. However, it has undergone some restoration in recent years. Included in this project were the western walls of the medina, its sqala, or bastion, and its clock tower rebuilt in the image of the one from 1908.

The French period Ville Nouvelle (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 radiate south and east from Place des Nations Unies, previously the main market of Anfa. Former administrative buildings and modern hotels populate the area. Their style is a combination of Hispano-Moorish and Art Deco.

The Habous (or New Medina) is a neighborhood designed by French architects in neo-Moorish style during French protectorate. Among its sights are:

  • Mahkamat al-Pasha
  • Moulay Youssef Mosque
  • Muhammadi Mosque
  • Royal Palace
  • Olive souq etc.

The Arab League Park (formerly called Parc Lyautey) is the city’s largest public park. On its edge is the Sacred Heart Church of Casablanca. It is no longer in use for religious purposes, but it is open to visitors and is a splendid example of Neo-Gothic architecture.

Notre-Dame de Lourdes Church is a modernist Catholic church that was built in 1954 by architect Achille Dangleterre and engineer Gaston Zimmer. The main attraction of Notre-Dame de Lourdes church is the glasswork of world famous stained glass artist Gabriel Loire.

An iconic site on Ain Diab’s corniche is the small island ribat of Sidi Abderrahman. Before 2013, the only way to reach the island was to walk across at low tide. Nowadays there’s a bridge. This outcrop contains the tomb of Sidi Abderrhamane Thaalibi, a Sufi from Baghdad and the founder of Algiers. He is considered a saint in Morocco.  Because of this, many Moroccans make informal pilgrimages to this site “to reflect on life and to seek religious enlightenment”. Some believe that the saint possessed magical powers, so his tomb still possesses these powers. People come and seek this magic to be cured. Non-Muslims may not enter the shrine.