Returning from the synagogue, we made it just in time to get on the bus and make our way to The Hassan II Mosque, sometimes nicknamed the "Casablanca Hajj". Built on the shoreline of Casablanca, it is the largest mosque in Morocco and Africa and the 7th largest in the world. Its minaret is among the world's tallest at 60 storied high with a laser light that shines toward Mecca.
My "dance partner" for the day is Nancy Nolan, a self identified Jewbuliccan. Jewish- married to a Jewish man she raised a Jewish daughter and celebrates Jewish holidays.
Buddhist- A student and practitioner of Buddhist meditation
Catholic- Born Irish Roman Catholic, she is both spiritually and culturally Catholic
Wiccan- Interested in indigenous, Native American earth based religion. Just as importantly, she identifies as a warrior, which is evident by her strength and energy. Rarely is she without a twinkle in her eye, a generous spirit and a joy inducing robust laugh.
Together we explore the plaza and watch the ocean waves before our tour begins of this majestic sacred space.
As we enter what is most intriguing to me is that this masjid boasts glass insets in the floor where the sea bed can be seen and a retractable roof where the sky can be seen. There water, air and earth meet and the element of fire is added by a flame.
Standing in the space, pigeons fly across the vast expanse. The guide says that over 100,000 people can pray within and outside the mosque's grounds. It is massive.
It was certainly beautiful and inspiring and yet not surprising that the decision to build this mosque was controversial for Moroccans, on one hand clearly a point of national and religious pride and on the other, such a vast amount of resources poured into a project that could be directed to feed and care for people. Over 12 million people donated by the end.
I shared with Nancy that as my community moves into its own building, that is even humble in comparison to the 300 person sized synagogue in Casablanca about the nature of space. I question the value of opulence in the name of religion. The beauty of both spaces were magnificent and special beyond belief. I understand that we often feel that way about God. Our enthusiasm wants to interpret that fervor of adoring God through adornment.
As an art lover and a fan of architecture, I can relate. But the Tower of Babel comes to mind in all our structures. Even when the impetus is to exult God not overthrow God, the building itself can distract. It's a contrary notion to how we are wired. It is in the ocean, or the mountains that I feel the Godly magnificence of creation more than any palatial cathedral or temple. We agreed that Nature unlocks our awe more than anything
Perhaps more than the grandest ark, or the most vivid stained glass windows or the highest minaret--we should all keep our eye on the most important symbol: the welcome mats of our homes of worship.
There's nothing like the feeling of being embraced and having a sense of "Welcome Home."