UNFORGETTABLE - NOVEMBER 2006
Casablanca, or Casa as the locals name it, is linked to one of my favourite movies: the unforgettable Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, as well as Sam to play it again, as time goes by... It still has Morocco most important airport and there is a connection to Lisbon with Royal Air Maroc... And though Rick Blaine is no longer there, I couldn't miss it... So there was a short stop in Casa on the way from Rabat to Marrakech. Mainly to visit the immense Hassan II mosque, but also to enjoy some drinks in front of the Atlantic and to remember the famous quote: «Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...»!
"HASSAN II MOSQUE - On July 9, 1980, date of King Hassan II's birthday, he declared: «I wish Casablanca to be endowed with a large, fine building of which it can be proud until the end of time... I want to build this mosque on the water, because God's throne is on the water». Designed by French architect Michel Pinseau and built by Bouygues at a spectacular location on a platform over the Atlantic Ocean, the construction began in July 1986 to be concluded on King's 60th birthday in 1989, but it ended up being finished only in August 30, 1993"
"ATRIUM - The Hassan II Mosque is the second largest in the world (after the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca) covering 20,000 square metres with room for 25,000 worshippers at the same time. A further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque's courtyard. It was built to withstand earthquakes, has a heated floor (part of which is glass to allow worshippers to kneel directly over the sea) and a sliding roof that opens on special occasions"
"PORTAL - The mosque, equipped with electric doors, is, together with the old Tin Mal Mosque, one of the two only mosques in Morocco open to non-Muslims. Over 6,000 Moroccan craftsmen and artisans were employed for five years to work the materials into the intricate decorations that embellish the structure. The walls are made up of concrete clad with marble and the style of the Mosque displays strong Moorish influences, bringing to mind the Alhambra and the Mesquita of Cordoba in Spain. Horseshoe arches prevail both outside and inside"
"MINARET - At 210 metres (689 ft), the Mosque's minaret is the tallest structure in Morocco, the tallest minaret in the world and the tallest religious building. Visible day and night, the laser lights that at night point in the direction of Mecca can be seen from miles out at sea. It seems that, at least outside Morocco, the view is that Casa’s people have mixed feelings about the Mosque: on one hand, they are proud of the monument that dominates the city; on the other, they are aware that the expense (up to USD 800 million, raised entirely from, some say, less-than-voluntary, public subscription) was huge! At least, it seems that the massive fundraising had a positive side-effect: it temporarily reduced Morocco's money supply and brought down inflation..."
"MURANO GLASS - The outstanding glass chandeliers, differently from almost everything else, were imported. They came from Murano, quite close to Venice, Italy"
"INSIDE you'll see the gleaming newness and tremendous wealth in a stark contrast against the nearby quarters of Casablanca. Nearly all the materials of the Mosque are from Morocco, with the sole exceptions of the imported white granite columns and glass chandeliers, both from Italy. The marble is from Agadir, the cedar wood is from the Middle Atlas and the granite comes from Tafraoute. There is a huge women's gallery, which is beautifully carved of dark wood and the prayer area in the back is carpeted in red"
“INTERIOR – Incredibly beautiful mosaics, stone and marble floors and columns, sculpted plaster moulds, carved and painted wood ceilings, domes of carved wood and intricate stucco make the Hassan II Mosque one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. When construction passed its deadline, 1,400 men worked by day and 1,000 worked by night to bring the vast project to completion"
"FOUNTAINS - Downstairs, beneath the Mosque, there are Turkish-style baths, including a large communal bath, and fountains for the ablutions. Amazing is that, according to the locals, Americans and Germans always want to know the actual cost of the Mosque..."
"BEACH - Casablanca has a nice and long Atlantic Ocean beach"
"VIEW from the beach towards the city"