Many people associate Casablanca, Morocco with the 1942 Academy Award winning romantic drama movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In the film, the city is the World War II meeting place for spies and traitors where one must choose between love and patriotism. But, in this day and age, Casablanca is quite different. It is Morocco’s largest city and has a long and varied history with various conquests and occupying powers through the generations. One of the tourist attractions we went to explore was the Hassan II Mosque, the largest in Morocco and third largest in the world.
Location and History
This breathtaking UNESCO architectural creation faces the Atlantic Ocean on Boulevard Mohamed Abdallah and covers over 22 acres between the harbor and the lighthouse. It is one of only two mosques in the country open to non-Muslims for sightseeing. The mosque was commissioned in 1980 to commemorate King Mohammed V who passed away in 1961. Completed by 1993, the Mosque had a formal inauguration at the cost of over €550 million.
Constructed out of granite, plaster, marble and wood it has beautiful mosaics as well as painted ceilings with a strong Moorish influence. The mosque blends the modern with the vintage and displays ancient art techniques as well as newer, contemporary touches. The prayer hall on the ground floor has incredible underwater views of the ocean with ornate decorations and woodcarvings. It features a succession of domes with glass chandeliers from Murano, Italy as well as polychromatic Zellige mosaic tilework in the plaster. The roof is retractable which allows worshipers to pray under the stars on a clear night and special occasions when it is opened.
The mosque’s minaret is the highest in the world with a beacon on top pointing to Mecca. The façade is carved in different materials and gives the building a subdued yet classic elegance.
The only way for non-Muslim visitors to access the mosque is via a tour. Travelers should research when they want to visit, as the mosque is not open during religious holidays. Tours run from September to June from Saturday to Thursday.
The tours of the mosque are given in English, Spanish, French, and Arabic. Most English speakers will be better off with an English-speaking guide who can explain the stories and details about the mosque. The tours last about 30 minutes, and guests can buy their tickets on the spot.
How to Get There
The mosque is a roughly thirty-minute walk from the Casa Port train station. Travelers can also take a taxi to the mosque. The nearest airport is the Anfa Airport, which is a half hour drive through several roundabouts.
The mosque is a must-see for anyone visiting Casablanca and is an excellent place to educate children of all religions on other beliefs and faiths. Very few mosques are open to those who are not Muslim, so the Hassan II mosque is a unique and fantastic opportunity for any traveling family to both teach and learn respect for others.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Staff will give your family a plastic bag to put your shoes in, so make sure you wear socks since the floor is cold and you will have to remove your shoes in some locations. You should also, before visiting, explain to your children that it is customary to take off one’s shoes here.
- Parents should know that to visit the mosque guests need to make reservations ahead of time.
- To enter the mosque, everyone must be dressed appropriately. Men and boys need to wear full-length pants and shirts. Women and girls also need to wear full-length clothes and cover their heads.
- Guests are allowed to take pictures as they traverse the mosque.
- The walkway along the shoreline is unpaved, so it can get slippery or have little rocks that may bother children with special needs.
- The inside of the mosque is surprisingly cool, perfect for the hot summer months of Casablanca.
- The toilets are not free. Guests need to carry small change in order to use the bathroom.
- No accessibility for wheelchairs is provided.
- The tour is about half an hour in length, and there is no real place to sit and rest.
- One of the most important things that you need to explain to your children is that this is a place of worship. Inform them that they need to be quiet and respectful when walking around the premises.
- Explain the five daily calls to prayer to your child before visiting. Loudspeakers are used for the calls, and it can take five to ten minutes for the prayers to finish. These sounds can be overwhelming if your child is unprepared. If necessary, take along noise-cancelling headphones to block out the sound.
- End the day in Casablanca with a visit to the Ancienne (old) or Nouvelle (new) Medinas to shop for handmade carvings and souvenirs created by local artisans.