Mohammed V Avenue in Casablanca has a rich history dating back to the early 20th century. The avenue was built during the French colonial era, when Morocco was under French protectorate from 1912 to 1956. The French authorities aimed to develop Casablanca as a modern city and a commercial and industrial hub.
The idea of building Mohammed V Avenue was first proposed by the French architect and urban planner Henri Prost in 1915. Prost was responsible for the overall urban planning of Casablanca and he envisioned a grand boulevard that would become the city's main commercial and cultural hub. The avenue was designed to be a wide promenade with palm trees, ornate street lamps, and a mix of European and Moroccan architectural styles.
Construction of the avenue began in 1917 and was completed in 1921. During this period, the city was experiencing rapid growth and modernization, with new buildings, infrastructure, and transportation systems being developed. Mohammed V Avenue was a key project in this urbanization plan and quickly became one of the most prominent streets in the city.
The avenue was named after Mohammed V, who was the Sultan of Morocco at the time. Mohammed V was known for his opposition to French colonial rule and his support for Moroccan independence. Despite this, the French authorities still chose to name the avenue after him, perhaps in an attempt to gain favor with the local population.
During the colonial era, Mohammed V Avenue was primarily a commercial district, with many French-owned businesses, banks, and shops lining the street. The avenue was also home to several cinemas, theaters, and cafes, which became popular meeting places for the city's elite.
In addition to its commercial and cultural significance, Mohammed V Avenue played an important role in the city's social and political life. It was a site of numerous political rallies and demonstrations, as well as military parades during World War II.
Overall, Mohammed V Avenue was a symbol of French colonial power and modernization in Casablanca. Despite this, the avenue also became a site of resistance and protest against colonial rule, and played an important role in the struggle for Moroccan independence.
After Morocco gained independence from France in 1956, Mohammed V Avenue underwent significant changes. Many of the French-owned businesses were nationalized, and the avenue became more focused on serving the needs of the local population.
One of the first major changes to the avenue after independence was the renaming of several streets and public spaces. Many of the colonial-era names were replaced with names of Moroccan national heroes, cultural icons, and places of historical significance. For example, the Place des Nations Unies (United Nations Square) was renamed Place Mohammed V, in honor of the country's first king.
The nationalization of businesses and industries led to a shift in the avenue's commercial landscape. Moroccan-owned shops, cafes, and restaurants replaced many of the French-owned businesses, giving the avenue a more local flavor. This shift was accompanied by an increase in construction and modernization, with new buildings and public spaces added to the avenue.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the city government undertook a major renovation of Mohammed V Avenue. The street was widened, new sidewalks were added, and the streetlights were modernized. The renovation also included the addition of new public spaces, such as parks, fountains, and plazas.
As the city continued to grow and modernize, Mohammed V Avenue became a symbol of Casablanca's development and progress. It remained one of the city's main commercial and cultural districts, with a mix of local and international businesses, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The avenue continued to be a site of social and political gatherings, including protests and rallies, and was a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Today, Mohammed V Avenue remains a vital part of Casablanca's urban landscape. It is a bustling street with a lively atmosphere, and is home to some of the city's most iconic landmarks, including the Casablanca Cathedral and the Casablanca Central Market. The avenue is also a popular tourist destination, with its distinctive architecture and lively street life attracting visitors from around the world.