I actually did not have any idea that Morocco would have one of the largest mosques in the world, but the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the third largest in the world, right after the huge ones in Mecca and Medina.
On our last day in Morocco, we went to visit the mosque. They offer guided tours, which is the only way non Muslims can see the building. We got there right at 11 am and after buying the tickets we did a strategic move and decided to take the tour in Italian. This turned out to be a really good idea as the Italian group only had one other couple and us three so we basically got a private tour.
Our guide, Mohammed, was so nice - he talked with a twinkle in his eyes and took a quick liking to Lili. She got to go through into the roped off areas with him 'because she is an angel'.
The building is extremely impressive. The construction took over six years, and gave employment to hundreds of local builders and artisans. The mosque opened in 1993, and over 12 million individual Moroccans contributed to its enormous construction costs (close to USD 800M).
During Ramadan, over 100,000 people can pray here at a time. It is mind boggling but it also helps to know that Casablanca is Moroccos's largest city - it has over 5 million people. (That is like having the entire population of Finland in one city.) The official capacity of the mosque is 105,000 at a time, of which 25,000 can be accommodated indoors. The rest pray on the enormous plazas surrounding the mosque.
The fiv pillars of faith for a muslim are
- commitment to monotheism: ther is no other god than Allah (confession of faith, sharada)
- commitment to praying five times a day (salat)
- commitment to fasting, especially during Ramadan (sawm)
- commitment to making a trip to Mecca once in a lifetime, if possible (hajj)
- commitment to almsgiving: donating 2,5% of one's income to the poor (zakat)
Wudu involves washing the hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head, and feet with water, and is an important part of ritual purity in Islam. One of the guides showed how he washes his ears as well. It made a nice symbol - you can hear God's words better with clean ears.
There is also a hammam in the basement. Each bay is heated to a different temperature.
Hassan II was the father of the current king of Morocco, Mohamed the VI. He passed away in 1999. While this mosque is named after Hassan II, he had envisioned it as a monument to his own father, the previous king.