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Lesson Transcript

Munia: Hello, Casablanca. Munia here.
Shama: My name is Shama.
Munia: Welcome to this first episode of this culture series fully dedicated to Moroccan culture.
Shama: From now on, each lesson will be recorded in the amazing city of Casablanca, and each time we’ll introduce a new topic on the customs, traditions on the new culture of Morocco.
Munia: Today’s topic is Shama’s ever favorite…
Shama: Casablanca!
Munia: Wait, are we talking about the movie here?
Shama: Not quite. Actually, if the Hollywood image of Casablanca is important for you, I think you’d better prepare for a surprise.
Munia: The city is very modern and the city center is quite impressive. And I think that’s actually the beauty of the city, it’s this incredible combination of modernism and oriental romanticism.
Shama: And let’s tell our listeners a little bit about the city history, shall we?

Lesson focus

Munia: Sure. Casablanca, [الدّار البيضاء ] in Arabic, is located in Western Morocco, on the Atlantic Coast and it is the biggest city of Morocco with the population exceeding four million people. And thanks to its strategic location, the port of Casablanca is considered the main port of Morocco and it is one of the largest ports in Africa and one of the largest artificial ports in the world.
Shama: Strategic location? Where did you get that from? You sound like a military person now. I know you and I know you don’t use that word.
Munia: Guilty as charged. Ok, so I kind of borrowed the definition, but it’s just to give everyone a quick and concise explanation so we can move on to the really interesting stuff, like the name of the city – Casablanca.
Shama: The name Casablanca is originally Portuguese and it means “the white house”. The Portuguese influence started when Portugal conquered the city in the 15th century to put an end to the pirates who used the port as a base to attack Portuguese ships.
Munia: A walk around Casablanca will demonstrate that which distinguishes it the most - its contrast between the exotic old town and the art deco design of the new town with its elegant, lavish and ultra-modern style.
Shama: You’re right, Munia. Casablanca has an almost entirely art deco town called Newtown, and it’s the largest collection of art deco architecture remaining in Morocco. The city was a sort of laboratory for young French architects wanting to innovate.
Munia: So what is this art deco anyway?
Shama: it was a popular international design movement in the early 20th century, affecting architecture and all sorts of arts. It was very popular in Europe in the 20s and was very strong in the US in the 30s. Do you know who brought it to Casablanca?
Munia: Wasn’t it the French architect Henry Prost? He actually designed an entire city, what we call now Villeneuve or Newtown within Casablanca. So the buildings, the main streets, everything in Villeneuve is art deco style. If going to visit Casablanca, you can visit one of the restored places called [فيلاّ سيفاقو] by the French architect John Francois Sevago. And by the way, that’s where I had breakfast this morning. Now, right beside Newtown there is the old town of Casablanca. Shama, could you tell us a little bit about it?
Shama: The old town is actually near the sea port. It’s small but very nice. There’s a shopping area where all sorts of things are sold; clothes, fresh fish, DVDs, appliances, all at a bargain price. Then there are the residential areas. The city also offers lots of colorful historic gates and different shapes to take you just far away from the elegance of downtown Casablanca.
Munia: Alright. In the midst of its hassle and noise, Casablanca has conserved its incredible charm; this combination of oriental, Moresque style and art deco architecture. And to close up, we want to recommend you a few places that we personally think is a must when you visit here. Shama, let’s start with you. Pick one of your favorite places.
Shama: I know that’s a really hard question, but ok. The [حَبُوسْ] I think, which is an Islamic term related to land property legislation in the Muslim world. The [حَبُوسْ] area is located next to the [درب السّلطان], which is another area which is home to most prominent intellectuals like one of the greatest sociologists and political scientists in the country. This is an area where you can just, you know, linger in the old [سوق] and walk through the narrow streets and buy a souvenir from some of the country’s most talented craftsmen. I think that’s one of my favorite places. What about you, Munia?
Munia: Oh, me? I just love the sea side. There’re miles of beaches stretched just a few minutes’ drive away from the city center. People go there for swimming, sunbathing, jogging or to sit at one of the many cafés there. In Casablanca, we call this area [لا كورنيش] which is a French word borrowed into Arabic, and it refers to a waterfront promenade usually paralleled by a main road.
Shama: You’re right. And, you know, sometimes just to get away from that big metropolitan energy, seaside [لا كورنيش] is a great spot. It’s also the center of nightlife and there are some mythical places like [لو بالكون] right on the main street. And it’s also just a, you know, place for families to take their kids for some of the best ice cream in town.
Munia: And it can be a romantic place for lovers to watch the sunset, right?
Shama: Ok, back on track. That’s another masterpiece in terms of, you know, design and architecture worth visiting and it’s Hasan the Second Mosque.
Munia: Absolutely a must whenever you go to Casablanca.
Shama: The Mosque is the second largest religious building in the world after Mecca and was mostly built on waters of the Atlantic Ocean because it’s symbolically believed in Islam that God has his throne on water. It’s surrounded by ocean on the three sides.
Munia: It has room for 100,000 worshipers and the roof can open to create an open space, just like in a stadium.
Shama: You know, quite impressive. The closer you want to it, actually, the more impressive it gets. You just realize how huge it is.
Munia: What about some local flavors? Any advice there, Shama? I know you love food.
Shama: Mhm. Ok, for some excellent couscous served in the most traditional way, try one of the local restaurants in the [مدينة] or old town.
Munia: And for dessert you can buy fresh and cheap fruits from street vendors selling from their vehicles. It’s actually safe.


Munia: Alright, hope you guys enjoyed today’s Culture Class. Don’t forget to leave us a post.
Shama: Mhm. And, from me, goodbye. [إلى اللّقاء]