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Mosque of Hassan II – Casablanca, Morocco

With a prayer hall that can accommodate 25,000 people, the Mosque of Hassan II is the second-largest religious building in the world after the mosque in Mecca. The complex covers 96,840 sq ft (9,000 sq m), with two-thirds of it built over the sea. The minaret, the lighthouse of Islam, is 656 ft (200 m) high, and two laser beams reaching over a distance of 18.5 miles (30 km) shine in the direction of Mecca. The building was designed by Michel Pinseau and it took 35,000 craftsmen to build it. With carved stucco, zellij tile work, a painted cedarwood ceiling and marble, onyx, and travertine cladding, the mosque is a monument to Moroccan architectural virtuosity.

HASSAN II

Moulay Hassan succeeded to the throne of Morocco on the death of his father in 1961. A skillful politician, he alternated liberalizing policies with repression. He introduced the country’s first constitution in 1962 and parliamentary elections in 1963, but the road to reform was rocky. When Spain withdrew from the mineral-rich Western Sahara in 1975, Hassan initiated the Green March, in which 350,000 civilians crossed the border to assert Morocco’s claim to the region. Spain agreed to the transfer of power, but Algerian-backed Polisario Front guerrillas began a violent campaign for independence. A ceasefire was agreed to in 1991 Hassan II died in 1999.

INSIDE THE MOSQUE

The waterfront Mosque of Hassan II is the crowning glory of the king’s reign. Built for his 60th birthday, the mosque was mainly financed by donations from the Moroccan people. Inside, the massive marble-floored prayer hall sparkles in the glow of Venetian chandeliers. Cedarwood from Morocco’s Middle Atlas range has been shaped and carved to form doors and screens and the paneling of 70 cupolas. Even the sliding roof is painted and gilded. The hammam (traditional bathhouse) is below the prayer hall.

MUSLIM BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

Muslims believe in one God (Allah), and their holy book, the Koran, shares many stories and prophets with the Bible. However, Muslims hold that Jesus was just one in a line of prophets, the last being Mohammed, who brought the final revelation of God’s truth to mankind. Muslims believe that Allah communicated the texts of the Koran to Mohammed through the Archangel Gabriel. Muslims pray five times a day, wherever they may be, and the calls to prayer are broad­cast from the mosque. Those who visit a mosque to pray remove their shoes and wash their feet, head, and hands outside before entering. Inside, women and men pray in separate areas. When praying, Muslims face Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

In a prayer hall, the direction is indicated by the mihrab (a niche in the wall). Kneeling and lowering the head to the ground are gestures of humility and respect for Allah.

Marble

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Used throughout the building on the columns of the prayer hall, doorways, fountains, and stairs – marble is everywhere. It is also sometimes combined with granite and onyx.

Minbar

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The minbar, or pulpit, located at the western end of the prayer hall, is particularly ornate. It is decorated with verses from the Koran.

Prayer Hall

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The vast prayer hall measures 656 ft (200m) by 328 ft (100m). The central part of the roof can be opened to the sky.

Women’s Gallery

Above two mezzanines, and hidden from view, this gallery extends over 57,000 sq ft (5,300 sq m) and can hold up to 5,000 women.

Doors

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Seen from the exterior, these are double doors in the shape of pointed arches framed by column s. Many are clad in incised bronze.

Minaret

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Its vast size it is thetall est minaret in the world – and exquisite decoration make this an exceptional building.

Fountains

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These are decorated with zellij tile work and framed with marble arches and columns.

Windows

Wooden latticework mashrabiya screenwork at tile windows protects those within from prying eyes.

Stairway to tile Women’s Gallery

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The stairway features decorative woodcarving, multiple arches, and marble, granite, and onyx columns, arranged in a harmonious ensemble.

Royal Door

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This is decorated with traditional motifs engraved on brass and titanium.

Dome

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The cedarwood-paneled interior of the dome, over the prayer hall, glistens with carved and painted decoration.

VISITING A MOSQUE

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Unusually in Morocco, the Mosque of Hassan II is open to non- Muslims on guided tours. It is Important for both sexes to dress modestly when visiting the mosque. Shoes should be removed, and shoulders and knees covered . Men must take off their hats and women are asked to cover their hair with a headscarf.

KEY DATES

1980: King Hassan II declares his intention to build a landmark mosque.
1986: Construction begins on the Mosque of Hassan II.
1993: The mosque is finished, four years after the king’s 60th aniversary.

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