The day started early (about midnight California time) when Kongo and his troop headed out to explore the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. This magnificent edifice is built out over the Atlantic Ocean. As numbers go, it is the second largest mosque in Africa, the 13th largest in the world, and boasts the highest minaret in the world at over 60 stories tall. In the evening a laser strobe light points the way to Mecca. 25,000 worshipers can be accommodated inside the mosque and the wide plaza surrounding the building can hold another 80,000.
Said, our guide, gave us detailed tour of the mosque and the attached museum. The mosque was commissioned by King Hassan II and construction began in 1986. Incredibly, it was completed in only six years and had thousands of artisans working around the clock to complete the project in time for the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in 1993,
The incredible architecture, mosaics, and the sheer size of the structure is awe inspiring.
Kongo particularly liked the photo above which highlights a solitary worshiper looking out to the ocean with the light from one of the mosque’s dozens of doors reflecting light upon a highly polished marble floor.
Said, our tour guide for this North African adventure, filled our group in on the details of the mosque and the rich history of Islamic culture.
The 60-story minaret will quickly give you a sore neck as you lean back to take in the full size of scope of the architectural details. Green, the color of Islam, is woven into the ceiling and and facade of the tower and main sanctuary.
A mashrabiya screen allows female worshipers privacy in the worship experience. Privacy is an important part of the Muslim religion. These screens were also used in harems that were mostly found in the eastern areas of the Islamic world. These beautifully carved wooden screens are considered to be works of art in their own right. Kongo wants one in his tree house.
Below the main floor is an intricate series of washing stations. Praying is one of the five pillars of Islam and the believers prepare for their supplications by conducting a ritual washing that includes the face, arms, hands, and feet — those parts of the body normally exposed to dirt and grime. The ritual washing prepares one for the worship experience by makings oneself clean and pure in the presence of God.
Visitors to a mosque should remove their shoes as an act of respect and to avoid bringing dirt into the holy place. The visitors above are carrying their shoes in green cloth bags provided at the entrance to the mosque.
On our departure from Hassan II Mosque, we started our first Moroccan road trip.
Even in modest homes where washing is still hung on the balconies to dry, satellite dishes spring up everywhere.
Moroccan flags are everywhere in the cities and countryside. The red symbolizes the red dirt of Morocco, the green in the star describes the lush, rural countryside, and the five pointed star represent the five pillars of Islam: Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting, and Haj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.
As we passed a gas station during one of the daily calls for prayer, it was interesting to see all these men lined up outside a small mosque to participate in the worship service.
After about a four hour drive, that included a lunch stop at a marina in the capital city of Rabat, we arrived in the Imperial City of Fez. Fez is one of four imperial cities in Morocco, founded in the 8th century by Muslim families from the East.
Our hotel, the Palais Faraj, overlooked the rooftops of the old medina. And Kongo’s prayers to the Monkey God were answered! There was a bar so cocktails and wine were finally available to refresh this parched monkey palate.
Tomorrow we explore the medina, or old city, of Fes.
Travel safe. Have fun.