Though our calm haven in the Marrakech Palmeraie is the only place we would chose to live in Morocco, weekend escapades are always a breath of fresh air. The last couple times we ventured to Casablanca, we visited its most famous monument: the Hassan II Mosque. Built in celebration of the former king's 60th birthday and opened in 1993, it rises high above the Atlantic coast, embodying the Koranic verse stating that God's throne was built upon the water. It can hold up to 25,000 worshippers inside and has space for 80,000 more in its courtyards and squares. Designed by French architect Michel Pinseau, its minaret is 210m-tall. Though the monument’s design stays true to Islamic tradition, a laser beam shines from the top towards Mecca at night, exemplifying Morocco’s move towards modernity. I took great pleasure in photographing the traditional woodcarving, zellij (tile work) and stucco moulding. A team of over 6000 master craftsmen worked on the mosque, intricately carving patterns and designs using cedar from the Middle Atlas, granite from Tafraoute, and marble from Agadir. It cost more than half a billion dollars and was paid for largely by public subscription. A gorgeous manifestation of traditional Moroccan craftsmanship, the Hassan II Mosque is not to be missed.
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