In the past two weeks, Casablanca has come to Edinburgh! The showing of Sofia by Meryem Benm’Barek in the 2019 Africa in Motion Festival coincided with the exhibition on the Collective Museum of Casablanca at the City Dome on Calton Hill. Both give pause for thought on the lives and lived experiences of marginalised groups in Morocco’s biggest city. Here, I consider Sofia and its messages around women’s rights. Continue reading
I find Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial hub and biggest city, hard to like. It’s a big, grubby urban metropolis. However, if you look hard enough and lift your head above street level, it has Art Deco features to rival Miami or Berlin, Art Nouveau swirls reminiscent of Vienna or Glasgow and – of course – all with an Andalusian twist. I was asked by Virgin Australia Voyeur Magazine to summarise the charm of Art Deco Casablanca in an article about global Art Deco. Here is a screenshot of the piece. The article can be viewed on Magzter (registration required).
Few people go to Casablanca for the scenery. The Maghreb’s biggest city, its most important port and the country’s industrial hub is not known for its tranquil pace of life or its picturesque scenery. It doubled as war-torn Beirut in the 2001 espionage thriller, Spy Game (starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt), for goodness’ sake! Casanegra, as it has become known since Noureddine Lakhmari’s 2008 film entitled it thus – thereby exposing the city’s less than shiny white underbelly – does not bustle, it jostles. The city doesn’t sell, it hawks. It houses Morocco’s wealthiest industrialists, its largest slums and – connecting them both – a significant black economy. Not a pretty place, you might think. And far removed from the days of Bacall and Bogart…..
Nonetheless, wallets and cameras securely zipped inside our jackets, we spent a weekend pounding the pavements of Casa (people don’t stroll here) and were surprised to uncover a few architectural gems.
On 16 May 2003, 12 suicide bombers detonated bombs in 5 sites in Casablanca, killing themselves and 33 others and injuring more than 100 others. They were the most lethal terrorist attacks in Morocco’s history. Last night, I attended the first showing of Nabil Ayouch’s Horses of God – about the Casablanca bombings – to a Moroccan general public.