Hectic schedule of our last day in Casablanca somehow helped reduce the tension of the last day of the Orientation trip – the last day to see more, learn more, get the souvenirs, take more pictures and do whatever we can to seize the day and make the impression of the overall trip as much as possible intense and everlasting.
And the day was undoubtedly an eventful one.
It started with the architectural tour with Aïcha el Beloui, an architect who is a part of the Casamémoire organisation, devoted to preservation of architectural heritage of Casa(blanca). The group was very eager to learn as much as possible about the city, whose vast space kept revealing traces of various cultural traditions of nations occupying and populating the area. The story of architecture was intertwined with the story of development of Casablanca, how it became one the leading cities and the largest of North Africa, now numbering around 3 million inhabitants and 3.6 million in the wider Casablanca region.
The first curiosity we learned was its name – “Casablanca”, as the world knows this city – which is obviously not an Arabic word. Aïcha explained that the name comes from “Casa Branca”, meaning “white house”, which was given by the Portuguese in 16th century, with a later Spanish adaptation into “Casa Blanca”, while remaining “Ad-Dar al-Bayda” for the Arabic speaking population.
But the history of this place starts much before the Portuguese. It was first inhabited by the Berbers, with the record of their presence from as early as the 7th century. The first name for the area was Anfa, still used for the historical centre, which designated a small kingdom formed in the Roman days. After being fought for by different dynasties between the 13th and the 15th century, it became an independent republic. However, the Portuguese came not long after, destroyed it and then used the ruins of Anfa to build a military fortress in 1515, while the town, Casa Branca, grew around it. For a long time the city did not prosper, until, in the 18th century, Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah decided to populate it and make it a centre of economy, bringing people from different places to live there and giving it the official name Casablanca. The city steadily grew in terms of its of population, but also its economy, achieving its progress in commerce in the days of the European crisis in the mid-19th century. Continue reading