Settlement of the area around Casablanca has a long history. What is now the western suburb of Anfa was the capital of a Berber state even before the Arab conquest. The city gained cultural and political importance with the advent of the French protectorate in 1912. When the French chose Casablanca as their colonial administrative center, the city was laid out in grand style with wide boulevards, public parks and imposing civic buildings.
Today, Casablanca is the kingdom's commercial capital with a population of over four million. It is one of Africa's largest ports and Morocco's window to the world. Its geographical position and long involvement with the West helped to create a fusion of different ideas and customs. Except in the old town, there is little that is reminiscent of the Casablanca of Bergman and Bogart fame.
Although Casablanca is a huge modern metropolis, most places of interest to visitors are located within a relatively small area. Place Mohammed V is the hub of the city, with the main boulevards branching out from here. Many of the cultural venues are concentrated around this focal square, including art galleries and fine restaurants. Examples of outstanding Moorish architecture can be seen near the United Nations Square. The Hassan II Mosque, completed in 1993, adds a striking feature to the city's skyline. It is among the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world. Some 30,000 of Morocco's craftspeople labored for six years to create this remarkable place of worship.
The city has no lack of modern high-rises either. But if you are looking for the more traditional, you have to take a stroll through the medina (old town), where most of the surviving crafts industries are concentrated. Casablanca is a fast-paced cosmopolitan city, where trends are created and modernism either parts company with traditionalism or blends into it.