CELEBRITIES Casablanca is a city filled with riches. And it always will be! This Moroccan city is home to economic, cultural, architectural jewels, as well as exceptional residents. It’s the birthplace of a number of reputable stars on an international stage in diverse areas including politics, literature, cinema, and sports.
1915: On June 15, Larbi Ben Barek, or “La Perle Noire” as he’s known in the football world, was born. Legally known as Abdelkader Larbi Ben M'barek, he’s reknowned for his physical appearance, his proper sport techniques and his innate intimate relationship with the ball. Fans paid homage to him by calling him the “Football God”. Among the awards he received, the International Olympic Committee named him “athlete of the century”. Casablanca was ther when he entered the world, and when he left the world on Sept. 16, 1992.
1918: Jacques Monod was born on August 21. Passionate about the cinema and show biz world, he played a number of secondary roles, including a theatre director in Sandy by Michel Nerval. He spent a good decade in Morocco where he was often on Moroccan radio, acting in several theatrical pieces, before creating his own local theatre company. He died in Paris on Dec. 25, 1985.
1932: The birth of Georges Bendrihem was a photojournalist covering the sports beat. He worked for a number of important press agencies including Keystone, the Associated Press in Morocco and Agence France-Press. To pay homage to him following his death on Oct. 6, 1995, the president of the Republic of France created the Georges Bendrihem award in 1996 requiting his professional work in photographing political figures.
1942: Alain Gottvallès, a French swimmer, was born on March 22 in Casablanca and passed away on Feb. 29, 2008 after battling bone cancer. A freestyle sprinter, he beat two world records, including the 4x100 metres in free swim. After he retired, he filmed two films including L'Homme qui Trahit la Mafia.
1944: Alain Souchon, real name Alain Kienast, is a French author-composer-interpretor and actor with Swiss dual nationality born on May 22. His works include: J'ai dix ans, C'est comme vous voulez, Écoutez d'où ma peine vient, among others. In 1973, he won the Prix de la Press for his song Amour 1830.
1947: The emergence of Mohamed Miftah, a famous Moroccan actor. He appeared in both Moroccan and international films as well as short films, including: Al Kanfoudi de Nabyl Lahlou,Yacout de Jamal Belmejdoub, Déjà vu de Aziz Salmy, Danger à Tanger de Marco Serafini. His unique talent allowed him to star in remarkable roles in several films of various nationalities (Italian, French, Syrian).
1948: On July 30, French actor Jean Reno, whose real name’s Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez, was born to Spanish parents. He starred in several well-known films including: Le Grand Bleu, Nikita et Léon, les trois de Luc Besson, Les Visiteurs de Jean-Marie Poiré. He was nominated for several awards including, best European comedian for his role in the Le Grand Blue, three times for the Cesar award for best actor, twice for the starring role in Léon et Les Visiteurs and once for his secondary role in Le Grand Bleu.
1949: Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, born November 28, is a French fashion designer, recognized with several honourable titles including: knighthood in the National Order of Merit, Commander of the National Order of Arts and Letters, Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor, and a Prix de Design laureate. He’s created several exhibitions, collections, fashion shows, as well as outfitting reknowned personalities like: Pope Jean-Paul II, Elli Medeiros.
En 1952: Hakim Noury, a well-known Moroccan film-maker. His filmography includes several successful films including: Elle est diabétique et hypertendue et elle refuse toujours de crever, Destin d’une femme.
En 1952: Jean-Paul Bertrand-Demanes, born May 13, is a former international goalkeeper. He was the France champion in 1973, 1977, 1980, and 1983; a finalist in the Coupe de France in 1973 and 1983; and winner of the Coupe des Alpes in 1982.
1955: Aline Pailler, of French nationality was born on July 27. An excellent female journalist, passionnate about politics and the mass media, she published several novels including La Marmite, Entretien pour un Monde à changer, Femmes en marche. She’s the recipient of many awards for her professional work, including: the médaille du Mérite, the Olympe de Gouges Medal, and the Beaumarchais Medal.
1962: Nawal El Moutawakil is Moroccan athlete born on April 15. In 1984, she made history as the first Arab, African, and Muslim female to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles where she beat the African record in the 400-metre hurdle. She won several gold medals at the Mediterranean Games in Casablanca in 1983. In 1997, King Hassan II named her Secretary of State with the Minister of Social Affairs overseeing youth and sports, and in 2007 the Minister of Youth and Sports.
1966: Arthur, although his real name’s Jacques Essebag, born on March 10, is a television and radio host, Franco-Moroccan film-maker, and a comedian. He’s performed several comedy shows and TV shows including, Arthur en vrai, Le Dîner de Cons, Le bêtisier du samedi, Personne n'est parfait.
1971: Gad Elmaleh is Franco-Moroccan comedian and actor with a Canadian nationality as well. Born on April 19, he’s directed several successful spectacles like: Décalages au palais des glaces, La Vie normale and Papa est en haut. And he’s participated in several films and short-films as acted in: Dieu, que la nature est bien faite! Les Soeurs Hamlet. In 2010, he was regarded as one of the France’s favourite personalities.
1972: Salaheddine Bassir born on September 5 is a former Moroccan footballer. In fact, he’s the leading goal scorer for the Moroccan national team with 24 goals. He’s been a member of the jury on the show Al Kadam Dahabi and since 2000, he’s been a technique advisor with Raja in Casablanca.
1973: Hicham Arazi, born on October 19. The “magician of the courts” as he’s been called, won in 1997 the first prize on the Hassan II Grand Prix world tour, and in 2001 the Monte Carlo Masters.
Casablanca is home to an endless source of talent, a range of personalities with a variety of passions. For the white city, this century was a step forward in past, present and future. Let’s hope that the years to come will bring more native talent to the world.