Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Casablanca, Morocco

While the classic movie is known to most all around the world, Casablanca, Morocco is a hidden gem that not many have discovered. Named after the Spanish words meaning “White House,” the city is now nicknamed “Casa” by most locals. Casa was formerly known as Anfa, where a Muslim kingdom settled in the 7th century. The city was fought over by many large European nations for its trading port. The Grand Casablanca has a population of 3.6 million people and is the largest city in Morocco.

Casablanca has become the economic and business capital of the country although Rabat is Morocco’s political capital city. Since its independence from France in 1956, the city has been developing its tourism industry.

Perhaps the most interesting place in Casablanca is the Hassan II Mosque. This is the largest mosque in Morocco and the fifth largest in the world. It was designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau requested by King Hassan II in 1989 and was finished in 1993. The mosque was built on reclaimed land and almost half of it lies on the Atlantic Ocean. The building itself can hold 25,000 worshippers and the outdoor grounds of the mosque can hold 80,000 more, capable of holding 105,000 worshippers in all.

The Hassan II Mosque, inside and out, captivates many visitors with its Moorish influence and lavish artwork. The building has extremely tall columns and arches that welcome the worshippers and visitors. All raw materials for the building was taken from around Morocco and 6,000 Moroccan artisans worked for five years to finish the mosque for King Hassan II’s 60th birthday. Inside the mosque, you’ll be surrounded by carved and painted wooden ceilings, sculpted plaster moldings and incredible mosaic walls and floors.

Casablanca has been one of the most interesting places to visit thanks to the publicity it gained from the 1942 movie “Casablanca.” The city is beautiful in that it embraces multiple influences from both Europe and the Middle East. This unique place is most definitely worth visiting and I can’t wait to go someday!

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