Any trip to Casablanca should include a visit to the city’s most prominent landmark, the Hassan II Mosque. This magnificent mosque, commissioned by its namesake King Hassan II himself, stands majestically on reclaimed land jutting out over the glorious deep-blue backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
Work began on the mosque in 1986 with plans for its completion by the King’s 60th birthday in 1989. When construction went overtime, work was intensified with craftsmen working in shifts, 1400 during the day and 1100 throughout the night. Finally inaugurated in 1993, this remarkable structure has much to boast about. The Hassan II Mosque is the fifth largest mosque in the world, while its minaret soaring into the sky at 689ft (210m) is the world’s tallest.
You get a sense of its grandeur from your approach through the expansive courtyard which can hold 80,000 people, while the mosque itself can accommodate 25,000 worshippers in simultaneous prayer.
The Hassan II Mosque is unique in that visitors of any faith are allowed to enter by way of an hour-long guided tour (set times). It is well worth timing your visit for the opportunity to witness the embellished interior for yourself. All of the materials used in construction (the granite, plaster, marble and wood) are of Moroccan origin, with the exception of the white granite columns and glass chandeliers sourced from Italy. Six years and 6,000 craftsmen turned these materials into an architectural marvel and indeed one of the most technologically advanced mosques in the world, featuring earthquake-proof construction, heated floors, electric doors and an electronic sliding roof.
The mosque’s location, in which approximately half the structure is directly over the Atlantic Ocean, was inspired by the Q’uranic verse the “Throne of God is upon the water”. King Hassan II envisaged the mosque to be a place where worshippers could come to marvel and praise God’s creations of the ocean and sky. Indeed this is achieved with a glass section of flooring that allows worshippers to pray above the ocean itself and a sliding roof that opens up to the expansive sky.
While the Hassan II Mosque is certainly the most notable attraction in Casablanca, you may want to check out Casablanca’s Cathedral or the Cathédrale Sacré-Coeur. While it is no longer used for religious purposes, this pew-less building still holds a real presence with its impressive stain-glassed windows directing beams of colored light across the wooden floorboards. For a little “baksheesh” (a word of Persian origins associated with tipping, charitable giving and also bribery – this is a most useful word to know as it is used throughout the Middle East and South Asia), you can climb the narrow, winding staircase to the roof for a different view. Mind the pigeon poop.
While not as infamous as the medinas of Fes and Marrakech, the new and old medinas of Casablanca won’t disappoint, and you’ll be able to find all your Moroccan staples here.
For more ideas of things to see and do in Casablanca see: