Imagine wearing shades of different colour everyday, how different the same thing may look depending on your colour code for that day. That’s why perspectives exist, that is why you can see same things under a new light if you change your location and attitude. It’s all in your eyes actually. Today we suggest you to get on the bandwagon to explore the Kingdom of Morocco from the spiritual and mystic perspectives, to unravel how religion, the practices, the monuments and the practicing people have nicely shaped up the very fabric of the society in this fascinating country.
One word of caution upfront is that if you are out and about on only a religious pilgrimage or spiritual discovery, then you may not find what you are looking for in Morocco. The mystic path is just one of the means to an end to know the country better, not to discover yourself or the God you believe in.
If we cut to chase, I will let the history buffs scour the Internet to find out about the evolution of religion in Morocco and stay away from throwing historic curve balls here. Being a Muslim majority kingdom, the country has a lot of beautiful mosques. The first thing you will notice is the design of the minarets of the mosques in Morocco. They are very unique in structure, square shaped and very much unlike any Islamic architecture seen especially in the Middle East where the minarets are generally cylindrical. This post will highlight three special attractions in this regard. The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the Ben Youssef Madrasah inside the Medina of Marrakech and the Koutoubia Mosque just on the outskirts of the Marrakech Medina.
When you will find yourself in front of the Hassan II Mosque, the mind of the explorer will be clouded with some earthly questions instead of heavenly queries. You will wonder, why is a mosque named after a king, a human after all? Who is to worship who here? More so when you find out that the mosque was supposed to be completed as a birthday gift for the king Hassan. You may also wonder that so much importance human beings have given civilisations after civilisations, in every religion of the world, to adorn the house of God with lavishness and luxury, either to appease the God himself or to cleanse their own soul searching. The sole response to your soul searching in front of Hassan II Mosque will only tell you, “God knows!”.
The mosque is h-u-g-e. The largest in Morocco, in North Africa and 7th largest in the whole world. The height of the ceiling and even the entrance gates create an imposing impression of grandeur, naturally making the visitors feel relatively so belittled and insignificant. The tall minaret built with influence of Moorish architecture is the largest in the whole world. During evening, there is a green laser light which beams through the night sky to point towards Mecca, the holy site of the Muslims. The mosque also has a communal bath area in the basement built with Turkish influence. We learnt that there is a location inside the mosque with glass floors so that the faithful can pray to God above the waves of the Atlantic. However this privilege is reserved for the royalty only and not for ordinary humans. May be God also prefers royalty. The mosque is truly a piece of architectural marvel and best visited just before sunset, stay afterwards to see the laser beam from the minaret.
Back in Marrakech , the other religious site which is a must visit was the Ben Youssef Madrasah. Situated in the heart of the medina of Marrakech this Islamic school was founded in the 14th century and once housed more than 900 students. The venue has an open courtyard, and beautifully carved cedar wood with inscriptions from the Quran. Some of the tiles work had Andalusian influence indicating that may be designers were brought from Spain to work on the construction. There were student dormitories on the first floor with rather narrow stairs leading to the residence. With very small windows and a bit sombre interior, one may wonder how students could get spiritual enlightenment. But yes the madrasah certainly adds a lot of flavour in the already vibrant character of the Medina of Marrakech and a must visit to explore the religious evolution though ages in Morocco.
The third and the final site we want you to visit is the Koutoubia Mosque which you cannot miss once you are near the famous Medina of Marrakech . This is the largest mosque in Marrakech and you have two options to enjoy its beauty. First you can visit the surroundings of the mosque, its open air premises during day time to fully absorb the beautiful architecture. You will certainly notice similarities with what you would have seen earlier in the Hassan II Mosque in terms of shapes, structures and Islamic design. The other way of enjoying the charm of the mosque is just before sunset. You can settle down for a cup of mint tea from many of the restaurants at the Jemaa al Fna square. Grab a seat near the balcony upstairs facing the mosque. The ravishing colour display you will see when the sun goes down behind the mosque and its magnificent minaret draws an amazing silhouette against the backdrop of an intense mixture of yellow and orange. Just when the call for evening prayers (Maghrib azaan) coincides with the setting of the sun, the ambience gets a much needed dose of acoustic glamour added to the personality of the mosque which stands covering the reclining sun. As soon as the call for prayers end and day light is gone, you will get accustomed to the buzz of the Jemaa al Fna lightened up with colours, chaos and character.