best tourist attraction in casablanca
A Visit to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco
Before I talk about our visit to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca last month, let me point out that like the horrifying fact to a child there is no Santa Claus, there is also no Rick’s Cafe. Well, there is a replica of a Hollywood movie stage on the edge of town created as a tourist attraction, but Rick’s Cafe does not really exist in Casablanca. Yet we all tend to associate legendary film stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman with this north African city, even although the entire movie was shot in southern California.
Casablanca is not the capital of Morocco but it is the largest cosmopolitan city in Morocco, a little over 3 million people. The early settlers were Phoenicians, French, Romans, Spanish and Portuguese. Morocco gained its independence in 1956. It’s a diverse culture today.
Right out side of the walls around the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, are huge crowds of people, mostly children, leaping into the rolling waves of trash in the Atlantic. Those floating white bits appear to be styrofoam. It must also be a good fishing spot because older men also perch on the rocks holding fishing rods.
Coming to Morocco, I had this vision in my head of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour riding camels, even though I knew that was nonsense. In fact, the Road to Morocco was also filmed at locations in southern California and Arizona. It’s not like we devote a lot of time to passing thoughts of Casablanca or Morocco.
The Hassan II Mosque took 7 years to build, and thousands of workers completed the structure in 1993. It is massive; part of it hangs over the Atlantic. The prayer hall in this photograph above holds 25,000 worshippers (men). The balconies provide space for about 5,000 muslim women. An additional 80,000 muslims can worship in the great square outside. Our guide joked to our group that women tourists were not allowed to talk inside the Mosque and everybody believed him.
The retractable cedar ceiling in the prayer hall opens on nice days. Although, they do struggle a bit with the birds coming inside: gulls, rock doves, sparrows. Pigeons make a total mess. I recall a screen of sorts designed to block entrance but it also results in killing some of the birds.
The Minaret of Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca features lasers that shine a beam toward Mecca and tops the crown of the tower. It stands 210 meters high (688.976 feet). The minaret holds the honor of being the tallest minaret in the world.
Non-Muslim visitors must follow the rules to visit the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. No shorts, no bare shoulders. Fortunately, I came prepared. I did not want to visit wearing a t-shirt as that seemed disrespectful, although it was very hot in Casablanca. My silk Alexander McQueen scarf seemed the perfect accessory to cover my potentially offensive bare shoulders, even if there are skull heads on it. I look fairly exhausted and overheated from the days’ activities, which is an accurate depiction.
The beauty of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is everywhere your eye travels. The intricate designs do not involve people. Almost all of the materials used to build the mosque came from Morocco except for a few, and the glass in the chandeliers originated from Murano, Italy.
Murano is a magical place, too. Every time you touch a piece of glass to gently admire its hand-blown exquisiteness, salesmen come running to give you devoted attention. Their pitches are quite effective, and my husband began to squirm uncomfortably as he tried to pull me away.
As we stood listening to our guide, he asked if anybody knew the materials used to construct the huge soaring columns in front of us in the prayer hall. Some of the tourists guessed marble, but I can spot granite when I see it and mumbled the word. That’s what being a Sacramento Realtor engrains in a person. You’re right, the guide said, turning to smile at me. And I could see he was getting a big tip.
Most of the materials are marble or cedar, and you can see titanium in the doors. The Moorish designs are abundant. In the lower level are baths and gigantic mushroom-shaped fountains, which don’t seem to be used, including a decorative pool.