Casablanca is located in the west of Morocco, facing the Atlantic ocean. It is the largest port city of Morocco and the most “modern” city in this African country. Casablanca is not one of Morocco’s four royal cities, but it has a long history as a trading center in Carthage, Rome and the berbers. Later, it was occupied by Portugal, Spain and France. The architectural style of the city and people’s living habits were deeply influenced by western culture.
The city is built with local characteristics and ethnic culture, but also has a strong and obvious western style. The city is mainly divided into two parts, the old city and the new city. The new city was inhabited by European settlers, while the old city was inhabited by arabs and jews. Walking through the residential and commercial centers of the new city, I had the illusion that I was walking in a European city.
King hassan ii once said that Morocco is a tree rooted in Africa, whose leaves breathe the air of Europe. Due to the proximity of Europe and the partition and occupation of this land by several European countries, western culture has a deep influence on this area.
From the 14th century onwards, and especially in the 16th century when the inquisition was established all over Spain, a large number of jews were fleeing to Morocco, which in turn hosted a large number of European talents. Today’s casablanca is a new city built by the French in Africa. The mosque of hassan ii was built by French architects.
The American movie casablanca made it known to many people around the world that there was such a big city on the east side of the Atlantic ocean. But as I said, the city is divided into old and new areas. The old city is inhabited mainly by craftsmen, small business people and some lower-middle class civilians. There are slums and shantytowns on the edge of the old city. The residents of the new city are mostly European immigrants and people in the upper middle class.
The housing area in casablanca is basically a very clear division of social status. There are many middle-class people breathing the air of Europe in this city, who expect the city to be more modern and yearn for freedom and autonomy. And this is making western architecture is fast encroaching on eastern traditions. When I traveled in casablanca, I saw the city mostly on foot, often walking under the impression that I was in Europe.
During my travels in India, several cities in India have colorful names, such as the pink city of Jaipur, the white city of Udaipur, the blue city of jodhpur and the golden city of Jaisalmer. Similarly, there are similar cities in Morocco, casablanca is the “white city”, shefshawan is the “blue city”, marrakech is the “red city” and so on. But “white city” inside, exudes the European atmosphere and the French mind.
European architecture like this is very common in the streets of casablanca. No matter what shape or use it is, western culture has deeply influenced it and taken root here. Perhaps because the new city was built in France, invaded by France, and also by Portugal and Spain, the old Arab and islamic art seemed to be crumbling.
Although the old city still has ancient Arab buildings, the gap between the rich and the poor often highlights the clash between traditional ideas and modern civilization. The obvious difference between the old town and the new town lies in people’s dressing up. The obvious modernity and fashion of the new town is in sharp contrast with the old town. Let’s just say I’m free to hold up my camera in the new part of town, but in the old part I’m a bit reserved and a bit timid. To many traditional arabs, the lens of the camera is the eye of the devil.
Although the visit to Morocco was brief, it was clear that art and architecture, including residential design, were the concentrated expression of the country’s socio-cultural heritage. Just one casablanca, its architectural art and style in addition to the berber, Arab, jewish culture, but also clearly include the Roman and Spanish, French culture.
Although the berbers founded the city in the 12th century, it was conquered and leveled by the Portuguese in the 15th century. In 1770, the king of Morocco ordered the construction of a new city on the ruins of the old city, naming it “dalbaida”. However, it was occupied by Portugal in the late 18th century. By 1907, France occupied it, built a port, and built a new city. Casablanca’s economy developed rapidly since then.
Given the rich and vibrant nature of Moroccan cultural life, it is difficult to make a clear distinction between art and architecture as traditional, contemporary or modern. More elusive are the ideas of berbers, arabs, jews, Romans or europeans. They overlap, and their histories span different cultures and historical periods.
The traditional art of the berber people and the Arab style are often seen in the European architecture. In the traditional local architecture, western culture is also presented. Some scholars have divided Moroccan architecture into two categories: traditional and contemporary. But there is no denying that many buildings in casablanca retain most of their pre-colonial qualities.
It is reported that in the 20th century, the French brought the western world of painting art, and as an independent art form. But rather than presenting a unique image of Morocco, western painting is more of a symbol of social status and power, and has become a hobby for many rich people to pursue a western lifestyle.
Although the art of painting is not part of Moroccan culture, western art has deeply influenced moroccans (and more often rich people). At the same time, the west believed that Moroccan architecture was Spanish Moorish, on the grounds that the arabs, after being expelled from Europe in the 8th century, brought back Spanish architecture and culture, which soon became Moroccan popular culture.
In this ancient city, walking between the western and eastern traditional architectural culture, a streetcar came into sight. The trams that run through downtown casablanca were made in Europe, while the trams in Rabat were made in France and the Netherlands. In this country, there are European cultural products everywhere. Many tourists take the tram in casablanca as a scenic spot to see the city.
On the African continent, Morocco is not so much an African as casablanca is a European city. Hassan ii’s words are worth thinking about. From the geographical location to the historical background, the absorption and encroachment of culture cannot be underestimated.