Hassan Tower, also known as Sawm’at Hassan in Arabic, is a historic minaret located in Rabat, Morocco. It was commissioned by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, the third Caliph of the Almohad Caliphate, near the end of the 12th century. The tower was intended to be the largest minaret in the world, and the mosque it was supposed to accompany would have been the largest in the western Muslim world. However, construction on the mosque halted upon al-Mansur’s death in 1199, leaving the minaret and the mosque incomplete.
History of Hassan Tower Rabat, Morocco:
The project for the Hassan Tower was part of al-Mansur’s grand plan to construct a new fortified imperial capital called al-Mahdiyya or Ribat al-Fath in what is now the medina (old city) of Rabat. The minaret was modeled after the Koutoubia Mosque’s minaret in Marrakesh and drew influence from the ancient Egyptian Lighthouse of Alexandria for its height and method of ascendancy, which included ramps.
Construction of the mosque began in 1191, but it was still unfinished when al-Mansur passed away. The mosque’s colossal dimensions would have made it the largest in the western Islamic world, surpassing even the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Unfortunately, it remained incomplete due to a lack of resources and will from al-Mansur’s successors.
Design and Architecture:
The mosque’s strategic location on the south bank of the Bu Regreg river provided an imposing sight visible from miles around. The intended height of the minaret was at least 64 meters, possibly 80 meters, making it taller than the Giralda in Seville.
The minaret was built with red sandstone, which has given it a red ochre color over the centuries. Instead of stairs, the tower is ascended by ramps, allowing the muezzin to ride a horse to the top for issuing the call to prayer. The tower’s exterior is adorned with sebka patterning, engaged columns, and capitals carved from the same sandstone. The design is similar to the Giralda in Seville and the Koutoubia Mosque’s minaret in Marrakesh.
Hassan Tower Today:
Hassan Tower, along with the remains of the unfinished mosque and the modern Mausoleum of Mohammed V, forms an important historical and tourist complex in Rabat. Visitors can explore the tower, experiencing its unique architecture and enjoying the views of Rabat from its top. The site has been carefully reconstructed by French and Moroccan archaeologists in the 20th century.
While it remains incomplete, the Hassan Tower stands as a reminder of the grand vision of al-Mansur and the skilled craftsmanship of its architects and builders. Its historical and cultural significance has led to its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List and, ultimately, its inscription as part of the larger historic Rabat site in 2012. The Hassan Tower is not just a monument of unfinished grandeur but a symbol of Morocco’s rich history and architectural heritage.