Travel tips, hotels, food, sightseeing in Casablanca
Casablanca (Arabic: الدارالبيضاء, Daru l-Bayda) may be the cosmopolitan, industrial and economic heart of Morocco (and its largest city), but it is one of the less endearing of the country's sights. With a small, unassuming medina and a traffic-congested ville nouvelle, travellers arriving via Casablanca may be tempted to find the first train out of to nearby Rabat. The awe-inspiring Hassan II Mosque and happening nightlife, however, are worth at least a day of your Moroccan itinerary.
The modern city of Casablanca was founded by Berber fishermen in the 10th Century BC and was subsequently used by the Phoenicians, Romans and the Merenids as a strategic port called Anfa. The Portuguese destroyed the city in 1468 in response to pirate attacks originating there, but later rebuilt it under the name Casa Branca, only to abandon it after an earthquake in 1755. The Moroccan sultan rebuilt the city as Daru l-Badya and it was given its current name of Casablanca by Spanish traders who established trading bases there. The French occupied the city in 1907, establishing it as a protectorate in 1912 and starting construction of the ville nouvelle, however it gained independence with the rest of the country in 1956.
Casablanca is now Morocco's largest city with a population of almost 4 million and also boasts the world's largest artificial port. Casablanca is also the most liberal and progressive of Morocco's cities. Young men flirt brazenly with scantily-clad women, designer labels are the norm in the chic, beachfront
neighborhood of 'Ain Diab and many young Moroccans speak to each other exclusively in French.
But not everyone is living the Casablanca dream. Tens of thousands of rural Moroccans who fled the drought-ravaged interior to find work in the city are struggling under high unemployment rates and expensive housing. The poverty, prevalent in slums on the city's outskirts, has led to high rates of crime, drug use and prostitution.
Modern, hip and slightly seedy, Casablanca is a mixed bag of Moroccan extremes.
The relaxed rhythm of life on the sandy beaches bordering Casablanca is in total contrast to the pulsating activity of the city itself. "Casa", economic capital of the country and the Kingdom’s most important port, is the thriving centre for a whole range of trades and industries, the personification of modern Morocco. The country’s largest city, it contains a wealth of attractions.
Casablanca is remarkable for its number of Art Deco buildings and villas, vestiges of the French protectorate and for its administrative centre, Place Mohammed V. Designed in 1920, this superb square includes much architecture in the neo-Moorish style favoured by the Protectorate: the Prefecture, Law Courts and Post Office. The nearby Ligue Arabe Park, Casablanca’s largest green space, is perfect for visitors wishing to escape the incessant bustle of the streets.
Attractions in Casablanca
The Anfa residential district, located just behind the corniche at the foot of the Anfa hill, is the poshest district in Casablanca, containing some of the most beautiful houses. In January 1943, the famous Anfa Conference, held in one of these luxurious villas, attended by Churchill and Roosevelt, decided on the date of the landing of the allied forces in Europe under the operation code name of Overlord.
Anfa Royal Golf Course
In the heart of Casablanca, perched amidst the shrubs on the Anfa hill the splendid Anfa Royal Golf Course stretches over 2,710 metres for a par of 35. You will need to employ all your skill and imagination to negotiate the flowers and trees which are an integral part of the fairways.
Starting from the El Hank lighthouse, a non-stop procession of beaches, swimming pools, villas, cafés, hotels and restaurants border the Corniche boulevard, the
center of Casablanca nightlife. The Ibn Saoud Foundation set up by Saudi Arabia in 1985 overlooks the sea and includes a towering mosque, a further education
center and an ultra-modern library.
The maritime conditions (heavy swell and strong current) which made access to the port so risky induced the French to build a lighthouse on the rocky promontory at its western entry at the start of the 20th century. Once the highest building in the city, it has now been supplanted by the minaret of the Hassan II Mosque.
Hassan II Mosque
"I want a mosque at the extreme west of the Muslim World," declared King Hassan II. So it was that in 1980, a start was made on the building of this sumptuous monument. The mosque rose up over the sea, in the south of the city, on the site of the former municipal swimming-pool. At the top of the minaret towering 200
meters above the city, a laser beam visible 35km away, indicates the direction of Mecca. With its inauguration on 30 August 1993, Casablanca, in a style worthy of the Pharaohs, perpetuated the tradition of architectural research and technical innovation, which has
characterized the White City since its foundation.
The fishing port, whose entrance stands just near Centre 2000, a pedestrian precinct full of up market boutiques and restaurants, is a-bustle early in the morning
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