Cassablanca, Morocco. May 6, 2023
Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco, evokes images of romance, reunions, the hardships of war, and vibrant jazz cafes, The famous Rick’s Café. The timeless movie “Casablanca” has solidified its status as one of the most beloved films of all time. The iconic line, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” has become synonymous with the city, affectionately referred to as “Casa” by the locals. Interestingly, this seemingly unromantic phrase has acquired a romantic aura due to its association with Casablanca. However, it must be said that this industrial city falls far from the realm of romance. It’s more like an armpit, and unfortunately, it holds the disheartening distinction of being ranked the sixth most polluted city among 211 cities worldwide. To put things into perspective, even Los Angeles ranks 87th, and I’m not fond of LA either.
In search of a respite from the city, Gina and I decided to embark on an excursion to Rabat. Serving as Morocco’s capital and the seventh-largest city in the country, Rabat sits gracefully along the banks of the Bouregreg River and the Atlantic Ocean. The city’s rich heritage intertwines Islamic and French-colonial influences, evident in its iconic landmarks such as the Kasbah of the Udayas. This royal fortress, dating back to the Berber era, is surrounded by meticulously designed French gardens and offers breathtaking views of the ocean. Often referred to as the “Washington DC” of Morocco, Rabat houses key governmental institutions and serves as the seat of the Royal Family.
During our tour, we explored the grand palaces and visited the remarkable Hassan Tower. The tower stands as a testament to an unfinished mosque project. Constructed during the reign of Sultan Yacoub El Mansour, a ruler of the Almohad Dynasty, the red stone minaret of the Hassan Tower reaches a height of 140 feet. Construction began in approximately 1195 AD, with the aim of creating the largest mosque in the world. The architectural influences ranged from various Muslim and Moorish styles, incorporating elements from Al-Andalus in Spain, Marrakech, and Alexandria. However, the capital of the Almohad Caliphate remained in Marrakech, and after only four years of construction, the sultan’s death halted the project. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1755 destroyed what remained of the partially built mosque, consisting of 348 columns and the beginning of its walls. In the 20th century, French and Moroccan archaeologists meticulously excavated the site and reconstructed what they could. In the 1960s, the ruins were relocated to make way for the construction of Mohammed V’s mausoleum nearby. Today, several columns encircle the Hassan Tower, offering a glimpse of the intended layout of the mosque. Even the Hassan Tower itself remains incomplete, as it was intended to be twice its current height of 44 meters. Inside the tower, six levels house solitary rooms connected by ramps, designed to enable the muezzin to ride a horse to the top for the call to prayer.