|— City —|
|administrative region||Grand Casablanca|
|First settled||7th century BC|
|• Mayor||Mohammed Sajid|
|• City||386 km2 (149 sq mi)|
|• Metro||1,615 km2 (624 sq mi)|
|Elevation||60 m (200 ft)|
|Highest elevation||115 m (377 ft)|
|Lowest elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||WEST (UTC+1)|
Casablanca (Moroccan Arabic: [kɑzɑblɑnkɑ]; Literary Arabic: الدار البيضاء ad-Dār al-Bayḍāʼ (lit. White House), original name in Berber: ⴰⵏⴼⴰ Anfa) is a city in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Grand Casablanca region.
Casablanca is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. It is also the biggest city in the Maghreb region. The 2004 census recorded a population of 3,500,000 in the prefecture of Casablanca and 6,000,000 in the region of Grand Casablanca. Casablanca is considered the economic and business center of Morocco, while the political capital city of Morocco is Rabat.
Casablanca hosts headquarters and main industrial facilities for the leading Moroccan and international companies based in Morocco. Industrial statistics show Casablanca retains its historical position as the main industrial zone of the country. The Port of Casablanca is one of the largest artificial ports in the world, and the largest port of North Africa. It is also the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy.
The original Berber name, Anfa (meaning: "hill" in English), was used by the locals, and Berber-speaking, city dwellers until the French occupation army entered the city in 1907 and adopted the Spanish name, Casablanca. "Anfa" now refers to the original old city quarters of Casablanca.
Legally speaking, Moroccans consider Anfa to be a prefecture (a district) with half a million city dwellers, and thus a part of Grand Casablanca.
The area which is today Casablanca was founded and settled by Berbers by at least the 7th century BC. It was used as a port by the Phoenicians and later the Romans. In his book “Wasf Afriquia”, Al-Hassan al-Wazzan refers to ancient Casablanca as "Anfa", a great city which was founded by the Berber kingdom of Barghawata in 744 AD. He believed Casablanca to have been the most "prosperous city on the Atlantic coast because of its fertile land." Independent Berber kingdom of Barghawata in the area arose around 744 AD, and continued until it was conquered by the Almoravids in 1068.
During the 14th century, under the Merinids, Anfa rose in importance as a port. The last of the Merinids was ousted by a popular revolt in 1465. 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 "Casa Branca", meaning "white house" in Portuguese.
Between 1580 and 1640 the Crown of Portugal and the Crown of Spain were held by the same kings and therefore Casablanca and all other areas occupied by the Portuguese were under Spanish control, even though maintaining an autonomous Portuguese administration. As Portugal broke the ties with the Spanish king in 1640, Casablanca came under fully Portuguese control once again. The Europeans eventually abandoned the area completely in 1755 following an earthquake which destroyed most of the town.
The town was finally reconstructed by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah (1756–1790), the grandson of Moulay Ismail and ally of George Washington with the help of Spaniards from the nearby emporium. The town was called الدار البيضاء ad-Dār al-Bayḍāʼ, the Arabic translation of the Spanish Casa Blanca, meaning "white house".
In the 19th century, the area's population began to grow as it 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, 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 colonization, 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. The film has a cosmopolitan cast of characters (American, French, German, Italian, Czech, Norwegian, Austrian, Bulgarian, Russian and some other nationalities).
Casablanca was an important strategic port during World War II and hosted the Casablanca Conference in 1943, in which Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the progress of the war. Casablanca was the site of a large American air base, which was the staging area for all American aircraft for the European Theater of Operations during World War II.
In October 1930, Casablanca hosted a Grand Prix, held at the new Anfa Racecourse. In 1958, the race was held at Ain-Diab circuit (see Moroccan Grand Prix). Morocco gained independence from France on 2 March 1956. In 1983, Casablanca hosted the Mediterranean Games. The city is now developing a tourism industry. Casablanca has become the economic and business capital of Morocco, while Rabat is the political capital.
In March 2000, more than 60 women's groups organized demonstrations in Casablanca proposing reforms to the legal status of women in the country. Forty thousand 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 16 May 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. 12 suicide bombers struck five locations in the city.
A string of suicide bombings struck the city in early 2007. A suspected militant blew himself up at a Casablanca internet cafe on 11 March 2007. On 10 April, 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 14 April, 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.
As calls for reform spread through the Arab world in 2011, Moroccans joined in, but concessions by the ruler led to acceptance. However, in December thousands of people demonstrated in several parts of the city, especially the city center near la fontaine, desiring more significant political reforms.
Casablanca is located in the Chawiya plain which has historically been the breadbasket of Morocco. Apart from the Atlantic coast, the Bouskoura forest is the only natural attraction in the city. The forest was planted in the 20th century and consists mostly of Eucalyptus, Palm and Pine trees. It is located halfway to the city's international airport.
The only watercourse in Casablanca is Oued Bouskoura, a small seasonal creek that until 1912 reached the Atlantic Ocean near the actual port. Most of Oued Bouskoura's bed has been covered due to urbanization and only the part south of El-Jadida road can now be seen. The closest permanent river to Casablanca is Oum Er-Rbia River 70 km (43.50 mi) to the south-east.
Casablanca has a very mild Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa). Casablanca's climate is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Atlantic Ocean which tends to moderate temperature swings and produce a remarkably mild climate with little seasonal temperature variation and a lack of extreme heat and cold. Casablanca has an annual average of 74 days with significant precipitation, which amounts to 427 millimeters per year. The highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded in the city are 41.6 °C (107 °F) and −2.7 °C (27 °F), respectively. The highest amount of rainfall recorded in a single day is 178 millimeters ( November 30, 2010)
|Climate data for Casablanca|
|Average high °C (°F)||17.1
|Average low °C (°F)||8.6
|Rainfall mm (inches)||62.2
|Avg. rainy days||9.8||9.3||9.1||8.7||5.4||2.6||0.4||0.4||2.1||6.2||9.7||10.2||73.9|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||189.1||189.2||241.8||261.0||294.5||285.0||303.8||294.5||258.0||235.6||192.0||182.9||2,927.4|
|Source: Hong Kong Observatory|
The Grand 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 come from the Grand Casablanca. 30% of Moroccan banking network is concentrated in Casablanca.
One of the most important Casablancan exports is phosphate. Other industries include fishing, fish canning, sawmills, furniture production, building materials, glass, textiles, electronics, leather work, processed food, spirits, soft drinks, and cigarettes.
Almost the entire Casablanca waterfront is under development, mainly the construction of huge entertainment centres between the port and Hassan II Mosque, the Anfa Resort project near the business, entertainment and living centre of Megarama, the shopping and entertainment complex of Morocco Mall, as well as a complete renovation of the coastal walkway. The Sindbad park is planned to be totally renewed with rides, games and entertainment services.
Royal Air Maroc has its head office at the Casablanca-Anfa Airport. In 2004, it announced that it was moving its head office from Casablanca to a location in Province of Nouaceur, close to Mohammed V International Airport. The agreement to build the head office in Nouaceur was signed in 2009.
Casablanca is a commune, part of the Region of the Grand Casablanca. The commune is divided into 8 districts or prefectures, which are themselves divided into 16 subdivisions or arrondissements and 1 municipality. The 8 districts and their subdivisions are as follows:
The list of neighborhoods is indicative and not complete:
The population of Grand Casablanca was estimated in 2005 to be 3.85 million. 98% live in urban areas. Around 25% of them are under 15 and 9% are over 60 years old. The population of the city is about 11% of the total population of Morocco. Grand Casablanca is also the largest urban area in the Maghreb. The number of inhabitants is however disputed by the locals, who point to a number between 5 and 6 million, citing recent drought years as a reason for many people moving into the city to find work.
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 synagogue in Casablanca. It was destroyed along with much of the town in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Today the Jewish cemetery of Casablanca is one of the major cemeteries of the city.
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-Mauresque and Art Deco.
Casablanca is home to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. It is situated on a promontory on the Atlantic. 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. The mosque is also the largest in North Africa, and the third largest in the world.
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 the Casablanca Cathedral (Cathédrale Sacré-Coeur). It is no longer in use for religious purposes, but it is open to visitors and 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 cities like 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.
A popular site among locals is the small island Marabout de Sidi Abderrahmane. It is possible to walk across to the rocky island at low tide. 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 and so his tomb still possesses these powers. People come and seek this magic in order to be cured. Non-Muslims may not enter the shrine.
There are several shopping centers in Casablanca, but the largest is Morocco Mall. It's the largest shopping center in Africa with 250,000 m2 (2,690,978 sq ft) of floor space in Casablanca. The mall, which opened on December 1, 2011, was designed by architect Davide Padoa of Design International, a global architecture boutique with its headquarters in London. The mall features a massive 1,000,000 litre aquarium that contains over 40 different species of fish. The aquarium is called "Aquadream" and was designed and built by International Concept Management (ICM). Visitors have the opportunity to take a ride through the center of the cylinder shaped aquarium with a 360-degree view of the sea life. Visitors can also go scuba diving with a professional instructor inside the aquarium.
Anfaplace Shopping Center is a shopping center located on the Corniche of Casablanca. You will find brands of ready-to-wear for women, men and children, as well as accessories, shoes, etc.. A food court is available on the top floor. Outside, a promenade overlooking the sea and restaurants.
Twin Center is the new landmark of the business district of Casablanca. At over 100 meters in height, the twin towers dominate the skyline and the work environment are better coordinated and more dynamic which is, as evidenced by their design particularly studied in terms of technology, efficiency and comfort.
Casablanca is home to two popular football clubs, Raja Club Athletic and Wydad Athletic Club. Raja's symbol is an eagle and Wydad's symbol is a goose. These two popular clubs have produced some of Morocco's best players such as: Salaheddine Bassir, Abdelmajid Dolmy, Baddou Zaki, Aziz Bouderbala and Noureddine Naybet. There are other football teams on top of these two major teams that are based in the city of Casablanca are Rachad Bernoussi, TAS de Casablanca, Majd Al Madina and Racing Casablanca.
The Casablanca tramway is the rapid transit tram system in Casablanca in Morocco. The route is 31 km (19 mi) long, with 49 stops, and Y-shaped; further lines are planned in the future.
Casablanca's main airport is Mohammed V International Airport, Morocco's busiest airport. Regular domestic flights serve Marrakech, Rabat, Agadir, Oujda, and Tangier, Laayoune as well as other cities.
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 City, Dakar and Dubai are important primary destinations.
The older, smaller Casablanca-Anfa Airport to the west of the city, that served certain destinations including Damascus, and Tunis, was largely closed to international civilian traffic in 2006. It currently services domestic flights and freight. Casablanca Tit Mellil Airport is located in the nearby community of Tit Mellil.
CTM coaches (intercity buses) and various private lines run services to most notable Moroccan towns as well as a number of European cities. These run from the Gare Routière on Rue Léon l'Africain in downtown Casablanca.
An underground railway system is currently being planned, which when constructed will potentially offer some relief to the problems of traffic congestion and poor air quality. The metro will not be ready before 2017, having a length of 10 km (6.21 mi) and costing 46.7 billion dirhams (approximately 5.8 billion USD). However, it should be noted that none of the preparatory works for this project have started. Planners are first busy developing a RER system within the Casablanca city and metropolitan area which resembles a metro (including a 10 km long tunnel).
Registered taxis in Casablanca are coloured red and known as petit taxis (small taxis), or coloured white and known as grands taxis (big taxis). As is standard Moroccan practice, petits taxis, typically small-four door Dacia Logan or similar cars, provide metered cab service in the central metropolitan areas. Grands taxis, generally older Mercedes-Benz sedans, provide shared mini-bus like service within the city on pre-defined routes, or shared inter-city service. Grands Taxis may also be hired for private service by the hour or day, although typically only foreigners do so.
Casablanca is served by three principal railway stations run by the national rail service, the ONCF.
Casa-Voyageurs is the main inter-city station, from which trains run south to Marrakech or El Jadida and north to Mohammedia and Rabat, and then on either to Tangier or Meknes, Fes, Taza and Oujda. A dedicated airport shuttle service to Mohammed V International Airport also has its primary in-city stop at this station, for connections on to further destinations.
Casa-Port serves primarily commuter trains operating on the Casablanca – Kenitra rail corridor, with some connecting trains running on to Gare de Casa-Voyageurs. The station provides a direct interchange between train and shipping services, and is located near to several port-area hotels. It is the nearest station to the old town of Casablanca, and to the modern city centre, around the landmark Casablanca Twin Center. Casa-Port station is being rebuilt in a modern and enlarged configuration. During the construction the station is still operational. From 2013 it will provide a close connection from the rail network to the city's new tram network.
Casa-Oasis was originally a suburban commuter station which was fully redesigned and rebuilt in the early twenty-first century, and officially re-opened in 2005 as a primary city rail station. Owing to its new status, all southern inter-city train services to and from Casa-Voyageurs now call at Casa-Oasis. ONCF stated in 2005 that the refurbishment and upgrading of Casa-Oasis to inter-city standards was intended to relieve passenger congestion at Casa-Voyageurs station.
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