Casablanca, June 21, 2013
It’s on the water. It’s the landmark of this town. It’s a cannot-miss-it for anyone coming to Casablanca. Hassan II Mosque, the pride of Casablanca, the pride of Morocco.
100 dirhams to get in and you get a tourguide in your language of choice. My Arabic is zero. My Spanish is yet to be learned in the next lifetime. My French is at street level. English sounds good. Groups and groups of people flock into the mosque, eager to admire the much-talked about legend of this architectural landmark by the Atlantic ocean. No one wants English today, so I get a private tour. Shoes in the plastic bag, I walk in to the late King’s vision for the future that took the contribution of 10,000 artists and craftsmen, and obviously thousands of workers to build.
Grandiose is the word. The whole mosque appears before one’s eyes like a royal castle in any of the 1001-Arabian-nights folk tales. The best of Moroccan decor and art have found their home here in Grande Mosquée Hassan II. What can one say? For a moment there, it’s getting personal. It’s me and the monument. I drop the tourguide and seat myself down at a quiet corner. Space and time is irrelevant. My tiny self is insignificant. I can feel the energy of 25,000 people being here today, all heading East, all in sync in their prayers for a better world. It happens every Ramadan and it’s happening soon this July.
A few pigeons flap past. Grey shadows gently touch the hand-crafted white marble floor. I look up. The sky is blue. Isn’t that mad? You can open up the roof of this massive mosque! Reality suddenly churns in. People are still struggling to makes ends meet out there. Beggars are on the streets. How can one justify the estimated US$800 million spent on such a project? How does one justify the 56 Venecian Chandeliers and a luxurious hammam underneath that’s never been used?
Grandeur will forever be admired. The King will forever be remembered. My heart-felt moment for the people of Morocco will forever stay forgotten.