The Hassan II Masjid is the largest masjid in Morocco and Africa and the 3rd largest in the world. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 metres (689 ft). Completed in 1993, it was designed by Michel Pinseau and built by Bouygues. The minaret is 60 stories high topped by a laser, the light from which is directed towards Mecca. The masjid stands on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic Ocean, the sea bed being visible through the glass floor of the building’s hall. The walls are of hand-crafted marble and the roof is retractable. A maximum of 105,000 worshippers can gather together for prayer: 25,000 inside the masjid hall and another 80,000 on the masjid’s outside grounds.
The building was commissioned by King Hassan II to be the most ambitious structure ever built in Morocco. Work commenced on July 12, 1986 and was conducted over a seven-year period. Construction was scheduled to be completed in 1989 ready for Hassan II’s 60th birthday. During the most intense period of construction, 1400 men worked during the day and another 1100 during the night. 10,000 artists and craftsmen participated in building and beautifying the masjid. However, the building was not completed on schedule which delayed inauguration. The formal inauguration was subsequently chosen to be the 11th Rabi’ al-awal of the year 1414 of the Hegira, corresponding to 30 August 1993, which also marked the eve of the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s birth. It was dedicated to the Sovereign of Morocco.
The prayer hall is on the ground floor. The central hall is centrally heated, and provides spectacular underwater views of the Atlantic Ocean. The decorations in the hall are elaborate and exquisite made possible by involving 6000 master artisans of Morocco working on it. The prayer hall is built to a rectangular plan of 200 metres (660 ft) length and 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) width with three naves, which are perpendicular to the qibla wall. The central nave of the hall is 40 metres (130 ft) and larger than the side naves which are 27 metres (89 ft) high. On either side of the hall, there are mezzanine floors with carved dark wood furnishings, which are reserved for women.
2,500 pillars bear the weight of a 64 meter electric ceiling that can be opened for worshippers to see the sky above, illuminating the hall with daytime sunlight and allowing worshippers to pray under the stars on clear nights. It weights 1100 tons and can be opened in five minutes; it measures 60 metres (200 ft) high, with an area of 3,400 square metres (37,000 sq ft). The roof is covered with cast-aluminium tiles, stronger and more reliable than traditional ceramic tiles, and about 35 percent lighter. The prayer hall is also illuminated by light from the glass gates on the northern wall.
At 210 metres (690 ft) in height the minaret is the tallest religious structure in the world. It has a laser beam fitted at the top, which is electronically operated in the evening. It is oriented towards Mecca, across the sea and has a range of 30 kilometres (19 mi).
A huge team of master craftsmen was assembled to work on the masjid, delicately carving intricate patterns and designs in cedar from the Middle Atlas, marble from Agadir and granite from Tafraoute. Over 6000 traditional Moroccan artisans worked on the building over the course of its construction. The project cost more than half a billion dollars and was paid for largely by public subscription. The floor is a vast mosaic and the ceilings are carved with cedar. The doors were forged in gold and decorated with turquoise, red and cobalt paint.
The Hassan II Masjid is one of the very few Islamic religious buildings open to non-Muslims. To see the interior you must take guided tour. Visitors must be ‘decently and respectfully dressed’ and once inside, you will be asked to remove your shoes. The hour-long tours are conducted in French, English, German and Spanish, and take in the prayer hall, ablution rooms and hammam. The latter is supposed to open for use by the public (including non-Muslims) although no date has been set.