Saturday, January 2, 2016

Cassablanca - Day 1

Sitting in the queue on the runway in Spain...waiting. The captain has just received the go and the ponderous plane begins rapidly accelerating. Suddenly the brakes are applied, the plane fishtails, the passengers perk up, look around, sniff the air...wondering what in the world is going on! An announcement...a door was not properly closed/locked and the alarm light had come on. Heart rates returned to normal as we circled back to the terminal, the door sealed correctly and finally taking off.

So much for our fist day of touring Casablanca. To top it off, our 2:00 pm flight was cancelled and we were bumped to 7:50...and all that much later with the double take-off.  Ali, our driver, was waiting patiently for us and welcomed us to Morocco. Little did we know at the time that this was a really long wait for him…his wife of 20 days was at home in Marrakech, and he was going to be gone for a week before we arrived in his fair city!

The small green section moves
Casablanca is the home of the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. This, we believe is another of member of the adjective / other qualifiers dependent largeness club. This one does have the world’s largest/tallest minaret, as measured from its deep underground base.

That said, however, it is absolutely stunning. It is perched on a promontory, looking out towards the Atlantic Ocean. I'd love to have gotten a view from a boat! The vast majority of the materials for construction came from Morocco, importing only those things not available in the country. They have stunning chandeliers for light made with Venetian glass. The capitals mounted on the marble columns are all hand carved wooden structures - primarily out of sandalwood. The women's area is in a raised sandalwood structure with ornate carvings all around -much more ornate than we have seen in other places.
View of the movable section from inside

There's one feature that was totally new for us. They have a section of the roof that they can open up to allow sunlight flowing in. It's a huge portion of the roof that is pulled back, allowing the center waterway to be bathed in the light. (If you look at the picture, the smaller green roof behind the minaret is the section that opens) Water is an important part of purification rituals and it runs through channels down the center of the mosque. It must be stunning when the water is flowing, the roof is open and the sun is shining through.
Special rooms are set under the mosque for the ritual cleaning required before prayer time. The room is huge, to accommodate the thousands of people who come for prayer – it’s particularly busy on numerous holy days, particularly during Ramadan. The room has many small floral pedaled water fountains that can be used by a number of people at once. They’ve gone one step further with this mosque. They’ve added a non-traditional feature, the hammam, to the underground area of the mosque. A hammam is a traditional bath that is publicly used by people all the time, but this particular one was built to show's never been used!

The colors are quite vibrant here, both inside and out, with many repeated green medallions mixed its other Arabic patterns of various shades of blues and greens. Vibrant in some areas, with subtle shading in others, offset with the woods (sandalwood frequently) and marble - very effective.  Our mosques in Doha tend to be sand colored externally, with decorative details inside, apparently because the sand grinds on everything and washes out other colors.

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