The settlement that would later become modern day Casablanca was first established in the seventh century by a Berber tribe. They named the small independent kingdom "Anfa" which means "hill". In 1068 the region was conquered by the Almoravids. (A Moroccan dynasty that occupied Western North Africa and Southern Spain.) In the 14th century the Almoravids were conquered by another Moroccan dynasty called the Merinids. It was not until the 15th century that the town became an important port. It was the usefulness of the location that led to years of instability for the region.
In 1468 Anfa was sacked by the Portuguese who renamed the settlement "Casa Branca" which translates to "White house". The city passed between Portuguese and Spanish rule between 1580 - 1755 when an earthquake destroyed the region and frightened many Europeans away.
After the earthquake the city was reconstructed by sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah and during the 19th century Morocco and the port of Anfa became major suppliers of wool to Britain. It was also during this time that "gunpowder tea" became a part of Moroccan culture after it was imported from Britain.
In 1907 the French moved into the region and re-named it "Casa Blanca" which is French for "White House". The city formally became part of the French Protectorate in 1910 and did not regain independence until nearly 50 years later on March 2, 1956.
I was in Casablanca in May of 2009. Morocco is the first country that I have visited outside of the US and Canada. My first impression of Casablanca was underwhelming. The name "White House " is spot on. As you can see in the photos above a lot of the buildings are white. I guess that I was expecting to see a lot more color in Morocco. Since Casablanca was the first stop on my journey through Morocco - I was concerned that all of Morocco would be so monochromatic. I was, of course, wrong.
Casablanca is a place of complicated contradiction. It is a confluence of the Middle East, Europe and Africa. It is utterly modern with regard to the ideas of cultural and religious tolerance. The architecture is at once reminiscent of the Art Neuveau movement and rustic Middle Eastern towns. (As I have observed in pictures.)
I think that most Americans would say that it was "dirty" but I think that is one way that we interpret age. Our country is so much younger than the rest of the world we have not had long enough to accumulate "dirt".
The Mosque of Hassan II was an incredible sight that I will talk about further in a separate page.
The people of Casablanca were kind for the most part. There are people who want to sell you things, and will even ask you for a little bit of money if you take their picture - but they were never forceful or rude. I was part of a big group that was almost even men and women and we had a tour guide who gave us useful information and acted as translator if necessary. The only impoliteness that I encountered were some rude young women at the Mosque of Hassan II. They shouted something at me in Arabic and then laughed with one another while I was having my picture taken. Ahhh, teenage girls...rude the whole world over!
I do not really remember the food too well. Since Casablanca was the first stop on our journey I was hungry but hesitant. I did not want to eat meat or spicy things or salad or fruit because I had been told that all of this might make me sick. I remember eating bread and thinking "Wow. I have never tasted bread like this..."
The one thing about Casablanca that I hope that I always remember is the breeze. I love the feeling of a nice breeze and the one in Casablanca was by far the nicest I have ever felt. I swear that it smelled like cool orange blossoms, and felt like everything was OK with the world. Later that day at the hotel the breeze was dancing with some sheer curtains in the restaurant area. I snapped this picture: