Koutoubia Minaret & Koutoubia Gardens, Marrakesh
The tallest structure in Marrakech is the Koutoubia Minaret. Dating back to the 12th century, it is a fine example of Moorish architecture, and a symbol of the city. At around 70 metres high, it makes an excellent marker for tourists to help them orientate themselves. On top of the minaret are three golden balls made from copper - rumour has it that the original balls were made from gold.
The Koutoubia mosque was first built in 1147, but was then demolished and re-built soon after because it was not correctly aligned with Mecca. You can see some remains of the original mosque in the surrounding Koutoubia Gardens. The gardens make a nice place for a stroll and enable you to have a closer look at the minaret.
Five times a day the 'call to prayer' rings out across the city from the top of the minaret, with speakers facing every direction to ensure that all muslims know when they should be praying.
Non Muslims cannot visit the interior of the mosque or minaret, so the closest you will get is a visit to the gardens. But you can see the minaret from all over Marrakech so an up-close visit isn't mandatory.
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.
The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech, and its minaret dominates the skyline. Indeed, no other building is permitted to be taller. As a librarian, I was intrigued to learn that its name is derived from the Arabic for librarian or book-trader, al-Koutoubiyyin, due to the fact that it used to be surrounded by sellers of manuscripts. These are long gone, and it now stands in a square facing the Djamaa el Fna and surrounded by gardens. Like all mosques in the city it cannot be entered by non-Muslims, but its exterior is well worth a look and the minaret makes for striking photos by day and night. It was built in the 12th century and is 69 m (221 ft) tall. The minaret is topped with four copper balls of decreasing size. This is a traditional design in Morocco, but there are usually only three. Legend tells that the fourth was a gift from the wife of the Saadian ruler Yacoub el Mansour as a penance for breaking her fast during Ramadan.
Five times a day the call to prayer rings out from here as it does from every other minaret in the city, but unusually for modern times, here the call is still made “in person” by a muezzin rather than being a recording. Rather than the more usual staircase, Koutoubia’s minaret has a spiraling ramp wide enough for a horse to be ridden to the top, but I don’t know whether this means of access is still actually used!
The surrounding gardens apparently offer a restful escape from the city’s madness as well as a chance to get closer to the minaret, but this was a walk too far for me on my crutches so we didn’t go inside them.
At night the mosque and minaret are nicely floodlit. Ideally you’ll need a tripod to get a good photo but a bit of inventiveness pays dividends – I used the roof of a nearby parked taxi and cropped out the foreground afterwards to get this shot (photo 3).
Koutoubia Mosque, the largest in Marrakech, derives its name from "books" due to the sellers of manuscripts who used to be stationed by the mosque. It was first built by Almohad dynasty in the middle of the 12th century, over the remains of an older Almoravides-period palace, but was quickly destroyed and rebuilt as the original structure was not correctly aligned to Mecca. The minaret was added in the second half of the 12th century and served as a model for la Giralda in Seville, a testament to the importance of Marrakech and its architecture. The simple architectural style of the mosque is typical of the period, which is a contrast to the highly ornate style of the later Saadian period. Tourists are not permitted to enter the mosque, and photographing the inside is not tolerated either (I had to snap quickly while standing outside).
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.
When you look at how perfect the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is, it's hard to believe that it is as old as it is. At 70m, it has dominated the skyline of the Medina since the 12th century.
It was built between 1150 and 1199, mostly during the reign of Sultan Yacoub el Mansour.
Non-muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque, but you can wander around the adjacent gardens. and take lots of photos. The minaret is particularly photogenic at sunset.
Who says size doesn't matter? The Koutoubia is far and away the largest and most prestigious mosque in Marrakech. Many say it's the most important in the whole of the Mahgreb. At 70 metres tall the minaret dominates much of the city skyline and can come in very useful if you get lost in the maze of the Medina! At night it's illuminated and towers above the smoke filled air of Djemaa el Fna. It's a great place for evening people watching, especially from the ice cream parlour across the road! Like nearly all mosques in Marrakech, it's closed to non-Muslims. But it's definitely worth a good walk round.
It was built by the Almohads in the 12th century and remains in perfect condition, although the zellij tiles that decorated the walls are no longer there. Unusually, each face of the minaret is of a different design. If you know a little Arabic you'll see the name is derivative of 'books' - the mosque was built close to an old booksellers' market. There are also some gardens which are apparently well worth seeing, but they were closed while I was there.
During our 7 days in Morocco we were taken on many guided tours, most took us to the major Mosque in the city or town, however we were only allowed to enter a few and the Koutoubia Mosque was one we entered.
This mosque stands out above the city with its minaret being 77 metres (252 feet) above the ground. The reason it can be seen from so far is a local law which forbids any other building in the medina to rise above the height of a palm tree.
Built by the Almohad, Yakoub el-Mansour during the 12th century this is the oldest and best preserved minaret in Morocco.
We were inside this mosque for 10 minutes, plenty of time to admire the beautiful tiling and other decoration. We were allowed to take photos.
This higth minarete of 1162 is a tall tower that helps you to guide your self in the city. It was the model for the sevillian Giralda. Its a pitty only muslims can get up the tower... maybe in next live ...:))
Down is the bigest mosque of its time, a beautiful building that at pray time is so full that people have to stay outside.
The Koutoubia mosque's tower, seen here, is Marrakesh's most visible landmark. The mosque is set in a large garden complex, a nice place to sit down and have a picnic or a rest. Unfortunately, the structure is closed to non-Muslims.
I was told many times that if I got lost, I should just look for the Koutoubia tower and head toward it. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of mosque towers in Marrakesh that look very similar to this one! Koutoubia's the tallest and best-proportioned, but if you can't see them all next to each other, you might not be able to distinguish them.
View of The Koutoubia from the gardens in La Menara. This is the big Avenue that connects La Menara with the cities wall entrance heading to Koutoubia.
The minaret rises 77 metres above the ground. Its incredible how far you can actually see this mosque tower, this Avenue is pretty big, and still the tower can be seen and still have imponence.
This mosque was first built in 1147, and demolished right after because it was not correctly aligned with Mecca, the Holy City, the "mosque of the booksellers", Kitab stands for book in Arabic, was finished in its present construction in 1199.
The mosque which it is attached is already big, but this minaret is one of the biggest in Africa.
This mosque is the higher one in Marrakesh (70m), you can't miss it ! It's even nicer during the night when the minaret is all lit up. Unfortunately, you can't enter it if you're not a Muslim but you can admire its simple but nice Hispano-Moorish architecture from the surrounding gardens smelling of roses.
The Koutoubia was made with Almohad construction style, with a slightly decoration of simple Andalucian elements. The minaret rises 77 metres above the ground.
While it has a strict appearance in red stone today, it some people say that originally was covered with plaster.
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.