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Casablanca History, Morocco

Casablanca, a Spanish word meaning “white house” is the economic capital city of Morocco. This is the country’s chief port and largest city. Casablanca is also the sixth largest economic city on the entire African continent. The city is also the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy.

Casablanca traces its origins to the small kingdom settled in by the Berbers in the 7th century called Anfa. It was considered to be an important trading port and was often a safe haven for pirates and privateers.

Casablanca was home to the Moroccan and Barbary Corsairs who plagued the surrounding seas and much of Europe. This unsavory reputation caused the city to be destroyed by the Portuguese armada in 1468. The Portuguese rebuilt the city into a military fortress in 1515. The town that grew up around the fort was named Casablanca which means “White House' in Spanish. It was conquered by Spain in 1580 and was recaptured in 1640 by the Portugues but was later abandoned in 1755 after an earthquake that devestated the city.

It was in 1756 that the town was reconstructed by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. He called the town Dar el Beida or white house in Arabic and Casa Blanca in Spanish.

In the 19th century, Casablanca established itself as a major supplier of wool to the western world particularly Great Britain. The shipping industry furhter boomed when the British started to import gunpoweder tea, Morocco’s famous national drink. The French colonized the city in 1910.

Casablanca then became the centre of anti French movements in the area especially during the 1940s and 50s. This was a turbulent time in the city’s history as bombing and riots escalated. During the Second World War, the city was a startegic port for the Allied Nations where British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and United State President Theodore Roosevelt discussed the progress of the war. It was the site of the largest American air base during World War II.Morocco finally regained independence from France in March 2, 1956.

On the lighter side, the city was host to a number of Formula One Grand Prix first in the 1930s, then in 1958 and finally the Mediterranean Games in 1983. Despite its tumultous beginnings Casablanca today has developed one of the largest tourism industries in North Africa. It’s busy ports, thriving economy, marvelous sights and architecture coupled with the city’s rich history makes it an intriguing tourist destination.

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