Derived from the Latinization of a Portuguese word combining the meanings for “White: Branca” and “House: Casa” – whose translation was used to confuse the Germans during World War II when the allies met in January 1943 to discuss their plans for the next stage of their European strategy – Casablanca is not only the largest city in Morocco, but one of the largest in Africa, and is economically important thanks to its position on the Atlantic coast. In fact the city’s port is considered to be one of the largest artificial ports in the world with almost the entirety of the waterfront under development.
Originally settled by the Berbers by at least the 7th Century BCE, the settlement went on to be used by the Phoenicians and later the Romans as a port. After the empire’s fall the region reverted to Berber control with the founding of the Barghawata kingdom which would continue as an independent state for over three centuries before it was conquered in 1068 CE by the Almoravids. However it’s not until the 14th Century under the Merinids does the town return to prominence as a port and emerge again as an independent state, until a popular revolt in 1465 lead it to becoming a short-lived safe harbor for pirates and privateers which prompted the Portuguese to target it in 1468 for destruction.
Approximately fifty years later the Portuguese would revive the port using the ruins to build a military fortress in 1515 that would lead to its present day name, as the town that flourished around the fortress became known as Casa Branca. For nearly two and half centuries it would remain under their control, until the 1755 earthquake prompted its complete evacuation having destroyed most of the town. Reconstruction would occur under Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah’s rule (1756-1790) and by the 19th Century become a major supplier to Britain’s growing textile industry, but would otherwise remain a modestly sized port. With its shift to French rule the town would expand to a population of over a hundred thousand over half of whom would be European by the end of World War II.