Coming from the city center of Casablanca, at first, from a certain distance, though huge -but that does not appear immediately- Mosque Hassan II looks like any other important religious building. It has a green topped "minaret" high above the rest of the mostly white Mosque and sits on a large paved esplanade with parts of superb green lawn..
When the Ocean is rough, it is very impressive as waves brake on the boulders that protect Mosque Hassan II and on the jetty. The place from where I took this photo was temporarily forbidden because of the waves. If I had stayed half a minute longer at this place, I would have been completely splashed !
The closer you walk, the more impressive. You realize how huge it is. It was build in 1989 for the 60th anniversary of King Hassan II. The architect is French, Michel Pinseau, as is Bouygues, the builder, but the decoration has been done by the best moroccan craftsmen. It is the second largest religious building in the world, second to Mecqua.
The soil, as is the building itself, is made of reinforced concrete covered with marble.
Once you arrive close to the building, you discover that he Mosque,built mainly over the Ocean, is surrounded by the Ocean on three sides. This gives the strange impression as, with the wide esplanade in front, it is separated from the city, to be a "nowhere" place.
King Hassan II, "Commander of the believers", is descending from Mohammed, and wanted to leave to the posterity a monument worthy his reign. It had to be finished for his 60th birthday and the time allotted was pretty tight. When completed, the minaret is the highest in the world (200 m) and can be seen from several dozen of kilometers away.
The inside can be visited (50 Dh) and can welcome 25,000 persons (20,000 men and separately, 5,000 women, in mezzanines) and the esplanade 150,000 more on it's 20,000 m2. Notre Dame de Paris could be dropped inside the main praying room, 200 x 100 meters!
All of Northern Africa is submitted to main earthquakes. The African plaque is pushing against the Eurasian plaque. In the recent past, many deadly earthquakes have hit Northern Morocco and Algeria. In 1755, most coastal cities of Morocco were heavily hit. In 1960, Agadir was entirely destroyed (12,000 dead). In 1969, another earthquakes hit the coast with 200 casualties. On February 24th 2004, Al Hoceima, in the North was also severely hit and the death toll was more than 150.
There is no surprise that the whole mosque has been build earthquake proof!
The other main doorway is equally decorated, though a different in the details. Every carving was handmade and more than ten thousands of the best Moroccan craftsmen worked night and day for several years to achieve the whole decoration. It has cost a lot of money, between 450 millions and 2 billions of €uros. For several years, everybody in Morocco had to give from its own will. State servants were strongly "invited" to give one month of salary. Peasant to give their part when entering the souk with their goods, shopkeepers following their income, etc…
On the side, a fountain allows pilgrims to wash their hands before going into the Mosque. Inside, the ablution hall is under the prayers hall and is decorated with large lotus flowers in marble from which water is flowing. With a Turkish bath and a hamman, there is inside the building everything that is needed to be perfectly clean before the prayer. This is the only mosque in Morocco than can be visited by non Moslems.
The figure of a person gives an idea of the size of this whole mosque.
What cannot be seen here is that the inside is light by 50 chandeliers made in Murano crystal, each 6 meters in diameter, 15 meters high and weighting 1,200 kg. The roof, all in aluminum tiles, stands at 60 meters from the soil, weighs 1,100 tons and can open completely in 5 minutes (some documents say 3 minutes!).
In Morocco, police have always been very present. In the past few years it is often less visible but anyway, it discreetly checks that nothing wrong occurs. In front of the mosque, only a few policemen walk across the esplanade, mainly to give information to visitors. However, more substantial police is half hidden in the surrounding.
If you park south to the mosque and walk towards the mosque, it looks as it had been build on the sea ! And actually, this for real. The main part of the Hassan II Mosque was built on pilings, on the ocean, in order to give the impression that by some divine intervention, it was floating on water.
This monumental doorway gives an idea of the way everything is delicatly carved. All the inside walls are covered with carved plaster. The capitals are carved marble, the columns of granite, except the mirhab columns, made of Carrara marble.
I have no photos of the inside as we had not enough time to visit it.
It is when you are just below the 200 meters of the minaret that it is the most impressive. This new "headlight of Islam" is equiped with a panoramic elevator with glass walls. It was under revision when we were there but it was ought to run again in 2004.
The Hassan II Mosque is absolutely a must whenever you go to Casablanca. I've found the mosque, a wonderful architectural masterpiece and symbol of a version of Islam that is open to the world and to science as the mosque was partially built on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Construction began at the beginning of the 1980s exactly as ordered by the king Hassan II. The entire site covers a surface area of 9 hectares (22.24 acres) and includes a library, koranic school, Turkish bath and large conference rooms.
The king of Morocco at the time, Hassan II, first mentioned this mosque in 1980, when he announced that he would build it on the water, because the throne of God is on the water.
The mosque was inaugurated on August 30, 1993. It was designed by the French architect, Michel Pinseau. 2,500 men worked on two shifts in order to complete the mosque of Hassan II. The marble came from Agadir, the granite from Tafraoute, while the glass was imported from Venice, Italy.
The mosque was funded by donations, and the total cost was an estimated US$800,000,000!!!