Total solar eclipse in Gabon, plus a day in Casablanca

Posted by Liz Kruesi
on Friday, November 01, 2013

After a crazy two days of traveling — followed by 10 hours of sleep — it’s finally hit me that I’m in Africa to see the November 3 total solar eclipse. I’m here with a group from MWT, Astronomy’s travel partner. We’re staying in the city of Libreville, Gabon, along the west coast of Africa. For eclipse day we’ll head to a site some 130 miles (200 kilometers) southeast, and we’re hoping for clear skies during totality. (This will be my first total solar eclipse, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to witness it!)

The Hassan II Mosque is the third-largest mosque in the world. It can hold 25,000 worshippers within its walls and another 75,000 on the surrounding grounds. // photo by Liz Kruesi
On our way to Gabon, we had a 10-hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco. During that time, our exhausted group got to see some of the city’s most important sites. One of those was the Hassan II Mosque — an incredibly gorgeous building. Work began in 1986 and was completed in 1993. We couldn’t believe that people could incorporate so much artistry in a building in just seven years.

The mosque, the third-largest in the world according to our tour guide, has a silent retractable roof to allow sunlight in and provide air circulation during the hot summer days. And 25,000 worshippers can fit within the building, with another 75,000 on the surrounding grounds. This is the only mosque in Morocco open to non-Muslims. It was an honor to be able to see the artwork throughout.

Artists incorporated tile details throughout the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. // photo by Liz Kruesi
The artistic details throughout the building are incredible. The patterned tiles play off the colors of the sea — a mixture of greens, blues, teals, and browns. All ceilings are covered in either carved plaster or wood (cedar, to be exact). Every material within the building, except for the chandeliers and two white marble columns, are from Morocco.

We also saw the courthouse, built in the 1940s, and the entry gates to the King’s Casablanca palace. Incredible wood, plaster, and tile details decorate both locations. After our city tour, we headed back to the airport to arrive in Gabon at 3:00 a.m. local time. The group is excited for the upcoming eclipse, and I’ll make sure to post about our travels — and the outcome of eclipse day — on this blog.

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