Marrakech, the red city

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 words Mur (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 to the East.

Fes, cultural and spiritual city

Morocco’s fourth imperial city 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 a 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.

Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco

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 harbor 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 the 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.

Casablanca Highlights:

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.