Tour Hassan/Hassan Tower
The Hassan Tower is a formidable sight in the distance, it stands tall and proud against the North African sun and has done since the latter part of the 12th century, a dramatic legacy of Moroccan Almohad architecture. Had it been completed as a full mosque, as was its founder’s intentions, it would have been the largest mosque in the world, and a place of learning and education throughout Rabat. But this was not to be. Originally the Sultan had commissioned the world renowned architect Jabir, who had already completed the sumptuous Mosque in Sevill (now the Giralda Cathedral and bell tower), and the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, to build it on a massive scale.
Sultan Al Mansour was impressively the founder of the Almohad dynasty. Rabat was his kingdom and he wanted to impress, and only the largest and most lavishly decorated mosque would do. It was to be built in a rectangular shape and would have included a prayer room with an 86metre minaret for call to prayer. The Sultan died in 1199 bringing the plans to an abrupt end, and what you see today is a minaret half the size it was originally intended to be, at about 44 metres high. This is matched by 20 smaller hauntingly free standing columns that were to be the foundations of the planned mosque, standing silently in the shadow of the tower, a ghostly reminder of a mosque that was never built.
Interestingly, although the tower can be entered by visitors there are no stairs but instead are mounted by ramps. The ramps were to have been used by animals to carry stones to the top of the tower to speed up construction. You may be wondering how the Muezzin would have made his calls to prayer; the intention was that the Muezzin would reach the top of the tower by horse!
Even only half built; the tower is an amazing sight stretching into the sky, its red sandstone bricks decorated with a trellis of arches. From the top of the tower you can see the Oued Bou Regreg River and this is definitely worth seeing as it is an amazing landmark, as is the Mausoleum of Mohammed V completed in 1971, all three are situated close by. There is also an early morning changing of the guard each day at 7am at the tower with the King’s Royal Military – their uniform is red in the winter, and white in the summer.
Take in all three sights while you are here, they are popular with visitors and well worth the visit, and the magnificence and history of the Hassan Tower alone is worthy of some time spent admiring its construction.