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Top 10 Places Not to Miss > Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech
Travel To The Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco
The Koutoubia Mosque, located in Marrakesh's Djemaa el Fna Square
, is a landmark and the largest mosque
The meaning of the word ‘mosque’ is the place where one bows down in a prayer. Consequentially, a mosque is center of religious life in Islam. Built during the Hispano-Moresque period, characteristic of simple yet masterful craftsmanship and luxury, The Koutoubia Mosque is argued to be most beautiful and proportioned mosque in the world.
Visit the Koutoubia Mosque & Gardens on a Morocco Private Tour.
The Koutoubia Mosque was completed under the reign of the Almohad
dynasty CaliphYaqub al-Mansur
(1184-1199) and was used as model for the Giralda
then for the Hassan Tower
. The name is derived from the Arabic al-Koutoubiyyin
for librarian, since it used to be surrounded by sellers of manuscripts
. Koutoubia Mosque, is often referred to in literature as the “bookseller’s mosque” and was named after the souk of koutoubiyyin, where sellers of manuscripts in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries laid out books and scripts on stalls on front of the original mosque.
The minaret is subject to seven legends that symbolize Marrakesh’s seven patrons. Among the seven, the most famous according to legend, is that the balls of the minaret were originally made of pure gold, and there were once supposed to have been only three. The fourth was donated by the wife of Yacoub el-Mansour as compensation for her failure to keep the fast for one day during the month of Ramadan
. She had her golden jewelry melted down to fashion the fourth globewhich she offered in atonement for breaking the Ramadan fast. The balance of the balls is supposed to be kept by the influence of the planets.
Koutoubia Mosque is most famous for its minaret towers. Although they were originally displeasing to Muslims because they did align with Mecca and thus had to be rebuilt, their new design was so well done that many future mosque designs were modeled after the minaret by architects in the 13th and 14th century. The minaret of the Koutoubia was the model for the minaret of the Giralda mosque
in Seville which in its turn has influenced thousands of church towers in Spain
and Eastern Europe (the churches on the red square in Moscow
), and later for many buildings throughout the United States of America
(including the Manhattan Municipal Building
(primarily during the Stalinist
The minaret rises two hundred and fifty two feet in the air and is a symbol of Marrakesh. 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.
The tower is adorned with four copper globes, has pink stone walls decorated with floral motifs and other carvings visible on buildings throughout Morocco. Years ago, the top of the minaret was embellished with turquoise, blue and white colors.
While Islam dictates that mosques are not to allow non-Muslim visitors, three exceptions are the mosques of Casablanca, Meknes and Fes. Traditionally, Muslims must show respect for a mosque by removing their shoes before entering. It is also common practice to wash one’s face, hands and feet at the central fountain. If you are fortunate to enter, please remember to respect these sacred traditions.
In Morocco and other Muslim countries, mosques are always positioned in a square or a medina of a town. Mosques are typically characterized by minarets (often green), from the top of the muezzin. The muezzin is the Muslim call to prayer which channels out from a mosque five times a day sung by an Emam and more often today is a recorded tape and always amplified by speakerphone. Before dawn, midday, afternoon, before sunset, and nighttime you will hear the muezzin call sounding across all of Morocco in unison. The most important day of prayer is Friday at noon.
The original grounds where Koutoubia Mosque stands were occupied by an Almoravid mosque. The Almoravids were conquered by the Almohads in 1147, and consequentially their mosque was destroyed and later rebuilt by the Almohads. Evidence of the Almoravids exists at the end of the mosque’s prayer hall where there is an elaborately carved pulpit. It is believed to have been donated by the Almoravid sultan Ali ben Youssef.
The Koutoubia Mosque, which is one of the largest in the world, has sixteen parallel, identical naves and a larger central nave. There are one-hundred twelve columns covering a floor area of 58,000 sq. ft. Although the Koutoubia Mosque is not open to non-Muslims, centuries of Muslims have prayed within the confines of its beautiful walls.