Bienvenue - Les Journées du Patrimoine de Casablanca!
Every year in the Spring for the last five years, the city of Casablanca takes this opportunity to proudly display its rare cultural gems to its native citizens, long time and short time residents as well as visitors. This was a nice opportunity to discover and tour buildings in the city that many if not most walk by all the time, however, never pay too much attention to them. Some in our AIWC group travelled for the first time on the Tramway to downtown Casablanca, which I hope was a comfortable ride and something to try again in the future.
The buildings which we visited were all majestically situated around Place Mohammed V. The first building on our agenda was City Hall. It was constructed by Marius Boyer in 1927, the last building constructed on the square. Of all the buildings we visited, it is by far the most beautiful and well kept. The tour guides, whom were volunteers from Casamémoire did a great job explaining the history, design in addition to sharing stories that made the event more enjoyable.
Whether it is referred to as, "La Wilaya", "Préfecture" or "City Hall", it is the same building and it attracted many visitors during this period. The building is adorned by green tiles, the color of hope and Islam and it reminds us of an Italian Palazzo with its bell tower, arches and columns. The materials and craftsmanship are all Moroccan. This is a beautiful legacy for the Moroccan people. The influence of the Art Deco style is seen in its beautiful iron doors which leads to the entrance of the building. The entrance is somewhat dark, however, beyond the foyer, the light shines through into the an airy and naturally lighted courtyard. The columns in the courtyard on the first level are composed of tiles that give the illusion of an impressionist painting by Monet. On the landing leading to the second floor, there are two representative paintings by Majorelle. One is of a Berber traditional dance and the other one is from a view of Marrakesh.
Adjacent to City Hall stands the proud and powerful "Le Palais de Justice" or courthouse. It is situated a bit more elevated than its neighboring buildings which offers the impression of "power". The entrance to the building is very intimidating, however, I suppose that was the thought behind it. This building was constructed by Joseph Marrast in 1922. One of the highlights of "Le Palais de Justice" is a very striking gallery that leads from the entrance to administrative offices on the backside of the structure. The arches and columns which form the gallery are very Italian in design. The ceiling of the gallery is cedar and very impressive. The courtyard is large and perhaps a place to gather one thought's before having to deal with the reasons one goes to the courthouse. The courtroom in itself, was a very simple room with a "church" type feel.
Crossing "La Place" completely opposite City Hall, we arrived at the Bank Al Maghrib built in 1937 by Edmond Brion. The front of the building is exquisite with its giant iron doors and copper frame. The entire front entrance is a "conversation piece". This building was constructed in the "Neomoroccan" style. One can't but remain in awe as one enters the main hall of the building and is confronted by the fine glass ceiling and beautiful wall tiles. A truly magnificent work of art just like the sculpture built from pieces from the Eiffel Tower by the artist/sculptor, César, which is on display to be admired by those who enter.
The most colorful entrance, in blue and green tiles was that of the Post Office. "La Poste" was designed in the Moorish style and built in 1918 by Adrien Laforgue. The beauty of this building has gone through many transformations over the years. The original glass ceiling in the center has been replaced by an elaborate wooden ceiling, which is beautiful as well. The art deco glass clock has withstood the test of time and deserves to be praised by those who enter the building. A few months ago, I was in the post office and wanted to take some pictures, which I was told it was "interdit" /prohibited. I left disappointed, but took revenge on Saturday because I took as many photos as I wanted.
By this time, many of us were hungry and looking forward to going to the Central Market for lunch. I would say that this building structure is a diamond in the rough. Built in 1917 by Pierre Bousquet to promote Morocco and built in the same location of the French Moroccan Exhibition of 1915. Many people, I am sure would not give it a second thought, unless one knows the history.
Walking to the Central Market from the Mohammed V Place, we are surrounded by so many Art Deco buildings. Some have been renovated and some really need some tender loving care. Nevertheless, I am sure that each building would have many stories to tell.
I am happy to have had this opportunity to get to know a section of Casablanca in a more intimate way. I am looking forward to next year, "Insha'Allah", to visit additional places and learn more from this rich cultural experience made possible by people and organizations who care to share their city.
THE LAW COURTS
BANK AL MAGHRIB
THE POST OFFICE