My last trip to Morocco was the first time I stayed in Casablanca. It was a short, but memorable stay. My husband’s aunt has a beautiful home in Casa, and we were fortunate enough to sleep there. Just beside us in the city was a small, neighborhood masjid (mosque), and we woke to the beautiful sound of the adhan (call for prayer played over the loud speaker of the mosque’s minaret).
This is a special post
For this installment in the “Visit Morocco” series, I’m doing something special. Nearly all imagery in this post will come from my favorite social media page… @inmorocco on Instagram. The creators have curated an incredible display of Morocco’s breathtaking culture on their page from some amazing photographers and videographers, and this post will testify to that. Enjoy…
Masjid hassan II
I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life on a perfect autumn night in Casablanca. I prayed inside the incredible Masjid Hassan II, the seventh largest mosque in the world. Words cannot do it justice; photos cannot mimic the experience, but I’ll do my best to describe it to you.
Hassan II Mosque was built as tribute to the former King of Morocco. It isn’t the largest mosque in the world, but it does have the tallest minaret. At a 700 feet, it towers over everything in the rest of the city and is equipped with a light that shines toward Mecca.
In person, it’s breathtaking. It’s so tall and so big that it almost doesn’t appear to be real. The stillness makes it look almost like a painting or a picture.
Another special and meaningful feature of this mosque is its foundation. Masjid Hassan II was built directly on the Atlantic Ocean with intention. The architect referenced a verse in the Quran:
“And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days and His Throne had been upon water.”Sura Hud, Verse 7
The sound of the waves from the courtyard just adds awe to the experience. It’s so impressive to see in person, and the doors are open for all. You do not have to be a muslim to step inside and take photos. Tours are even given in multiple languages. Everyone is asked to cover their knees and elbows, but non-muslim women do not have to cover their hair.
stunning detail inside and outside
Over the course of seven years, 10,000 craftsman built this structure from the ground up. From the arches of the courtyard surrounding the mosque to the intricate details of the ceilings inside, every column, every wall, every arch is so detailed that your eye hardly knows where to focus.
The red walls you see here provide privacy for the women as they pray. When there, you’ll notice that the men and women pray in separate parts of the mosque. This is a strategy to keep minds and hearts pure as they pray. You may also notice that the women’s area is smaller. This is simply because women are not required to pray in the mosque. They are just as welcome to pray there, but it is not required of them like it is of the men.
Ornately designed fountains are placed along the walls of the exterior. These are there to give people the opportunity to wash their face, hands, and feet before entering the building. It’s customary to clean before entering a holy structure like this in Islam.
Visiting this mosque is an unforgettable experience for anyone, not just muslims. Its a place of peace and stillness in a city full of energy. I dedicated so much of this post to it simply because it’s a must-see for anyone planning a trip to Morocco.
The streets of the white city
Just as Marrakech is called the Red City and Chefchaouen is called the Blue City, Casablanca has a color as well. The White City is named for its white buildings, quite obviously. It’s a wealthy city, full of life and the perfect mixture of modern and timeless.
To a tourist like me, Casa felt like a melting pot of different places. In some areas, it felt very much like Morocco, with small shops on crowded streets, full of movement and energy. Some neighborhoods reminded me of my time in Lisbon, with the modern trains and railways juxtaposed against a backdrop of old buildings of European influence, remnants of Morocco’s colonial past.
Something you see everywhere in Morocco, including cities, is palm trees. Casa is full of beautiful neighborhoods with streets lined with the markings of a beachfront city.
You might be surprised to know that Moroccans do not romanticize Casablanca in the way that foreigners do. My brother-in-law is from Casa; my husband has several family members that live there currently, and when asked what they think of Casa, the typical response is… “crowded.”
It’s certainly true. Casa is a city of movement, much like NYC. It’s a business center full of opportunity. For me, that’s part of what made it so exciting.
Stop and smell the tea (with a view)
Lastly, we cannot talk about any city in Morocco without talking about the food, atay (tea), and the abundance of stunning views. There are several beautiful hotels along the coast, and the grand presence of the mosque is positioned perfectly to provide stunning views. It truly is the Eiffel Tower of Morocco.
In all, Casablanca is a place for sensory excitement. It has all the sounds a bustling city with the food and architectural of a modern Moroccan metropolis. You can indulge in sweets and mint tea before heading to a traditional souk (marketplace) for unique items and souvenirs, or you can have lunch in an upscale bistro before hitting the mall for some luxury shopping.
There truly is something for everyone in Morocco.
Join me for part 5: essaouira…
Join me in the next installment of “Visit Morocco.” This time I’m going to show you the beautiful port city of Essaouira and all its colorful, artistic sights…