Saturday, October 22, 2011

DAY 2; MOROCCO TRIP WITH PRINCESS DR BECKY LEOGARDO AND MICHAEL MANTZ

KEE@FSWMAG.COM

DAY 2; MOROCCO WITH PRINCESS BECKY AND MICHAEL MANTZ

16 OCTOBER; HASSAN II MOSQUE

L1020150.JPG

Princess Dr Becky Leogardo and Michael Mantz at the entrance of Hassan II Mosque.

L1020099_edited.JPG

The couple in front of the magnificent Hassan II Mosque which took their breath away

L1020150.JPG

Kee Hua Chee is still recovering from the magnificent Hassan II Mosque

L1020099_edited.JPG

The minaret soars 210 metres, making it the tallest religious structure of any faith on earth

L1020150.JPG

The most beautiful and awe-inspiring new mosque!

L1020150.JPG

Princess Dr Becky Leogardo admiring one of the new wonders of the world

L1020150.JPG

Hassan II Mosque in Casa Blanca is one of the new wonders of the world!


THE HIGHLIGHT OF 16 OCTOBER 2011 WAS THE VISIT TO SULTAN HASSAN II MOSQUE, THE GRANDEST AND MOST MAGNIFICENT MODERN MOSQUE ON EARTH. THOUGH CREATED BY THE LATE SULTAN HASSAN II, HE WAS MODEST AND REQUESTED HIS TITLE NOT TO BE INCLUDED IN A HOUSE OF GOD SO THE OFFICIAL NAME IS HASSAN II MOSQUE. THE PRESENT RULER IS KING MOHAMMAD VI AND THE NEXT WILL BE KING HASSAN III AS THE NAMES HASSAN AND MOHAMMAD ARE USED ALTERNATELY. MOROCCO’S ROYAL FAMILY IS DESCENDED DIRECTLY FROM PROPHET MOHAMMAD.

L1020150.JPG

The splendid Hassan II Mosque is Casa Blanca's new symbol

L1020150.JPG

Michael Mantz admiring the star-shaped fountain

COMPLETED LAST CENTURY IN 1993 AFTER 6 YEARS, HASSAN II MOSQUE, IS CONSIDERED PRACTICALLY BRAND NEW SINCE MANY OTHER GREAT MOSQUES ARE CENTURIES OLD. IT IS CONSIDERED THE THIRD MOST IMPORTANT MOSQUE IN THE WORLD AFTER THE GRAND MOSQUE IN MECCA AND THE MEDINAH MOSQUE. MANY MUSLIMS HOWEVER CONSIDER THE HOME OF PROPHET MOHAMMAD WHERE HE GAVE HIS FIRST SERMON TO HIS FAMILY, TO BE THE FIRST MOSQUE.

L1020150.JPG

Michael Mantz in front of Hassan II Mosque in Casa Blanca

L1020150.JPG

Kee Hua Chee doing his thing at the entrance of Hassan II Mosque which is the greatest architectural feat of the last century

L1020150.JPG

Both were very impressed

L1020099_edited.JPG

Such grandeur proves man's commitment to God

L1020099_edited.JPG

Princess Becky's red hat adds a touch of vibrant colour

L1020150.JPG

An elegant passage leads to the main prayer hall

L1020150.JPG

Such beautiful proportions

L1020150.JPG

Beauty, elegance and proportion in harmony

L1020150.JPG

The incredible Hassan Ii Mosque

L1020150.JPG

Taken from another angle

L1020150.JPG

10,000 craftsmen created this House of God

L1020150.JPG

An elaborate fountain

L1020150.JPG

The world's tallest minaret and religious structure at 210 metres

L1020150.JPG

Part of the mosque overlooks the sea

L1020150.JPG

The inevitable peace sign is now appropriate

L1020150.JPG

The main entrance

L1020150.JPG

The polished marble floor reflects the lights, giving them a watery quality

L1020150.JPG

The main Prayer Hall can accommodate 10,000 men and 5,000 women

L1020150.JPG

This lavishly embellished ceiling can open or close in 3 minutes using advanced technology

L1020150.JPG

One third of the mosque rests above water, inspired by the Koranic phrase 'the throne of God sits over water'

L1020150.JPG

Sublime beauty

L1020150.JPG

Incomparable beauty

L1020150.JPG

The chandeliers are from Murano, Italy but everything else was made using Moroccan materials

L1020150.JPG

Everyone is bowled over by such magnificence

L1020150.JPG

View from the opposite end of the Prayer Hall

L1020150.JPG

Elegance in perfect proportion

L1020150.JPG

A little rest

L1020150.JPG

Despite its weight, the ceiling opens and closes in 3 minutes!

L1020150.JPG

Peace and beauty

L1020150.JPG

Pool of water in the centre of the hall

L1020150.JPG

The suspended mezzanine holds 5,000 women worshipers from both sides

L1020150.JPG

The elevated floor is for women

L1020150.JPG

Kee Hua Chee is impressed into silence

L1020150.JPG

The underside is heavily carved

L1020150.JPG

Note the details

L1020150.JPG

Michael Mantz appreciating the details

L1020099_edited.JPG

Michael Mantz surrounded by timeless grace of God

L1020099_edited.JPG

Kee Hua Chee loves this mosque

L1020099_edited.JPG

Kee Hua Chee in the world's greatest mosque after the Mecca and Medinah Mosques

HASSAN II MOSQUE IS THE PRIDE AND JOY OF CASA BLANCA, THE COMMERCIAL CAPITAL OF MOROCCO. THOUGH THE CITY OF 4.5 MILLION CAN BE RATHER UNPREPOSSESSING SINCE MANY BUILDINGS SEEM RUNDOWN AND UNINTERESTING, HASSAN II MOSQUE HAS ELEVATED CASA BLANCA INTO A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN.

IT IS SO TALL AT 210 METRES IT ACTS LIKE A LIGHTHOUSE OF HOPE, FAITH AND PRAYER AND CAN BE SEEN FROM MILES. IT IS CASA BLANCA’S MOST IMPORTANT LANDMARK AND THE SYMBOL OF THE CITY.

FROM THE WINDOW OF ROYAL MANSOUR LE MERIDIEN HOTEL I COULD SEE THE ENTIRE MOSQUE WITH ITS 210 METRE HIGH MINARET GLOWING IN THE MORNING SUN, GLITTERING AT NOON AND GLISTENING IN THE EVENING AS THE SUN SETS!

EVEN MORE AMAZING AND PROOF THAT ISLAM IS NOT INSULAR OR NARROW MINDED, SULTAN HASSAN II MOSQUE WAS BUILT BY A NON-MUSLIM! A FRENCH ARCHITECT DESIGNED THIS SPECTACULAR MOSQUE OF COURSE WITH INPUT FROM HIS MAJESTY AND THE CLERGY.

The construction started in 1987 under the late King Hassan II and was completed in 1993 after what is considered a short time of just 6 years. Then again, a massive workforce of 2,500 labourers and 10,000 craftsmen working 24/7 in shifts helped ensured a speedy construction.

A major engineering feat was required as one-third of the mosque was built over water, perched over the Atlantic ocean. It would have been easier to build it totally on land since there was plenty of space but this edifice was a vision of King Hassan II inspired by the Koranic verse “The Throne of God was on water”.

The Hassan II Mosque is universally acclaimed as the magnum opus of Arabic-Moroccan Islamic architecture at its most sublime. It was the last great mosque built in the 20th century and unique in the world.

It looks traditional at first glance but has a resolutely modern air. It looks ornate and impressively overwhelming but the lines are remarkably clean ad simple, a case of white-on-white so while the details are there, there are no vivid, contrasting colours and they do not scream out loud but remain calm, soothing and harmonious.

At 210 metres, the minaret is the tallest in the world. Not only is the Hassan II minaret the highest in the Islamic world, it is also the tallest religious building of any denomination on this planet. From the top of this minaret, a laser beam directed towards the Holy City of Mecca shines up to 30 km. The complex is 200 metres long and 100 metres wide.

I thought entry is free like some mosques and happily trotted down the nearest flight of marble steps only to be told I had to pay 120 MAD which does not refer to madness but Moroccan Dirham. Of course it should be MOD but I was reminded Morocco used to be under France and in French this country is called Maroc so it is MAD. In our currency it is RM 60 which is very pricey but since we do not visit Morocco every month, Michael Mantz duly paid for us. I was also consoled even Moroccans had to pay but only 60 MAD while Moroccan students pay only 30 MAD.

There are free tour guides speaking French, English, Italian and Spanish every hour from 9am till 2pm though you do not really need to join a guided tour but since it is part of your ticket fee you should join a group tour as the guide can feed you with all sorts of interesting snippets of information.

The guards are quite fanatical to make sure you have paid. First I was given a sticker to stick onto my shirt. But this is not enough as my friend could have entered earlier and pass me his sticker to be reused! So I have to show the receipt to prove my ticket was duly paid. This of course was even more ridiculous as my friend, after entering the mosque, could simply pass me his sticker AND receipt!

Still, this House of God is so awesomely beautiful it is worth every sen. Also it cost Morocco some RM 2.4 billion to build so the least we can do is contribute a bit to the construction costs!

The most incredible is the Prayer Hall, touted as the masterpiece of Hassan II Mosque. It covers 20,000 sq metres and accommodates 25,000 worshippers, 20,000 men on the main ground floor and 5,000 women on the mezzanine. The underside of the mezzanines are finely worked in arabesques designs that repeat endlessly.

On the ceiling is a massive wooden, heavily carved and embellished ceiling. All very nice and impressive. Said my guide Ayesha, “In summer or when it is full, the humidity from 25,000 people and heat is oppressive so the roof can be opened! It takes less than 3 minutes to open and the same time to close. This is also a major engineering feat.

“Everything you see here are made from Moroccan materials with the exception of the chandeliers which are handmade and customised for thus mosque. I think you can guess who is the manufacturer?”

I chirruped, “Murano from Italy?”

“Precisement! Yes, from Venice, you are correct. The Murano factory make the best crystal chandeliers. They are so big and heavy and high up no ladder can reach so they are lowered electronically when it is time to clean and wash the crystals.”

To the left are doors opening out onto the Atlantic and a vast corridor for visitors to stroll. We were taken down to the basement to the Ablution Hall, an architectural jewel containing 41 fountains shaped like lotus buds from which water spouts and flows down for worshippers to clean and wash their hands and feet.

Two hammans, one each for men and women, concluded the tour. Said my tour guide sarcastically, “It looks very nice but both are not ready for use. Every year they say it will be ready next year!”

Sounds familiar?

THE END