A Tale of Two Mosques

He was the third sultan of the Almohad Berber Caliphate that swept from the Maghreb beyond the northern shores of Africa across the narrow sea to Iberia. His name – Abū Yūsuf Ya‘qūb al-Manṣūr.

Advocate of trade, architecture, philosophy, and the sciences, and a victorious soldier the Sultan had a yearning desire. To build the world’s largest mosque graced by the world’s tallest minaret.

The year was 1195 and the work began. Walls of red sandstone went up and the ambitious eighty metre tower began its ascendance over the town that would one day become Rabat.

The stonemasons built and artists carved. Two hundred columns were erected to hold up the great roof of cedar that would cover the mosques faithful.

Stairs were built within the great tower for the muezzin to ride his horse up to the top for his daily call.

But then six years later the sultan, Abū Yūsuf Ya‘qūb al-Manṣūr died. And along with him, his dream for the great minaret. Only halfway to its ambition, all work came to a halt. Forever.

The Tower of Hassan stands as a sentinel, unfinished yet proud. A centrepiece of the city, a reminder of a dream unrealised.

But the dream found a new dreamer. 785 years later. 

Grieving for the loss of his father a king of a different dynasty on those same north African shores embarked on the building of a mosque that would house the world’s tallest minaret. It would forever immortalize his fathers' legacy.

Again – the work began. The workmen came, the stonemasons, architects, engineers and designers. In their thousands they came to build and adorn the mosque that would hold tens of thousands. A symbol of a departed king, but a testament to Allah’s continued favour over his people.

Seven years later in 1993, the minaret of the mosque of Hassan II stood – 210 metres high. The highest religious structure in the world.

It dwarfs everything around it. Awe inspiring it stands proudly as a sentry of both land and sea on the shore of Casablanca.

The detailed zellji mosaic based on historical patterns from Marrakech, and Fez, ancient cities, extending their past into the present.

Bright colours and detailed patterns over and over. Even the functional becomes art in these hallowed halls.

The cavernous interior a testament to beauty wrought from imagination, dedication and the unrelenting drive of 6000 master artisans changing the cedar wood from the Atlas mountains into intricate mouldings of beauty for all to behold.

Each piece in harmony with the next, pleasing to the eye as it is to the soul.

The story of the mosque ended differently this time. The tale of ambition now complete.

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