Hassan II Mosque right on the sea in Casablanca is considered to be one of the largest mosques in the world. Locals will tell you it’s the third largest behind the big two in Saudi Arabia, but Wikipedia puts it at 13. I guess it really depends how you define “large” – height/width, capacity, volume, etc.
Ever since seeing Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I’ve been obsessed with intricate Muslim architecture. I’ve heard about Casablanca’s mosque before, and given that I had to transfer through, I spent the day exploring Morocco’s largest city. You can read about my trip to Casablanca here.
Hassan II Mosque
Approaching the mosque is one of those jaw dropping moments – you can slowly see the tower grow larger in the distance but it doesn’t really all come into view until the final moment.
Mosque construction began in 1986 and it was completed in 1993. It was built to honor the late King Mohammed V who is known as the father of modern Morocco originally exiled by the French to return again after Morocco’s independence movement.
French architect Michel Pinseau designed the building and while it may not be the largest mosque in the world, Pinseau gave it the largest minaret – 60 stories high. The building, of course, faces east towards Mecca and has a retractable ceiling to provide ventilation during Friday prayers and daily prayers during Ramadan when the entire mosque and surrounding plaza fill with worshipers for each prayer. The whole building cost over 600 million dollars to build.
While it is not possible to go inside the mosque alone, the grounds are open to anyone. In order to see inside the mosque, one must go on a tour through the nearby museum. They offer tours at 9 am, 10 am, 2 pm, and 3 pm with limited tours on Fridays. The price is 120 durhams for adults and 60 for students. Tours last about 45 minutes.
I wouldn’t say the tour was very informative, but it did offer a nice chance to see inside that I otherwise would not have had. My tour guide made a few jokes and explained a few things, but nothing more than a short three paragraph pamphlet could cover. If you’re already there, you might as well do the tour to see inside, but don’t expect any in-depth explanations about the symbolism of the architecture.
On the tour we were able to see inside the mosque and get a closer look at the front where the Imam leads prayer and gives Friday sermons. We were also able to go into the basement to see where worshipers wash themselves before entering the mosque.
This is probably the only mosque non-Muslims can enter in Morocco because long ago the French banned non-Muslims from entering mosques in Morocco. I’ve been inside of plenty of mosques elsewhere in the Muslim world. Even though the Moroccans kicked the French out, they apparently liked some of their rules so they kept the one on mosques.