Koutoubia Minaret & Koutoubia Gardens, Marrakesh
The Koutoubia Minaret is the uncontested symbol of Marrakech, and the highest structure in the city. At 77 metres, no building is allowed to exceed its height, even today. It was added to the original Koutoubia Mosque in the late 12th century and is the only remaining structure from the old mosque, which was torn down shortly after its completion because it was not properly aligned with Mecca. The minaret is believed to have been entirely covered in tiles in its early days. La Koutoubia's resemblance to Seville's la Giralda is no accident as it served as a model for Seville's minaret.
The Kotoubia Mosque (built in 1162 by the Almohads) is a significant architectural landmark of Marrakech. The name means "bookseller`s mosque", and it is said that the minaret once had a ramp which enabled the Imam to horse-ride up to the tower. The minaret tower is similar to the "Giralda" tower in Sevilla.
After his victory over the Almovarids the Almohad Sultan Abd el- Moumen started building this largest mosque of Marrakech. The minaret has a height of about 70 metres and can be seen from miles in and around the city, especially during the evening when it is floodlighted.
The tower has six rooms and a ramp, which allowed donkeys to ride up to the top. The minaret has a remarkable green tiled decoration just beneath the balcony and its top is adorned by four copper globes.
The main prayer hall with its arches can accommodate about 20.000 people.
For us ass non-Muslim it was not possible to visit the interior of the mosque or the top of the minaret. So we just walked around and enjoyed the architecture of its pink stone walls and gateways. Especially the entrance to the Koutoubia Courtyard is very beautiful. Koutoubia Mosque is built next to the original mosque from 1147 (demolished because its ‘qibla’ wall was not correctly oriented towards Mecca) and the foundations can be seen through a gate.
Koutoubia is surrounded by rather nice gardens with palm and orange trees; just nice to have a rest enjoying the impressive minaret of the mosque, while Moroccan boys are playing soccer, perhaps dreaming of a career somewhere in Europe.
The minaret of the Koutoubia belongs to the Koutoubia Mosque - although very few people remember seeing the mosque. This minaret is so beautiful that it steals the show. The origin of the name has to do with what was sold all around it: manuscripts... al-Koutoubiyyin, in fact, means librarian.
The 69 metres tall minaret of the Koutoubia was built by Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199) and, because of its beauty, it was used first as model for the Giralda of Seville (Spain) and then again for the Hassan Tower of Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Unofficially, though, many other buildings took inspiration from this "tower" - including the Manhattan Municipal Building. It appears that Stalin had been fascinated by it, too... and had used it as its inspiration here and there, in the Kremlin in Moscow.
The name Koutoubia comes from the Arabic al-Koutoubiyyin for librarian, since it used to be surrounded by sellers of manuscripts. It is considered the ultimate structure of its kind. The tower is 69 m (221 ft) in height and has a lateral length of 12.8 m (41 ft). Six rooms (one above the other) constitute the interior; leading around them is a ramp by way of which the muezzin could ride up to the balcony. It is built in a traditional Almohad style and the tower is adorned with four copper globes.
One of Marrakeshs' landmarks. The 221 ft high square minaret is the tallest in Marrakesh and can be seen for miles away (it was my last sight of Marrakesh as I boarded my plane home)
Koutoub or Kutub is Arabic for books, the mosque was built on the site of an old booksellers market or library (I've been told both versions)
Dating back to the 12th Century, the square design inspired the Girald in Seville and Hassan Tower in Rabat.
Inside the minaret are 6 rooms,with a ramp running on their outer from top to bottom, which the muezzin could ride to the top.
At the top of the tower can be seen a wooden scaffold..our guide told us this is where they hang their wives who can't cook! However, it's purpose is to assist the deaf...as they can't hear the call to prayer, a flag is hoisted at the appropriate times. ( I didn't get chance to spot the flag, but I'll look out next time!)
Four solid gold balls are at the very top of the minaret. Apparently the 4th ball was added by the wife of Ysaub El Mansour, when her jewellery was melted as a penance for failing to fast. (I've since read the spheres are copper not gold!
Each side of the minaret is decorated with different carved stonework panels and carvings. The green tiles are a typical feature of Islamic architecture.
The mosque isn't open to non-muslims. However, there is quite a bit to see from the outside.
Apologies for my attempts at night time photography.
This 12th century mosque, started in 1150 and completed later in the 12th century by Sultan Yacoub el Mansour, has become the symbol and dominant landmark of Marrakesh. This crenulated (castlellated) minaret design is typical of mosques all over Morocco, basically four-sided and looking like a fortress tower (unlike the round shape across the rest of the Islamic world).
As regards the tourist, the mosque's minaret also acts as a landmark by which to find their way to 'Djemaa el Fna' Square. If lost, get into the open and look for the minaret. The square is visible across the road from it down a broad pedestrian avenue with a big western hotel on the left hand side.
An interesting story told by a local guide here was about the wearing of the veil by Muslim women and it may be asking different people may solicit different views. He said that the wearing of the veil was something that started out in the deserts by nomad women to keep the dust and sand out of their face and it's perception as a symbol of Islam was incorrect. He commented that this interpretation was due to a misinterpretation of the Koran about women dressing modestly. What was actually meant by this at the time of Mohammed, I as a non-Muslim will not comment, but I am aware that to this day that the interpretation of the Koran is still debated by some Islamic scholars. This is something for Muslims to decide and I intend to stay out of this one.
The Koutoubia mosque is the one you can't fail to miss given its tall minaret and its prime location, southwest of the main square, Djemma el-Fna. It looks great at night from the square. We could only admire it from the outside, as, like most mosques in Morocco, it's not open to non-Muslims
Nearly 70 metres high and built in in classic Moroccan style (width:height ratio of 1:5) the Minaret is the most prominent landmark in the city and, given the lack of high buildings, it’s visible from quite a distance away. The mosque was built following the Almohad reign in the 12th century and it quickly set the standard for other mosques in the country.
just sitting on a seat in amongst the orange trees in the Koutoubia gardens and breathing in the beautiful scent of the orange flowers is an enjoyable thing to do!!breath in slow and deeply! when the roses are in bloom is another delightful time to be in amongst the vegetation also!
for some interesting info on the mosque - very significant mosque to Marrakech and Morocco and the Andalucian world - an Almohad sultan got this going in 1147 to celebrate his win over the Almoravids and set about to build one of the largest mosques in the western muslim world.
This mosque later served as a model for the La Giralda in Seville and the Hassan Tower in Rabat.
The prayer hall can fit up to 20,000 people!! and an interesting thing to read about the tower is that its 70 metre height obeys the Almohad architecture canons of its height equalling five times its width.
Standing 70 meters tall the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque can been seen for miles in all directions. On both sides of the mosque are some pieceful gardens to sit in.
As the sun goes down the crowds gather for sunset before heading to the Djemma el-fna for the evening entertainment and then the minaret is illuminated for all to see.
Click on 4 more photos.
Next to the Koutoubia Mosque is a vast park planted with palm trees and rose bushes. It is a great place for relaxing from the intensity of the medina, and for enjoying the views of the Koutoubia Minaret. This park is adjacent to the famous Mamounia Gardens, which, at the time of my visit, were closed for renovation.
The Koutoubia is one of the biggest mosques in the Western Muslim world. Its hispano-moorish style is of an apparent simplicity combined with discreet luxury. This masterpiece was built by the Almohads in one of its imperial cities. Today, it's a starting point that's not to be missed before heading out to explore the medina.
The minaret of the Koutoubia is a square tower made of rose-coloured sandstone adorned with a delicate sculptured decoration that seems just like lacework on stone. The minaret is topped by a lantern, decorated and square, as well as a ribbed cupola. The close proportion between the width and height of the minaret of the mosque bestows a perfect harmony to this masterpiece of hispano-moorish art which was taken as a model for the Giralda in Seville. According to a legend, the three orbs of golden copper which crown the cupola were made from the melted down jewellery of Yacoub-el-Mansour's wife. Yacoub-el-Mansour completed the construction of the tower began by the sultan Abd el-Moumen. Another legend about the orbs says that they are guarded by genies (jin) and that terrible misfortunes will plague those who try to steal them.Koutoubia in Arabic means "the mosque of booksellers" because once, the surrounding shops were mostly dedicated to the sale of books and antique manuscripts. ( XII -XIII centuries.)The first mosque, erected after 1147, was later destroyed because its orientation towards Mecca wasn't correct. The foundation of the first mosque is still visible today. The construction of the current mosque, built according to the instructions of Abd el-Moumen, was completed in the same year construction started, in 1158, and ordered by Yacoub el-Mansour.
This splendid work of art is subdivided into 16 naves and a wider middle nave. Here, the luxurious almoravid ornamentation and the décor of Andalusian inspiration exalt the simplicity and pureness of its lines. The 11 stalactite cupolas, capitals and moulded structures make the Koutoubia one of the finest examples of Almohad art.
This garden exists close to the Kotoubia mosque, different types of flowers, trees, fountains, and above all, the beauty of this garden makes a nice place to visit while on the way to Kotoubia or Jamaa El Fnaa square. It's free and open all day long.
Well, you cannot go inside the mosque (see my local customs tip), but just the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is a wonderful sight to see!
I have taken dozens of pictures just of this place - and I really love every one of them!
From most places in Marrakesh you can see the minaret - helpful and fascinating!
The name Koutoubia is a corruption of kutub, the Arabic root of words meaning "to write" or "books". The reason this is applied to the mosque, is because early descriptions tell of it being in the centre of a medina full of one hundred bookstores.
The start of the contruction dates from year 1147, but it was not completed until 1158. The tower (minaret) is 230 feet high and 42 feet square, and is quite a landmark in the town. At the time we visited it was the tallest building in the city - I am not sure whether that is still the case.
The tower has inner and outer walls with a ramp running up inbetween them, and it contains six vaulted chambers, one above the other.
It's a landmark in Marrakech.
Even when you've had a few drinks - which is isn't easy in Morocco - you can find your way back home just looking at the highest minaret in Marrakech.
That's whenh I took this picture