Located on Morocco’s northwestern shores, the Port of Casablanca is a rapidly growing seaport and economic capital. The sixth biggest city in Africa, it is the heart of Morocco’s business community and the home of the primary naval base for the country’s Royal Navy. In 2004, the Port of Casablanca was home to more than 2.9 million people (3.9 in the greater Casablanca area).
With rich coastal fisheries, the Port of Casablanca has a strong fishing industry. The city is a banking and industrial production center, with industries that include the manufacture of textiles, leather goods, electronics, canned foods, soft drinks, and beer. The Port of Casablanca is also Morocco’s main recreation center, with many beaches, parks, and seafront promenades.
The area of today’s Port of Casablanca was settled by the ancient Berbers before the 7th Century. Rejecting Muslim rule, they formed the small kingdom of Anfa; however, it 1068, it was surrounded and taken by the Almoravid Berber dynasty, who extended the Moorish dynasty over Morocco and much of northern Africa and into Spain.
The Merinid Berber dynasty ruled the Port of Casablanca in the 14th Century when it began its ascent as an important port. In the 15th Century, the town became an independent state, becoming a refuge for privateers and pirates. In response to the piracy, the Portuguese destroyed the Port of Casablanca in 1468 and used the ruins to build a fortress in 1515. The town that grew around the fortress was named Casa Branca, Portuguese for “White House.”
In the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, the Port of Casablanca was part of Spain. After 1640, it once again came under the control of Portugal. European settlers abandoned the area in 1755 after an earthquake leveled most of the Port of Casablanca.
In 1756, Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah, an ally of George Washington, began reconstruction of the Port of Casablanca, calling it ad-Dār al-Baydā (Arabic) and Casa Blanca (Spanish), both meaning White House.
In the 19th Century, the boom in Britain’s textile and shipping industries brought rapid growth to the Port of Casablanca as a supplier of wool. By the late 1860s, about five thousand people lived in the Port of Casablanca, and that number doubled in 20 years.
French colonialists began to arrive in the early 20th Century as administrators within a sovereign sultanate. By 1921, over 110 thousand people lived in the Port of Casablanca, largely as a result of the growth of squatter settlements around the city.
In 1907, the French tried to build a railway near the port, but they chose a route through a graveyard. Taking exception to this action, residents attacked the rail workers, leading to riots. French troops were called in to restore order, and they basically took over. The process of colonialization of the Port of Casablanca was formalized in 1910. The famous movie Casablanca, made it 1942, reflects the European/colonial vision of the city during that period, with an international cast that included only one Arab character.
The Port of Casablanca was an important and strategic port during World War II. Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met there to discuss the progress of the Allies in 1943 at the Casablanca Conference. A large US air base there was a staging area for aircraft operating in Europe during the war.
Much rioting against French rule took place in the Port of Casablanca during the 1940s and 1950s. The country won its independence in 1956. Today, the city is developing a busy tourism industry in addition to its status as the financial and business capital of Morocco, even though Rabat is the political capital.
In 2000, protests by women’s groups led to the enactment of a new Mudawana (family law) that made some reforms to the legal status of women in Morocco. In 2003, suicide bombers killed 33 civilians and injured many more. Another string of suicide bombings took place in early 2007, one of them leading to the closing of the US Consulate for over a month.
Today, the Port of Casablanca region is the driving force behind Morocco’s economy. More than 32% of Morocco’s production units and 56% of all industrial labor resides in the Port of Casablanca. The region consumes almost a third of the country’s electric power. It accounts for a third of national industrial exports, particularly phosphorate. Almost all of the coastal area is under development today, with new business, entertainment, and residential centers appearing almost daily.