Morocco Travel Guide, Morocco Cities & Places:
Casablanca is a city in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. It is also the biggest city in the kingdom. First settled 7th century and reconstructed 1756 .The 2010 census recorded a population of 3,949,805 in the prefecture of Casablanca and 3,631,061 in the country sides.
Casablanca is considered the economic and business center of Morocco, while the political capital city of Morocco is Rabat. Casablanca hosts headquarters and main industrial facilities for the leading Moroccan and international companies based in Morocco. Industrial statistics show Casablanca retains its historical position as the main industrial zone of the country. The Port of Casablanca is one of the largest artificial ports in the world, and the largest port of North Africa.
The original name of the city is a Spanish word combination meaning 'White House' (Blanca, 'white. casa, 'house'). It is thought that the Spaniards adopted the name from Portuguese Casa Branca. The city is now nicknamed Casa by many locals.
The Berber original name Anfa means hill in English, was used by the local, and Berber-speaking, city settlers, until the French occupation army entered the city in 1907 and adopted the Spanish name, Casablanca. Anfa now refers to the original old city quarters of Casablanca. It is considered by the Moroccans as a district or a part of the Grand Casablanca.Anfa, ancient Casablanca, was considered as a great city which was founded by the Romans, and it was the most prosperous city on the Atlantic coast because of its fertile land.
There are two airports in Casablanca called Casablanca-Anfa Airport, the other Mohammed V International Airport.
History of Casablanca:
A small independent kingdom, in the area then named Anfa, arose around late Roman time in response to Arab Muslim rule, and continued until it was conquered by the Almoravids in 1068.
Casablanca rose in importance as a port. In the early 15th century, the town became an independent state once again, and emerged as a safe harbour for pirates and privateers, leading to it being targeted by the Portuguese, who destroyed the town in 1468.The Portuguese, used the ruins of Anfa to build a military fortress in 1515. The town that grew up around it was called "Casa Branca", meaning "white house" in Portuguese. Between 1580-1640, Casablanca was part of Spain, and later it became part of Portugal again. The Europeans eventually abandoned the area completely in 1755 following an earthquake which destroyed most of the town in 1755.
In the 19th century, the area's population began to grow as it became a major supplier of wool to the booming textile industry in Britain and shipping traffic increased (the British, in return, began importing Morocco's now famous national drink, gunpowder tea). By the 1860s, there were around 5,000 residents, and the population grew to around 10,000 by the late 1880s. Casablanca remained a modestly sized port, with a population reaching around 12,000 within a few years of the French conquest and arrival of French colonialists in the town, at first administrators in 1906.
The famous 1942 film Casablanca underlined the city's colonial status at the time, depicting it as the scene of a power struggle between competing European powers, carried out with little reference to the local population. The film's vast cosmopolitan cast of characters: American, French, German, Czech, Norwegian, Bulgarian, Russian and some other nationalities.
Casablanca was an important strategic port during World War II and hosted the Casablanca Conference in 1943, in which Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the progress of the war. Casablanca was the site of a large American air base, which was the staging area for all American aircraft for the European Theater of Operations during World War II.
Mosque Hassan II is the largest mosque in the kingdom and the fifth largest mosque in the world. It stands on a promontory looking out on the Atlantic, and has space for 25,000 worshippers. A further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque's adjoining grounds for a total of 105,000 worshippers present at any given time at the Hassan II mosque. Its minaret is the tallest one in the world at 210 m.
FEZ or FES:
Fez is the third biggest city of Morocco with a population of approximately 1 million (2010). Fes, the former capital, is one of the country's four "imperial cities," the others being Rabat, Marrakech and Meknes. It comprises three distinct parts, Fes el Bali (the old, walled city), Fes-Jdid (new Fes, home of the Mellah) and the Ville Nouvelle (the French-created, newest section of Fes).
Fez el Bali is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its medina, the larger of the two medinas of Fes, is believed to be the world's largest contiguous car-free urban area. The University of Al-Karaouine, founded in 859AD, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. It has been called the "Mecca of the West" and the Athena of Africa. The city was founded on a bank of the Fez River by Idris I in 789, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, the works being continued on the opposite bank by his son Idris II (808).
Arab immigration to Fes, including 800 Al-Andalusian families expelled after a rebellion which took place in Córdoba in 817–818, and other 2,000 families came down from Kairouan (Tunisia now) after another rebellion that took place in 824, gave the city a definite Arab character. The Kairouyine mosque is one of the oldest and largest in Africa, was built, together with the associated University of Al-Karaouine was founded (859).
Fes was populated by Muslims from elsewhere in North Africa, the Middle East, Moriscos (especially after the Spanish conquest of Granada in 1492), as well as many Jewish, who had their own quarter Mellah in the city. Most of the city's population was of Berber descent, with rural Berbers from the surrounding countryside settling the city throughout its history.
Fes became the scientific and religious center, where both Muslims and Christians from Europe came to study. In 1250 it regained its capital status under the Marinid dynasty.
Fes was again the capital of Morocco until 1912, when most of Morocco came under French control and Rabat was chosen as the capital of the new colony, a status retained even when Morocco achieved independence in 1956. While many of the original inhabitants of Fes have since emigrated, the Jewish quarter has been emptied of its Jewish population. In 1465, there was large massacre of Jews by Arab riots.
Despite the traditional character of most of the city, there is also a modern section, the Ville Nouvelle, or "New City", which is a commercial center.
Marrakech "Red City" is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history. Situated on the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, being also the 2nd largest city in Morocco, with a population of 1,070,000 (2010). Like many North African cities, the city of Marrakech comprises both an old fortified city and a modern city called Gueliz. Marrakech has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world, Djemaa el Fna. The square bustles with acrobats, story-tellers, water sellers, dancers and musicians. By night food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge busy open-air restaurant.
The probable origin of its name is from the Berber wordsMur (n) akush, which means "Land of God". The same word "mur" appears in the names Mauretania, the North African kingdom of the Maghreb during antiquity, and in contemporary Mauritania, the nation-state south of Morocco, although the link remains controversial as these names may also originate from mavros, the ancient Greek word for black.
Until a few decades ago, Morocco was widely known as "Kingdom of Marrakech" to Arabs and Europeans. The European name of Morocco is directly derived from the Berber word Murakush, and in many South Asian languages the country is in fact still known as "Marrakesh".
Quik History Marrakesh:
The Koutoubia Mosque built in the 12th century by Almoravids in the 11th century. The Almoravid leader, Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar decided Aghmat was becoming overcrowded and chose to build a new capital. He decided to build it in the plains near the Tensift River. He chose the site of Marrakech, because it was in neutral territory between two tribes who were eager for the honor of the new capital. In 1071 the city was completed by the eventual successor Yusuf ibn Tashfin. The city experienced its greatest period under the leadership of Yaqub al-Mansur, the third Almohad sultan. A number of poets and scholars entered the city during his reign and he began the construction of the Koutoubia Mosque and a new Kasbah.
Back to the reign of Moulay Ismail, Marrakech was the capital of Morocco. After his reign, his grandson moved the capital back to Marrakech from Meknes. For centuries Marrakech has been known for its "seven saints". The tombs of several renowned figures were moved to Marrakech, attracting visitors from everywhere. The seven saints are: Sidi Bel Abbas (the patron saint of the city), Sidi Muhammad al-Jazuli, Sidi Abu al-Qasim Al-Suhayli, Cadi Ayyad ben Moussa, Abdelaziz al-Tebaa and Abdallah al-Ghazwani.
Marrakech was dominated in the first half of the 20th century by T'hami El Glaoui, "Lord of the Atlas", and Pasha of Marrakech. Sights nearby Marrakech include the valley of the Ourika River in the Atlas Mountains, the valley of the Draa River in the south, near the Sahara desert, the Waterfalls of Ozoud, and Essaouira on the Atlantic Ocean.
Marrakech is an oasis of great and rich plant variety. Throughout the seasons, orange, fig, permanganate and olive trees spew out their fragrances and display their marvelous colors and fruits. The precious gardens of the city conceal numerous native plants or other species that have been imported in the course of the centuries: Giant bamboos, palm trees, banana trees, cypress, philodendrons, rosebushes, bougainvillea, pines and various kinds of cactus plants. To this date, Marrakech is seen as a gateway from the West into the East.
Rabat is the capital city of the Kingdom of Morocco with a population of approximately 650,000 (2010). The city of Rabat is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. On the facing shore of the river lies Salé.The presence of all foreign embassies in Morocco serve to make Rabat one of the most important cities in the country.
Rabat's history began with a settlement, known as Chellah on the banks of the Oued Bou Regreg in the third century BC. In 40 AD, Romans took over Chellah and converted it to the Roman settlement of Sala. Rome held the Sala until 250 AD when they abandoned it to local rulers.
In 1146, the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu'min turned Rabat into a full scale fortress to use as a launching point for attacks on Spain. In 1170, due to its military importance, Rabat acquired the title Ribatu l-Fath, meaning "stronghold of victory," from which it derives its current name.
Yaqub al-Mansu another Almohad ruler moved the capital of his empire to Rabat. He built Rabat's city walls, the Kasbah of the Udayas and began construction on what would have been the world's largest mosque Hassan Tower. However, construction stoppedYaqub died. The ruins of the unfinished mosque still stand today.
Rabat was run by pirates who used the city as base ports for attacks on shipping. The pirates did not have to contend with any central authority until the Alaouit Dynasty united Morocco in 1666.
French invaded Morocco in 1912 and established a protectorate. The French administrator of Morocco decided to relocate the country's capital from Fez to Rabat. Sultan Moulay Youssef followed the decision of the French and moved his residence to Rabat. In 1913, Henri Prost designed the Ville Nouvelle (Rabat's modern quarter) as an administrative sector. When Morocco achieved independence in 1956, Mohammed V, the then King of Morocco, chose to have the capital remain at Rabat.
Ouarzazate, called the door of the desert, is a city and capital of Ouarzazate southern-central Morocco. As of 2010 it had a population of 100,616. Ouarzazate is located at an elevation of 1,160 meters in the middle of a bare plateau, south of the High Atlas Mountains. To the south of the town is the desert. The town is chiefly inhabited by Berbers, who constructed many of the prominent Kasbahs and building for which the area is known for.
Ouarzazate is one of the important holiday destinations in Morocco as point for excursions across the Draa Valley and desert in the area. The fortified village of Ait Benhaddou has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The town and surrounding area is also a noted film-making location, with Morocco's biggest studios inviting many international film companies to shoot their films. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Living Daylights (1987), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997) Legionnaire (1998) were shot in the Ouarazate area.
The name of Ouarzazate comes from a Berber phrase meaning "without noise" or "without confusion". It is also featured by its closeness to Atlas Mountains and Draa Valley.
Ouarzazate had been a small crossing point for African traders seeking to reach northern cities in Morocco and Europe. During the French period, Ouarzazate expanded considerably as a garrison town, administrative center, and customs post.
Ouarzazate is home to the Kasbah of Taourirt, the Kasbah of the former ruler and later the possession of T'hami El Glaoui).
Tangier is a city in northern Morocco with a population of about 900,000 (2010). It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Sparta.Currently it is Morocco's second most important industrial center after Casablanca. The industrial sectors are: textile, chemical, mechanical...
The history of Tangier is very rich due to the historical presence of many civilizations and cultures starting from the 5th century BC. Between the period of being a Phoenician town to the independence in 1956, Tangier was a place for many cultures. However, it was not until 1923 that Tangier was attributed an international status by foreign colonial powers, thus becoming a destination for many Europeans, Americans and Indians...
Tangier is an ancient Berber and Phoenician town, founded by Carthaginian colonists in the early 5th century BC. Its name is possibly derived from the Berber goddess Tinga, and it remains an important city for the Berbers.
The cave of Hercules, a few miles from the city, is a major tourist attraction. It is believed that Hercules slept there before attempting one of his twelve labors.
In 1679, Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco made an unsuccessful attempt to seize the town but imposed a crippling blockade which ultimately forced the English to withdraw. The English destroyed the town and its port facilities prior to their departure in 1684. Under Moulay Ismail the city was reconstructed to some extent, but it gradually declined until, by 1810, the population was no more than 5,000.
The United States dedicated its first consulate in Tangier during the George Washington administration. In 1821, the Legation Building in Tangier became the first piece of property acquired abroad by the U.S. government.
Tangier's geographic location made it a center for European diplomatic and commercial rivalry in Morocco in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the opening of the 20th century, it had a population of about 40,000, including 20,000 Muslims, 10,000 Jewish and 9,000 Europeans of whom 7,500 were Spanish. The city was increasingly coming under French influence.
Tangier has been reputed as a safe house for international spying activities. Its position during the Cold War and other spying periods of the 19th and 20th century is legendary.
Antonio Fuentes was born in Tangier in 1905 from a Spanish family. An article in La Gazette du Maroc described Antonio Fuentes as the Picasso of Tangier, and he died in the city 90 years later.
Around the same time, a circle of writers emerged which was to have a profound and lasting literary influence. This included Paul Bowles, who lived and wrote for over half acentury.
Tangier remains a very popular tourist destination for cruise ships and day visitors from Spain and Gibraltar.
Artisanal trade in the old medina (old city) specializes mainly in leather working, handicrafts made from wood and silver, traditional clothing, and shoes of Moroccan origin.
Meknes is a city in northern Morocco, located 60 kilometers from Fez. It was the capital of Morocco under the reign of Moulay Ismail (1672–1727), before it was relocated to Marrakech. The population is 985,000 (2010). Meknes is named after a Berber tribe which was known as Miknasa, originated from the Tunisian south, settled there in the 9th century, and a town consequently grew around the previous borough.
The Almoravids founded here a fortress in the 9th century. It resisted to the Almohads rise, and was thus destroyed by them, only to be rebuilt in larger size with mosques and large fortifications. Under the Merinids it received further madrasas, kasbahs and mosques in the early 14th century, and continued to thrive under the Wattasid dynasty.
Meknes saw its golden age as the imperial capital of Moulay Ismail (1672–1727). He installed under the old city a large prison, and also constructed numerous, gardens, monumental gates, mosques, whence the city's nickname of "City of the Hundred Minarets “and the large line of wall, having a length of 40 km. In addition, he built in The ingeniously designed granaries .Really fascinating architecture of tiny windows, massive walls where he used to store grain and hay to feed his 15.000. He didn't store food for humans.
Since the 16th century, the city has also been known by its Portuguese name of Mogador or Mogador. The Berber name means the wall, a reference to the fortress walls that originally enclosed the city.
In 1506, the king of Portugal, D. Manuel I ordered a fortress to be built there, named "Castelo Real de Mogador". In 1641.During the 16th century, various powers including Spain, England, the Netherlands and France tried in vain to conquer Essaouira.It remained a haven for the export of sugar, molasses and the anchoring of pirate. It is called "Souira" also, "The small fortress", the name then became "Es-Saouira", "The beautifully designed".
From the time of its rebuilding, Essaouira served as Morocco's principal port, offering the goods of the caravan trade to the world. The route brought goods from sub-Saharan Africa to Timbuktu, then through the desert and over the Atlas Mountainsto Marrakech.
Jewish presence in Essaouira:
Rulers encouraged Moroccan Jewish to settle in the town and handle the trade with Europe. Jewish once comprised 40% of the population and the Jewish quarter mellah contain many old synagogues. The town also has a large Jewish cemetery.
From 1912 to 1956, Essaouira was part of the French protectorate of Morocco. Mogador was used as a base for military. Moroccans of Essaouira still speaks French fluently today.
Essaouira is well renowned for its kite surfing and windsurfing, with the powerful trade wind. Horse riding, camel riding along the beach are amazingly worth a try. It is known by the delicious seafood too.
There are several small art galleries are found all over the town. Since 1998 Essaouira getsknown by its Gnaoua Festival of World Music, normally it is scheduled in the last week of June. It brings artists from all over the world. Although focused on gnaoua music, it includes rock, jazz and reggae.
In the early 1952 the film director and actor Orson Welles made his movie Othello. Now there is a square named Orson Welles.
Chefchaouen which means"horns" is a city in northwest Morocco with a population of 35,925 thereabout, and is noted for its buildings in shades of blue.
Chefchaouen is situated in the Rif Mountains, just inland from Tangier and Tetouan. The city was founded in 1471, as a small fortress which still exists to this day, by Moorish exiles from Spain led by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. It was known as one of the main concentrations of Moriscos and Jewish who sought refuge in this mountainous city after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.
In 1920, the Spanish seized Chefchaouen to form part of Spanish Morocco. Spain returned the city after the independence of Morocco in 1956.
Chefchaouen - in blue, as it is often called by Moroccans and tourists, is a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to Tangier and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The name refers to the shape of the mountain tops around the town that look like the two horns of a goat.
"Chef Chaouen" derives from the Berber word for horns, Ichawen. There are approximately two hundred hotels catering to the summer influx of European tourists. One distinction possessed by Chefchaouen is its blue-rinsed houses and buildings, a tradition that comes from the town's former Jewish population.
Chefchaouen is a popular shopping destination as well, as it offers many native handicrafts that are not available elsewhere in Morocco, such as wool garments and woven blankets. The goat cheese native to the area is also popular with tourists.
The growing tourist industry is geared especially towards Spanish tourists, who are especially numerous during great Catholic feasts like Semana Santa and Christmas.
The Iglesia Spanish for church and; it is currently a theatre; worth to be visited. It was built by Spanish.There are a number of distinct mosques in the town. Aside from the mosque at Place Uta Hammam in the medina, there is also a mosque dedicated to the patron saint of Northern Morocco's Jebalah region.
Chefchaouen is home to the only octagonal minaret in Islam. There is also a ruined mosque built by the Spanish, with stairs still in the tower.