May 2009

Part 10: Casablanca

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Casablanca (May 16th-17th, days 19-20)

Around town

On the morning of May 16th we took a train from Marrakesh to Casablanca, which took 3 hours. We'd expected Casablanca to be just as modern and lively as Marrakesh, but it's not; it looks a bit sleazy, like nothing has changed there for 30 years or so.

Except for the Hassan II Mosque, which I'll get to in a minute, Casablanca's only sight is its French-built colonial architecture. We spent the afternoon making a walk around town to check it out. It wasn't very impressive.

The Wilaya is the old police HQ, built in 1930 Some nice building Lotte getting me ice cream

The most remarkable building is the Cathédrale du Sacré Coeur, a church built in 1930 that hasn't served as a church since independence and has just been restaurated. I could climb to its roof which was fun and gave me a good view over town.

Cathédrale du Sacré Coeur Inside the Cathédrale dus Sacré Coeur Inside the Cathédrale dus Sacré Coeur
Climbing up inside the right tower View towards the Atlantic Ocean. On the left is the Hassan II Mosque.

Hassan II Mosque

The previous Moroccan king Hassan II wanted to leave a landmark monument, and Casablanca was fortunate enough to be its location. On a piece of land that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean now stands the Hassan II Mosque, built from 1980 to 1993, large enough to accommodate 25000 worshippers inside and with a minaret that is 210m high. Ironically it was designed by a French architect(Michel Pinseau).

This mosque is one of only two in all of Morocco that non-muslims can visit, but only with an expensive guided group tour - it cost 12 euro I think. Totally worth it though, because this is one fantastic monument, one of the most impressive I've seen. It's got one thing going against it and that is that it's a new building in a classic style, which makes it unauthentic. If you can get over that, you can only marvel at the grandeur and the amount of detail.

I have 24 pictures to show you of this one monument, which tells you something. Let's start with the exterior (though we actually did the tour first).

The Hassan II Mosque, almost surrounded by the ocean The Hassan II Mosque from far away - hard to get it on one picture
Arcades around the base of the tower Standing in the arcades
In front of a gate One of the gates opened for worshippers to enter after our visit

More arcades around the mosque's courtyard The minaret of the Hassan II Mosque through a courtyard arcade The buildings around the mosque's courtyard have a lovely architecture

And now for the interior, which consists of one huge hall with a retractable roof. Looking around here it's easy to believe that over 6000 craftsmen worked to create all the splendour here. There were about 8 groups being guided around in various languages at the same time, so it was busy, but I just hung back and got some great pictures like I had the place to myself. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque
Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque
Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque Hassan II Mosque
Hassan II Mosque - cellar level

Going home (May 18th, day 21)

We spent the last night in the Ibis hotel next to the train station, because we had to wake up at 5am to catch a train to the airport. That all went smoothly and around noon we arrived back in Belgium. Short flights are nice but you don't feel like you've traveled that much without some jet lag :)

My parents driving us home in my own car Our garden on its way to becoming wilderness, in just three weeks. Puk liked it this way.
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Vivien Sat 13 Nov 2010 @ 21:36
Beautiful photos and well narrated travelog. It gave us a good preview of the trip we planned for this April. We are planning a twelve day trip to Morocco following a similar itinerary. Thank you for sharing.

Curtis Reynolds Wed 28 Jul 2010 @ 04:20
Great photos... However I lived in Morocco in 1973 and my photos are also impressive. Give me a little fed back.


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