February 10, 2013

Casablanca's Mosque and Rick's Cafe

The U.S. Embassy organized a community outing to Casablanca on Saturday, Feb 9.  It was a one-hour drive from Rabat, and we traveled by van.  The day consisted of a guided tour of the King Hassan II Mosque, which our guide proudly noted is the third largest in the world.  It is the length of more than two football fields, with lots of granite, marble and a hand-carved cedar wood ceiling.  With the notable exception of the chandeliers (made in Murano/Venice, Italy), the materials are largely from Morocco.  It took six years to build and opened in 1994.  Very few mosques are open to non-believers; this one is an exception. Including overflow, upwards of 100,000 persons have attended services there.

 Main Hall of King Hassan II Mosque
Below ground, the mosque has an ablution area, where Muslims perform purification by washing their hands, feet, eyes, nose, and ears.  The fountain is in the shape of a lotus.

Our team and Embassy staff by the lotus flower fountain
In adjoining rooms there was a large pool and also separate Roman- and Turkish-style hot rooms.

 Me standing by underground pool, King Hassan II Mosque

Outside we took some team photos.

 OIG Team and Karen Davison (next to Pam Slutz)

Just above us was the minaret, which is the tallest in the world at approx 200 meters.

 Minaret of King Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

After touring the mosque, we visited Rick's Cafe, which takes its theme from the famous cafe in the movie Casablanca.  Upon retiring, an enterprising Foreign Commercial Officer opened the restaurant in 2004.  The real Rick's Cafe, however, was in a studio in Hollywood, and none of the scenes in the movie actually were filmed in Casablanca.  Perceptions and myths, of course, have their own powerful dynamics, and many of us kept asking for Sam, who was absent from the piano.  

Play it again, Sam
The plaque outside Rick's - no longer a place of gambling
After returning from Casablanca, I and a colleague walked around the souk in the old medina (historic city center).  There I purchased an all-wool hooded robe, which many men wear in the evenings to stay warm.  Mine is all black, and makes the wearer look a bit like a capuchin monk from the Middle Ages. I also picked up a few red fez caps.  If I put it on the hotel, however, I will probably be mistaken for an employee, as the doormen wear them.

If this cape were white, it would be politically incorrect.

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