The largest mosque outside of Mecca can be found in Casablanca
In many ways impeccably modern, with its traditional decorative detailing, including ceramic mosaic, carved plasterwork and painted wood, the Hassan II mosque is often also heralded as a symbol the renaissance of Moroccan craftskills. Inaugurated in 1993, it is the world’s second biggest mosque and took five years of intensive labour by over 30,000 workers and craftsmen to complete. Works were undertaken by French contractors Bouygues, also responsible for the huge Basilica of Yamasoukrou on the Côte d’Ivoire. The minaret, some 200 m high, was inspired by the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, and is Casablanca’s chief landmark. Sometimes a laser beam, visible over 35 km away, indicating the direction of Mecca, probes the night sky. The mosque is huge: in terms of covered area it is the largest in the world, and has space for 80,000 worshippers. There are upper prayer areas on a mezzanine floor has space for 5000 female worshippers.
The mosque is built on a rocky site, right next to the ocean, the water practically lapping the bay windows of the prayer hall (which has a mobile roof allowing it to be opened to the sky and a partially glass floor so that certain VIP worshippers can kneel over the Atlantic as they pray). Visitors pass through the main prayer hall, the ablutions room (ritual ablutions are compulsory before prayer) and the two public baths, beautifully decorated but still closed. As one approaches the wide esplanade leading to the mosque, the buildings on either side were planned to house a medersa, a library and a museum of Islamic art but the necessary funding has yet to be found. The costly operation was all paid for by public subscription and, unusually for a mosque in the city, it is managed by the Agence urbaine de Casablanca.