Upon my first day of arrival into the beautiful country of Morocco, I found myself in awe of the fertile soils that surround the bustling city of Casablanca. In little squares along sidewalks, roads and parks, plants that I’ve only seen before in greenhouses or botanical gardens in the states just pop up out of marble cracks or can be found in sidewalk gardens. This photo in particular is of Birds of Paradise. It is such an intriguing plant to me. My university in Ohio had just a few of these plants indoors in some secret spots, which I recall visiting often to gaze at this mysterious flower. Low and behold, Casablanca in all of its busy hustle and bustle of city life, Birds of Paradise seem to pop up where they are least expected; a visual surprise that I loved to look at whenever I passed them.
Birds of Paradise in all of their mystery and impractical flower essence were not the only plants that I was surprised to see in Casablanca. Pomegranate trees grew in the front yards of apartments, banana trees galore in parks and on the roadside. On one of my city explorations I passed a melon plant growing right next to the road, and tomatoes too! In the same city square that I took this picture there was a small patch of kale growing and hibiscus flowers everywhere!
The plants of Casablanca are as vibrant and wild as the city they exist in. They reflect the people and the culture so well- optimistic, bright, flavorful and like the traffic here, they won’t stop for anyone or anything. The features of Casablanca tessellate, like the beautiful mosaics found on every building. Meanwhile the Atlantic Ocean breeze and mountain views grace those in Casablanca with endless beauty. This, I could get used to.
The following days in Casablanca consisted of habitual tours of the city and monumental sites. Two of these sites were Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and The Hassan II Mosque.
The first site was Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Being from the Youngstown, Ohio area for all of my life, I have seen a good deal of churches although I was excited to see what a Casablanca Catholic church looked like. Continuing in true Moroccan fashion, not one detail of this church was passed over. Beautiful stained glass windows stretched across the length of the church, filling the room with cascades of colored light. The ceilings seemed as endless as the feeling of peace that I sensed in this space. While in the church, I asked one of my directors, “do many people here attend this church?” and he responded by telling me that the church is filled every Sunday and although he is Muslim, he said, while sitting in the church that he felt the sensation of peace as well. The religious beliefs of people living in Casablanca seem to blend very well, everyone coexists in a peaceful manner, and that is such a wonderful thing to experience.
Hassan II Mosque, what an incredible place! Nestled right on the Atlantic Ocean, this Mosque serves as the third largest Mosque in the world. This is one of those places that I have trouble finding the words to describe; its magnitude, art and human essence leaves me speechless. As our group toured through the Mosque its vast beauty came over me like the long drawn out waves in the ocean behind it. This place is huge. I must also mention that this Mosque was built in only 6 years; its size is unfathomable and with a building of this magnitude containing the amount of detail on every inch and crevasse of the building it does not seem possible, but round the clock work, day and night for 6 years it really became possible. The end result is breathtaking.
In the very bottom floor of the Mosque there is a Hamam which complements the Moroccan culture of the ever-so-popular bathhouse. Like the rest of the Mosque not one detail was left untouched as the beautiful mosaic art continued to resonate through and through.
The colors of Morocco have become a feeling of their own to me, a feeling I have never experienced but all I can amount it to would be the feeling of overwhelming blessings. The teal green and blue tiles decorating the outside of the Mosque reflect the beauty of the ocean that surrounds it. I cannot get enough of these colors!
While taking these photos I tried to imagine the artists who put these together, thinking that they wished to remind visitors of the natural beauty of the ocean, and perhaps how these two forces: “nature” and humanity can coincide as a beautiful work of art. This place is esoteric. As I left Hassan II Mosque, I leave you also, speechless.