The Sqala in Casablanca, also known as La Sqala, is an 18th-century bastion located near the entrance of the Old Medina. The history of the Sqala is closely linked to the reconstruction efforts led by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah of the Alaouite Dynasty and the subsequent developments in Casablanca.
The Portuguese Period (15th-16th centuries):
Before the construction of Sqala, Casablanca (formerly known as Anfa) had experienced a tumultuous history, with the Portuguese having destroyed the city in 1468. They later rebuilt it as Casa Branca, constructing a fortress and a small community. However, the area where the Sqala would later be built was not yet significant during the Portuguese period.
Reconstruction under Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah (18th century):
After the Portuguese fortress was severely damaged in the 1755 earthquake, Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah took control of the city, which he rebuilt and renamed Dar el Beida. He initiated the construction of several defensive structures, including the Sqala, to fortify the city against potential invasions. The Sqala was built as a bastion, part of the city's defensive walls, and served as a key protective measure for the Old Medina.
Architecture and Design:
The Sqala showcases a blend of Moroccan and European military architecture, featuring angular bastions, thick walls, and watchtowers. The bastion was designed to accommodate heavy artillery, with its towers and walls containing embrasures for cannons. The fortress also includes a small mosque, which highlights the importance of religion even in military structures.
Role in Casablanca's Defense:
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Sqala played a crucial role in the defense of Casablanca. The fortress was strategically located near the entrance of the Old Medina, enabling it to protect the city from potential maritime threats and invasions.
Modern Transformation (20th century - present):
As Casablanca grew and modernized, particularly during the French colonial period, the city expanded beyond its original walled boundaries. The Sqala gradually lost its military significance and eventually ceased to function as a defensive structure.
In recent years, the Sqala has been repurposed as a cultural and leisure space. The bastion now houses a popular restaurant, Café Maure, which offers traditional Moroccan cuisine and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The surrounding gardens have been transformed into a public park, where visitors can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and admire the historic architecture.
In summary, the history of the Sqala in Casablanca is tied to the reconstruction of the city under Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah in the 18th century, its role in the city's defense, and its eventual transformation into a cultural and leisure space. The Sqala, with its unique blend of Moroccan and European military architecture, serves as a testament to the city's rich history and offers visitors a glimpse into Casablanca's past.