El Hank Lighthouse, Casablanca’s Hidden Landmark

El Hank Lighthouse and its surrounding tide pools

photography by: Omri Westmark

There’s probably no better place to witness the recent development of Morocco’s largest city than its ever-changing coastline. This narrow strip of land along the Atlantic Ocean is home to a bustling port, verdant promenade and perhaps most notably, Hassan II Mosque, Africa’s second largest mosque. Somewhat outshined by its more famous counterparts, the Minaret-shaped El-Hank Lighthouse perches atop a dramatic promontory which offers a breathtaking vista of the country’s economic capital.

The Lighthouse's Past and Present

Amid the exponential growth of Casablanca’s maritime traffic, the city’s French colonial rulers sought to facilitate the movement of vessels making their way in and out of the port, whose access was considered notoriously dangerous. In 1916, the city was bestowed with its first modern lighthouse, which was constructed on a cliff next to El Hank neighborhood and became operational four years later.

 

Nestled at the tip of a headland with which it shares its name, El Hank Lighthouse is Morocco’s tallest lighthouse, towering 51 meters (167 feet) over the city’s Atlantic coastline. Planned by Albert Laprade, a French architect renowned for his design of the Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris, the lighthouse was inspired by a typical mosque style, hence its minaret-shape.

 

Sitting on top of a 6.60-meter-tall base, the structure features a diameter of 39 meters at its widest. Every 15 seconds, its automated lighting device generates 3 consecutive flashes, luminous enough to be seen from as far away as 30 nautical miles (slightly more than 55 kilometers). It is not entirely clear when and if the building is open to visitors, but if you do manage to come in, expect a 256 step climb to the top, from where a breathtaking view of the city will more than offset the entailed effort.

The minaret-style lighthouse

photography by: Omri Westmark


Some of the adjacent buildings, laid in ruins

photography by: Omri Westmark


The lighthouse and the nearby ocean monitoring facility

photography by: Omri Westmark


Built in 1905, El-Hank’s ocean monitoring station

photography by: Omri Westmark


The entrance to the lighthouse's complex

photography by: Omri Westmark


The structure is situated right next to a glut of informal housings

photography by: Omri Westmark


A westward view over the article’s protagonist

photography by: Omri Westmark


Around the Lighthouse

Located about mid-way between the world’s 7th largest mosque, Hassan II Mosque, and Aïn Diab Beach, El Hank Lighthouse is surrounded by a couple of scenic points which offer a much-needed respite from Casablanca’s hustle and bustle.

 

Aside from a brand-new observation deck right past the coastal esplanade, most if not all of El-Hank headland is unregulated, lacking any kind of infrastructure, including pavements. Its eastern side faces downtown Casablanca which is dominated by the gargantuan silhouette of the great mosque. The headland’s western side on the other hand provides a glimpse of the city’s southern outskirts with their series of golden beaches.

 

As you proceed towards the lighthouse, you’ll be greeted by a group of stray dogs, incessantly barking beyond the fences of a nearby residential complex. Among the area’s dwellers are also dozen or so homeless people who enjoy an ocean vista from their makeshift hovels.

 

The entire shoreline along the mini-cape has a craggy terrain, beautifully sculpted by the battering waves. During low tide, tiny pools form between the many cracks which become a magnet for fish, crabs and playful children who hop on the jagged rocks as they make their way to a safe swimming spot. If you wish to find a rock to sit on and gaze at the ocean, take note that walking across the coast requires a great deal of caution as the surface tends to be quite slippery.

A distant glimpse of Hassan II Mosque

photography by: Omri Westmark


A barking stray dog welcomes visitors to the area

photography by: Omri Westmark


A view of the great mosque and the many low-tide pools

photography by: Omri Westmark


The underdeveloped area around the lighthouse

photography by: Omri Westmark


A makeshift shed inhabited by a homeless person, topped by the national flag

photography by: Omri Westmark


El-Hank’s craggy terrain

photography by: Omri Westmark


A series of small pool, created during low tide

photography by: Omri Westmark


The view of the city’s sandy beaches from the headland’s west side

photography by: Omri Westmark