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Vacations in Morocco

The Towering Minaret of the Hassan in Rabat -By Seif Kamel

The Towering Minaret of Hassan and the remains of the Mansur mosque in Rabat is one of the most important Islamic monuments in Morocco.  This ancient site, dating back to the 12th century AD, is considered to be one of the few remaining constructions of Almohad dynasty in Morocco that is visited by a large number of tourists as part of their travel packages in Morocco.

The towering minaret of Hassan stands proudly with a height of 40 meters and it was supposed to be even 80 meters according to the dream of Yaqub Al Mansur, the third Almohad King who ruled over Morocco during the 12th century. 

In the arena where the minaret is located, 200 columns were planned to be constructed to be the base for the largest mosque to be ever built in history.
In this exact location of the towering minaret of Hassan today, a mosque was designed to be erected to be the best evidence of the greatness of Almohad dynasty.  This kingdom that ruled over a wide area of lands that stretched from Tunisia till Spain in Western Europe.  The constructions of Almohad dynasty still stand in Spain and they are also included in many Morocco tours.

The mosque of Hassan is considered to be one of the most important historical Islamic structures in Rabat, the Moroccan capital that has become a major destination for travelers coming to spend their vacation in Morocco

This ambitious plan of the mosque was founded by Yaqub Al Mansur, the Almohad King, but unfortunately the construction work of the mosque stopped when the king died in 1199. This is besides the earthquake that hit Morocco in 1755 and destroyed many of the sections of the mosque.

Guest from all over the world come, as part of their holidays in Morocco,  to view the remains of the mosque as we still view until today as a witness of the huge and great structure of the original mosque that was 180 meters long and 140 meters wide.

This towering minaret of the Hassan is square shaped with a height that is around 44 meters. The minaret has a curved inner passageway leading to the top of the minaret passing by six rooms in six different floors.

The four sides of the square shaped towering minaret of the Hassan were richly decorated with ornaments and inscriptions that were carved in the Moroccan Andalusian style of architecture that was famous during the 12th century.

The Towering minaret is one of the most famous attractions in Rabat and many visitors come to view it as part of their Morocco tours.

The mosque was constructed with rugged stones that were put together carefully.  Most of the stones that were used in the construction of the minaret were most probably quarried from the city of Rabat.

The location of the minaret was chosen after many studies to elect the strongest spot in the site. This was why the minaret was the only item that was able to stand after all the other sections were destroyed in the earthquake of 1755.

The minaret of the mosque was erected parallel to the Mihrab of the mosque, in contradiction with many other mosques that were erected in Morocco.

The huge surface area of the mosque that was estimated to be more than 2500 square meters to that was established to be the largest mosque in the world at the time reflects that fact that Almohad kings wanted to establish an urban center in Rabat.

Despite the fact that the Almohad kings have exerted a lot of efforts to establish a civilization center in Rabat to perpetuate the name of their dynasty, the city was not founded and prospered in the way they have desired. This was why was why the ambitious construction work of the mosque that Al Mansur has started was never completed by his ancestors.

The materials that were used in the construction of the mosque were rocks, stones, plaster, and bricks, the usual building materials of the Andalusian Northern African style of architecture at the time.

The prayer hall of the mosque had a surface area of 1923 square meters, a surface area that was considered unusual at the time. The mosque didn’t have one open courtyard, or Sahn, as all the other Moroccan mosques, but it had one large courtyard near the minaret, and two other side minarets.

There were a large number of columns in the courtyards of the mosque that ranged in height from 3 to 6 meters. The ceiling of the mosque was built with stones and marble to make sure the base of the ceiling is powerful.

Many of the columns of the mosque, that we still see their remains until today, vary in their shapes and do not harmonize together generally. Maybe the architect of the mosques was planning to decorate all of them in a later stage. The builders of Almohad dynasty gave more attention to the overall look of their structure rather than the decoration details of each section on its own.

Some of the columns erected in the prayer hall still exist until today, or maybe portions of them. Most of these columns were made out of plaster and they are 40 centimeters now.

Although most of the columns of the mosque fell down in the earthquake of the year 1755, the French authority who took control of Morocco in the beginning of the 20th century has put back the columns in its original shape.

The mosque used to have 16 entrance gates, 6 of them were located in its western section, 2 of them were in the Eastern section, 2 in the Southern section, and 4 in the Northern section.

The walls of the mosque were not only built out of stones as some of them were made out of plaster as well. Maybe this was why the walls of the mosque have disappeared today. Fortunately, the marble that was used to build the columns was not stolen, as the woods that were used in the mosque. This is why most of the columns or some of them still remain until today to enable the travelers coming to enjoy their trips in Morocco to admire this marvelous architectural element.
There are no evidences of how the ceiling of the mosque looked like because most or all of its components were destroyed in the region of the Almohad kings themselves and many other dynasties afterwards as well.

The Mihrab of the mosque was 3 meters high and 3 meters wide. However, its location is the only item remaining of it.

Great doubled walls used to surround the mosque all over. More than 700 foreign prisoners worked in the construction of these walls, the same as many other mosques in Morocco.

It would be very hard to recognize the decorative art of the mosque. However, most of the Almohad decoration elements were reflected in the minaret that is still standing.

The beauty of the Hassan mosque and towering minaret is derived from the arts they got form other mosques built in Northern Africa and in Andalusia.  Many Morocco travel tours include a visit to the remains of the mosque and its Towering minaret.

The mosque hosts a combination of architectural arts that were copied from different mosque from all around the region. This is why many travelers visit the mosque and the minaret as part of their Morocco private tours.

The mosque used to have inner fresh water wells to preserve the water needed for drinking and ablutions. There were also some fountains for ablutions located at the corners of the mosque. The remains of this mosque and the minaret have become quite popular among tourists who travel to Morocco to enjoy their holidays.  

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