The city of Casablanca has had several incarnations, all related to the history of its port and its strategic position for trade with the West. A Berber city known as "Anfa" in the Middle Ages, it was completely destroyed in 1468 by the Portuguese, who finally settled here in 1515. It was then renamed "Casa Branca," after the white house that served as a landmark for seafarers and which still stands in the ruins of Anfa. Deserted for close to three centuries, Dar El-Beïda ("white house" in Arabic) rose from its ashes once again in the late 18th century thanks to Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah, who set about repopulating the city and building fortifications. But it wasn't until it fell under French protectorate, in the early 20th century, that the city truly flourished.
It was French Général Lyautey, however, who was responsible for modernizing the harbour and laying out the wide boulevards, public gardens and magnificent Art Deco- and Hispano-Moresque-style buildings that stand cheek to jowl with the city's modern structures. Now Morocco's economic capital, Casablanca is home to more than 3.5 million people and the chief port on the African continent.
A city of contrasts, Casablanca is a blend of East and West, tradition and modernity, wealth and poverty. Veiled women and suit-wearing businesswomen comfortably coexist, while the local youth flock to the city's many entertainment venues, nightclubs, cafes and oceanfront terraces. This bustling cosmopolitan metropolis may not be as picturesque as other Moroccan cities, but it boasts an exceptional architectural heritage and a vibrant nightlife. Do yourself a favour and stroll the city to soak up its atmosphere and discover its grey-sand beaches, colourful souks and elaborate facades.