October 2008. “There’s nothing to see in Casablanca”, a misinformed Australian once told me. Ok… the city may not be packed with an abundance of sights, but this jaw-dropping mosque is pretty much reason alone to make the journey. As the largest mosque in Morocco (third largest in the world!), Hassan is an architectural delight stunningly perched on a promontory overlooking The Atlantic Ocean. It also boasts the world’s tallest minaret, at a neck-craning six hundred and eighty nine feet.
October 2008. Built and partly funded by King Hassan II during the mid 1980s, the mosque was designed by French architect Michel Pinseau and took six years to complete. Amazingly, much of the financing came from public donations, with around twelve million Moroccans putting their hands in their pockets. The final bill came to a whopping five hundred and eighty five million Euros.
October 2008. You can easily spend half an hour or so just wandering around the vast outer courtyards. The design is a master class in unfussy angular simplicity, its smooth marble surfaces and tasteful blue-green mosaic tiles demanding an atmosphere of complete serenity. There are over forty decorated fountains peppered throughout the exterior, while the peaceful mosque garden is a popular location for family picnics.
October 2008. Accessing Hassan’s amazing interior is by appointment only and you’ll need to follow a guided tour. Fear not though it’s worth every penny (!), not least thanks to the stunning prayer hall, which can hold an impressive twenty five thousand worshippers. Created by a crack team of six thousand craftsmen, materials were sourced from all over the country, including granite from Tafraoute and marble from Agadir. The kaleidoscopic ceiling is also a thing of wonder, covered as it is with gilded cedar wood panels from the Atlas Mountains. The roof meanwhile is retractable and can be opened in just five minutes!
October 2008. Beneath the first floor lies a gorgeous expanse of beautiful hammams (bathhouses), complete with ablution fountains shaped like huge lotus flowers that were carved from local marble. While I couldn’t actually take a dip, I was able to park myself at one of the stone benches around the pools and soak up the salty, mint-tinged air. Back in the day one of the top treatments was called adelakt, a plastering technique made up of thick egg yolk and black soap.
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