The name Casablanca conjures up images of a famous film and notions of a romantic past. Images of an exotic middle eastern city abound. In reality modern Casablanca is more of a financial center and construction site than anything else. I can’t say that it is the most beautiful city I have seen, but quite an interesting one nonetheless.
Casablanca was mainly built by the French beginning in the early 20th century. It is now the most populous city in the Kingdom of Morocco with a population of approximately 3.5 million, one fifth of the population of the country and one of the four largest metropolises on the African continent. It is now an important Moroccan center of commerce, and boasts the country’s largest port.
In 1987 Morocco’s King Hasan II began a project that would later become the second largest religious building in the world after the mosque in Mecca. King Hasan II was the father of the current king, Mohammad VI.
The Hasan II mosque complex encompasses almost one million square feet, with two-thirds built over the ocean. The mosque boasts a 656 foot [200m] high minaret, and depending on which reference one uses or who one asks, it is either the largest, the second largest or the third largest minaret after Mecca and Medina. Apparently this discrepancy has more to do with the desire to not offend anyone rather than how it relates to the actual size of the minaret. From this minaret two laser beams shine for 18.5 miles [30km] in the direction of Mecca.
The mosque is so large it can accommodate 25,000 worshipers inside and 80,000 outside. It was completed in 1993 after approximately 10,000 craftsman and 25,000 workers worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week for six years.
Walking through the mosque is an exercise in grandeur, as the structure is expansive, complete with Italian chandeliers and a roof in the main prayer hall that opens like the roof of a sports stadium. Huge and ornate metal doors raise like garage doors within intricately crafted door frames.
A lower room below the prayer hall, built for the process of ablutions [cleaning rituals before prayer], boasts 41 fountains and can accommodate 1400 people at one time. There is even an expansive hammam in the mosque.
While not an ancient structure or a UNESCO-listed site, this mosque is still well worth the trip.