Last updated: 06:00 AM ET, Wed November 20 2019
City panorama. Casablanca, Morocco. Africa (Photo via masterovoy / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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Casablanca, Morocco, is the largest city in that country and an important Atlantic seaport. Casablanca is the business center of Morocco, though the capital is Rabat. It’s a cosmopolitan city and a kaleidoscope of various cultural influences, which grow out of its colorful and tumultuous history. The original Berber name of the city was Anfa, which translates as “hill.” The local Berbers referred to the city as Anfa until the French occupation began in 1907. The French applied the name “Casablanca,” which means “white house” in Spanish was adapted from the Portuguese “Casa Branca,” The name Anfa is now used to refer to the old city section of Casablanca.

Anfa was settled in the 7th century by the Berbers. It became an important port in the 15th century, becoming a safe harbor for pirates, which led to an attack by the Portuguese, which destroyed the town in 1468. The Portuguese then built a military fortress on the ruins, which it called Casa Branca. From 1580 to 1640, the city fell under control of the Spanish. Then the Portuguese took it again. In 1755 an earthquake destroyed most of the city and the European colonials abandoned it. It was rebuilt by the Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed ben Abdallah, who was an ally of George Washington and the first head of state to recognize the new American republic. In the 19th century the city became a major port of world trade as Morocco became a supplier of wool to the British textile industry. The French occupied the city in 1907. During World War II, as portrayed in the movie “Casablanca,” the city was a strategic port for competing powers. The Americans built a base there and used it as the staging area for all aerial operations in Europe. Morocco finally achieved independence in 1956.

Today the Port of Casablanca is the largest port of North Africa and the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy. Among its notable tourist attractions is the Hassan II Mosque, named after the previous king, a structure built between 1986 and 1994 at a cost of $850 million. Standing over the Atlantic Ocean, it’s the largest mosque in Africa, the third largest in the world. Its giant tower, the minaret, is the tallest in the world at 689 feet. It stands over the Atlantic Ocean on a promontory. It’s one of 1,974 mosques in Casablanca. Casablanca also has many churches and synagogues, and the different religions coexist peacefully. Not far from the Hassan II Mosque is the Corniche area, a coastal district with beaches, many sparkling swimming pools and a variety of lively cafes. Other points of interest include U.N. Square; the Royal Palace; and the Medina or old city.

Moroccan cuisine is diverse and reflects the rich cultural blend of Morocco’s history, with strong Berber, Moorish, Arab and Mediterranean influences. Casablanca is well connected by air, served by Virgin, Delta, American, Continental, Lufthansa, and of course, the national carrier, Royal Air Maroc.