The brainchild and crowning achievement of King Hassan II, this phenomenal building was built to commemorate the former king’s 60th birthday and opened in 1993 giving Casablanca the heart and landmark it so sorely missed. Standing 210 meters high, the minaret of the mosque is taller than the great pyramid Cheops. The mosque rises above the ocean on a rocky outcrop reclaimed from the sea; taking literally the verse from the Quran that states that God’s throne was built upon the water. It’s Designed by Michel Pinseau, and is the perfect embodiment of Morocco’s rich cultural heritage.
The construction work started in July 1986 and the splendid religious center was officially inaugurated on August 30, 1993. It is a vast building that can hold 25,000 worshippers and accommodate a further 80,000 in the courtyards and squares around it. The mosque was designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau and is topped by a soaring 210m-tall minaret, which shines a laser beam towards Mecca by night. In addition to this high-tech call to prayer, the mosque also has a centrally heated floor, electric doors, a retractable roof and a section of glass flooring allowing the faithful to see the Atlantic washing the rocks below. Above all though, it is the vast size and elaborate decoration of the prayer hall that is most striking. Large enough to house Paris’ Notre Dame or Rome’s St Peter’s, it is blanketed in astonishing woodcarving, zellij (tile work) and stucco moulding. A huge team of master craftsmen was assembled to work on the mosque, delicately carving intricate patterns and designs in cedar from the Middle Atlas, marble from Agadir and granite from Tafraoute. Over 6000 traditional Moroccan artisans worked on the building over the course of its construction. The project cost more than half a billion dollars and was paid for largely by public subscription. The floor is a vast mosaic and the ceilings are carved with cedar. The doors were forged in gold and decorated with turquoise, red and cobalt paint. 2,500 pillars bear the weight of a 64meter electric ceiling and a thousand tons that can be opened for worshippers to see the sky above.
The Hassan II mosque is one of the very few Islamic religious buildings open to non-Muslims. To see the interior you must take guided tour. Visitors must be ‘decently and respectfully dressed’ and once inside, you will be asked to remove your shoes. The hour-long tours are conducted in French, English, German and Spanish, and take in the prayer hall, ablution rooms and hammam. The latter is supposed to open for use by the public (including non-Muslims) although no date has been set.