Raised on a rocky platform reclaimed from the ocean, the Hassan II Mosque was inaugurated on August 30, 1993. Designed by French architect Michel Pinseau, it is open to non-Muslims on accompanied one-hour visits that also visit the mosque’s huge and elaborate basement hammam.
From the city centre, the mosque’s huge size tricks you into thinking it’s nearer than it is. The minaret is 200m high, making it by far the tallest structure in the country, and the tallest minaret in the world. A laser on its summit projects a beam towards Mecca. It has space for 25,000 worshippers within, and 80,000 more in the courtyard. From the street, the mosque seems to float on the ocean below, a reminder of the Koran’s statement (11:7), reiterated by Hassan II, that God’s throne is upon the water. In order that the faithful can “contemplate God’s sky”, the enormous roof of the mosque rolls open on occasions. The mosque is second only to Mecca’s in size, and St Peter’s Basilica in Rome could fit comfortably inside it.
The facts of the mosque’s construction are almost as startling as its size. During the early 1990s, when it was being readied for opening, 1400 men worked by day and a further 1100 by night. Most were master-craftsmen, working marble from Agadir, cedar from the Middle Atlas, granite from Tafraoute, and (the only import) glass from Murano in Venice. Its cost is reckoned to have exceeded £500m/US$750m, raised by not entirely voluntary public subscription.