Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco with an estimated population of 3,210,000. Sixty per cent of all Moroccan companies and almost every bank has headquarters here, making Casablanca the business capital of Morocco and one of the most important commercial centres in North Africa. As such, the city is also the centre for foreign trade and Morocco's main industrial centre where construction materials, furniture and glass products are manufactured.
Located near the capital city of Rabat, Casablanca is also the country's main Atlantic seaport with one of the world's largest man-made harbours featuring the 3,180 metre-long Moulay Youssef Jetty with fishing and fish-canning as the leading industries. The city is also the site of Hassan II University, established in 1976.
The origins of Casablanca trace to the medieval town of Anfa set on a small plateau which is now one of the city's suburbs. Anfa became the capital of a Berber principality in the aftermath of Arab invasions in the 7th and 8th centuries.
Following a terrible earthquake in 1755, under the reign of Sidi Mohamed ben Abdallah (1757-1790), the town was rebuilt with a mosque, madrasah, hammam and a fort and renamed Dar Al Beida (The White House) which the Spanish eventually translated to Casablanca after trade became well established with merchants from Cadiz and Madrid.
The modern city
In 1906 construction began on a modern harbour facility for Casablanca under French supervision, but on 30 July 1907 nine workmen were massacred and the French consulate was besieged. The French government sent in an expeditionary force and occupied the city.
In 1912 General Lyautey was appointed Resident-General and completed the construction of the harbour, making Casablanca the country's economic centre. As a result the city grew into the country's major metropolitan centre until independence in 1956.
Independence caused a temporary decline in Casablanca's fortunes but gradually the city regained its economic position as a powerhouse of North Africa.
Hassan II Mosque
One of the largest and most spectacular mosques in the world, the newly constructed Hassan II Mosque covers 2 hectares of land. It has a prayer hall that can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and a piazza that can accommodate another 80,000. It also has the world's tallest minaret, soaring 200m above the city.
The mosque is a monument to Moroccan craftsmanship, built by 3,300 craftsmen from throughout the country. These artisans installed 53,000 square metres of carved wood, 67,000 square metres of plastering and 10,000 square metres of sculpted ornamentation. The mosque also features a retractable roof which can transform the mosque interior into a vast open courtyard.