I was on my way to find the famed Hassan Mosque, the jewel in Casablanca’s crown, when I spotted it out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t expecting to find churches at all in Morocco, but there it was, neatly hidden behind a whitewashed wall a mere block from the plush Hyatt Regency Hotel in the center of downtown Casablanca.
As I peeked through the doorway at the pretty garden and graves, it was hard not to hum Chris de Burgh’s “In a Country Churchyard”.
Built in 1906 on land owned by the British Crown, St. John’s Anglican church is the oldest church building still in use in Casablanca. Able to seat about 100 people, the church’s website talks of over 200 worshippers spilling out of the doors on some Sundays.
The cemetery predates the church, having been built in 1864, while the pulpit was donated by General George Patton, the WWII general who in 1942 led Allied troops ashore at Safi.
Reading tombstones as I strolled among the graves, I was reminded of how close Morocco is to mainland Europe and how much influence Europe has had on north African port cities like Casablanca and Tangiers.
Although I did research the graveyard afterwards, I never did find out who Rose Emily Stage was or how she came to be laid to rest in Casa at the age of 42.