The Old Medina of Casablanca, also known as the Ancient Medina or simply Medina, is a historic district located in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. It is a small, walled area that holds a wealth of history, tradition, and architecture that dates back centuries. The early history of the Old Medina is marked by a series of significant events, with its roots reaching back to the Phoenician and Roman periods.
Phoenician and Roman Periods (7th century BCE - 3rd century CE):
Casablanca's history begins with the Phoenicians, a maritime civilization that established trading settlements along the North African coast. In the 7th century BCE, they founded the city of Anfa, which is believed to have been located close to the modern-day Old Medina. Later, during the Roman period, Anfa was incorporated into the province of Mauretania Tingitana.
Berber and Arab Rule (7th - 15th centuries):
After the decline of the Roman Empire, the region was controlled by Berber tribes who maintained Anfa as a small trading post. With the arrival of the Arab Muslims in the 7th century, Anfa came under their rule and became an important port city. Throughout the subsequent centuries, Anfa was governed by various Berber and Arab dynasties.
The Merinid Era (13th - 14th centuries):
During the Merinid Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries, Anfa flourished and became a significant commercial hub. The city was known for its production of textiles, particularly wool, which was exported to Europe. The Merinids also constructed the city's walls, which served as a protective barrier against external threats.
Destruction by the Portuguese (1468):
The city's prosperity made it a target for conquest, and in 1468, a Portuguese expedition led by Don Pedro de Menezes attacked Anfa, destroying it due to its alleged involvement in piracy. This marked a dark period in the city's history, as it was left in ruins and its population diminished.
Reconstruction and Portuguese Rule (16th century):
In the early 16th century, the Portuguese decided to rebuild the city, which they renamed "Casa Branca" or "White House." They constructed a new fortress and established a small community that served as a base for their Atlantic trade routes. However, the Portuguese rule was short-lived, as they faced resistance from local tribes.
Return to Moroccan Rule (1755):
In 1755, after an earthquake severely damaged the Portuguese fortress, Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah retook control of the city and rebuilt it, renaming it Dar el Beida, which means "White House" in Arabic. The Old Medina of Casablanca started to take shape during this period, with the construction of mosques, hammams (public bathhouses), and other traditional buildings.
Throughout the following centuries, the Old Medina of Casablanca remained a small, traditional walled city. It was only with the arrival of the French in the early 20th century that Casablanca began to transform into the modern metropolis it is today, with the Old Medina serving as a reminder of its rich and diverse history.