Location in Morocco
|First settled||7th century BC|
|• Mayor||Abdelaziz El Omari|
|• City||386 km2 (149 sq mi)|
|• Metro||1,615 km2 (624 sq mi)|
|Elevation||0 to 150 m (0 to 492 ft)|
|• Rank||1st in Morocco|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||WEST (UTC+1)|
Casablanca (Arabic: الدار البيضاء, ad-Dār al-Bayḍā’; Berber: ⴰⵏⴼⴰ, Anfa; local informal name: Kaẓa) is the largest city in Morocco, located in the central-western part of the country bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest city in the Maghreb, as well as one of the largest and most important cities in Africa, both economically and demographically.
Casablanca is Morocco’s chief port and one of the largest financial centers in the African continent. The 2012 census (adjusted with recent numbers) recorded a population of about 4 million in the prefecture of Casablanca. Casablanca is considered the economic and business center of Morocco, although the national political capital is Rabat.
The leading Moroccan companies and international corporations doing Moroccan business have their headquarters and main industrial facilities in Casablanca. Recent 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 name of the city was Anfa, in Berber language, by at least the seventh century BC. After the Portuguese took control of Anfa in the 15th century AD, they rebuilt it, changing the name to Casa Branca. It derives from the Portuguese word combination meaning “White House” (branca “white”, casa “house”). The present name, which is the Spanish version (pronounced: [kasaˈβlaŋka]), came when the Portuguese kingdom was integrated to the Spanish kingdom. During the French protectorate in Morocco, the name remained Casablanca (pronounced: [kɑzɑblɑ̃kɑ]). In the 18th century, an earthquake destroyed most of the town. It was rebuilt by the Sultan who changed the name into the local Arabic which is A-ddar Al Baidaa, although Arabic also has its own version of Casablanca (كازابلانكا, Kāzāblānkā). The city is still nicknamed Casa by many locals and outsiders to the city. In many other cities with a different dialect, it is called A-ddar Al-Bida, instead.
A famous boulevard inside Casablanca City is called “Anfa Boulevard”. Anfa is generally considered the early “old original city” of Casablanca; it is legally a prefecture (district) with half a million city inhabitants.
The area which is today Casablanca was founded and settled by Berbers by at least the seventh 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 founded in the Berber kingdom of Barghawata in 744 AD. He believed Anfa was the most “prosperous city on the Atlantic Coast because of its fertile land.” Barghawata rose as an independent state around this time, and continued until it was conquered by the Almoravids in 1068. Following the defeat of the Barghawata in the 12th century, Arab tribes of Hilal and Sulaym descent settled in the region, mixing with the local Berbers, which led to a global Arabicizing. During the 14th century, under theMerinids, Anfa rose in importance as a port. The last of the Merinids was ousted by a popular revolt in 1465.
Portugal conquest and Spanish influence
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 bombarded the town which led to its destruction 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 was integrated to the Crown of Spain, so Casablanca and all other areas occupied by the Portuguese were under Spanish control, though maintaining an autonomous Portuguese administration. As Portugal broke ties with Spain 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 an ally of George Washington, with the help of Spaniards from the nearby emporium. The town was called الدار البيضاء ad-Dār al-Bayḍāʼ, theArabic translation of the Spanish Casa Blanca.
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 national drink, gunpowder tea). By the 1860s, around 5,000 residents were there, 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 colonialistsin the town, at first administrators within a sovereign sultanate, in 1906. By 1921, this rose to 110,000, largely through the development of shanty towns.
French rule and influence
In June 1907, the French attempted to build a light railway near the port and passing through a graveyard. As an act of resistance and protestation, the locals attacked the French, riots ensued, causing a few soldiers to be wounded and one general to be killed. In response, the French attacked by ship, bombarding the city from the coast, and landing troops inside the town, which caused severe damage to the town and 15,000 dead and wounded bodies. The French claimed that it was to restore order there. This effectively began the process of colonization, although French control of Casablanca was not formalised until 1910. Under the French rule, Muslim anti-Jewish riots occurred in 1908.
The famous 1942 film Casablanca (starring Humphrey Bogart) 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, Spaniard, Czech, Norwegian, Austrian, Bulgarian, Russian, and some other nationalities).
Europeans formed almost half the population. During the 1940s and 1950s, Casablanca was a major centre of anti-French rioting. A bomb attack on 25 December 1953 (Christmas Day) caused 16 deaths.
World War II
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. About 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 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. Twelve 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 café 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.
Geography and climate
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 Rabia, 70 km (43.50 mi) to the south-east.
Casablanca has a warm summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa). The cool Canary Current off the Atlantic coast moderates temperature variation, which results in a climate remarkably similar to that of coastal Los Angeles, with similar temperature ranges. The city has an annual average of 72 days with significant precipitation, which amounts to 412 mm (16.2 in) per year. The highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded in the city are 40.5 °C (104.9 °F) and −2.7 °C (27.1 °F), respectively. The highest amount of rainfall recorded in a single day is 178 mm (7.0 in) on 30 November 2010.
|[hide]Climate data for Casablanca (1981–2010)|
|Record high °C (°F)||31.1
|Average high °C (°F)||17.3
|Daily mean °C (°F)||12.6
|Average low °C (°F)||9.2
|Record low °C (°F)||−1.5
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||68
|Average rainy days||9||9||7||8||6||2||1||1||3||7||9||11||72|
|Average relative humidity (%)||83||83||82||80||79||81||82||83||83||82||82||84||82|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||189.6||188.5||240.7||261.5||293.6||285.0||303.4||294.1||258.1||234.3||190.6||183.1||2,922.5|
|Source #1: Pogoda.ru.net|
|Source #2: NOAA (sun, 1961–1990)|
|17.5 °C (63.5 °F)||17.0 °C (62.6 °F)||17.1 °C (62.8 °F)||18.4 °C (65.1 °F)||19.5 °C (67.1 °F)||21.8 °C (71.2 °F)||22.7 °C (72.9 °F)||23.3 °C (73.9 °F)||23.1 °C (73.6 °F)||22.5 °C (72.5 °F)||20.4 °C (68.7 °F)||18.5 °C (65.3 °F)
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. About 33% of national industrial exportations, MAD 27 billion, comes from the Grand Casablanca; 30% of the 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.
The Casablanca and Mohammedia seaports activity represent 50% of the international commercial flows of Morocco. 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 Casablanca-Settat. The commune is divided into eight districts or prefectures, which are themselves divided into 16 subdivisions or arrondissements and one municipality. The districts and their subdivisions are:
- Aïn Chock (عين الشق) – Aïn Chock (عين الشق)
- Aïn Sebaâ – Hay Mohammadi (عين السبع الحي المحمدي) – Aïn Sebaâ (عين السبع), Hay Mohammadi (الحي المحمدي), Roches Noires (روش نوار).
- Anfa (أنفا) – Anfa (أنفا), Maârif (المعاريف), Sidi Belyout (سيدي بليوط).
- Ben M’Sick (بن مسيك) – Ben M’Sick (بن مسيك), Sbata (سباته).
- Sidi Bernoussi (سيدي برنوصي) – Sidi Bernoussi (سيدي برنوصي), Sidi Moumen (سيدي مومن).
- Al Fida – Mers Sultan (الفداء – مرس السلطان) – Al Fida (الفداء); Mechouar (المشور) (municipality), Mers Sultan (مرس السلطان).
- Hay Hassani (الحي الحسني) – Hay Hassani (الحي الحسني).
- Moulay Rachid (مولاي رشيد) – Moulay Rachid (مولاي رشيد), Sidi Othmane (سيدي عثمان).
The list of neighborhoods is indicative and not complete:
- 2 Mars
- Ain Chock
- Ain Diab
- Ain Sebaa
- Centre Ville (downtown)
- Derb Ghalaf
- Derb Sultan Al Fida
- Derb TaZI
- Al Hank
- Hay Al Mohammadi
- Hay Dakhla (“Derb Lihoudi”)
- Hay Farah
- Hay El Hana
- Hay Moulay Rachid
- La Colline
- Laimoun (Hay Hassani)
- Old Madina (Mdina Qdima)
- Mers Sultan
- Roches Noires
- Salmia II
- Sidi Bernoussi
- Sidi Maarouf
- Sidi Moumen
- Sidi Othman
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Casablanca’s main airport is Mohammed V International Airport, Morocco’s busiest airport. Regular domestic flights serve Marrakech, Rabat, Agadir, Oujda, Tangier, Al Hoceima, and 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, Montreal, Paris, London and Dubai are important primary destinations.
The older, smaller Casablanca-Anfa Airport to the west of the city, served certain destinations including Damascus, and Tunis, and was largely closed to international civilian traffic in 2006. It has been closed and destroyed to build the “Casablanca Finance City“, the new heart of the city of Casablanca. 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.
Since the 1970s, Casablanca had planned to build a metro system to offer some relief to the problems of traffic congestion and poor air quality. However, the city council voted to abandon the metro project in 2014 due to high costs, and decided to continue expanding the already operating tram system instead.
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, Peugeot 207, 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 predefined routes, or shared intercity service. Grands taxis may also be hired for private service by the hour or day.
Casablanca is served by three principal railway stations run by the national rail service, the ONCF.
Casa-Voyageurs is the main intercity 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/Nador. 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 such as the Train Navette Rapide (TNR or Aouita) 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 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 21st century, and officially reopened in 2005 as a primary city rail station. Owing to its new status, all southern intercity 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 intercity standards was intended to relieve passenger congestion at Casa-Voyageurs station.