The magnificent Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech, Morocco
Are you going to Marrakech in Morocco, the jewel of North Africa? To benefit from a cultural and spiritual break during your trip there, we advise you to visit the splendid Koutoubia mosque!
The Koutoubia Mosque is one of the most famous landmarks in Marrakesh. The minaret is 70 meters height. Koutoubia is the local legend of Marrakech, and it was built in 1162 to be one of the great Almohad architecture achievements.
This religious building is famous in the Muslim world and recognized worldwide as one of the most famous mosques celebrating Islam. In fact, unlike others, it is not distinguished by its architecture or its ornaments but by a certain stylistic austerity, a certain aesthetic examination, except for its 12th century minaret, which is more richly decorated.
The Koutoubia attracts thousands of visitors each year, loyal or not, we recommend that you drop by if you are passing through Marrakech. To convince yourself and help you, we have prepared a concise travel guide for you that lists all the necessary information: a quick history of the place, the major attractions, and the elements not to be missed on site.
History of the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech
Captured by the Almohad dynasty in the 12th century, the city of Marrakech was then under the domination of the Almoravids, sworn enemies of the Almohads because ... considered heretics by the latter! Abd-al-Mu’min, who won the city, was appointed responsible for the design of the first Koutoubia mosque, on land in the former palace of Ali ibn Yusuf, located in the south-west sector of the medina. Built between 1147 and 1157, so in just ten years, this first mosque was rebuilt at the end of the 12th century because the mihrab (prayer niche) was not exactly oriented towards Mecca (Prayer Qibla)!
By the time the Andalusians ended up defeating the Almohad dynasty, this alignment problem became minor in their eyes but a new mosque was finally built right next to the first: the two were built identically - whether for the layout, architecture, dimensions, materials and inscriptions - only their geographic orientation was slightly different ... but the correction was wrong! In fact, the first mosque saw its mihrab directed by five degrees out of alignment with Mecca, while the second increased this gap by carrying it by an additional five degrees!
In both cases, these two mosques were built during the reign of Abd al-Mu'min, between 1130 and 1163. Finally deteriorated and then abandoned, the first mosque no longer exists today - only its ruins , which you can discover during your visit there - and when you come to visit the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech, you actually come to admire the second version of it.
In the other hand, The Koutoubia Library is equipped with an automatic system of movement that is considered one of the masterpieces of Islamic carpentry. This minbar (a stool) was made in Córdoba at the beginning of the twelfth century at the request of the Almoravid prince Ali ibn Yusef ibn Tashfin for the sake of the mosque that was completed in Marrakesh. The pulpit was transferred to Al-Koutoubia around the year 1150 CE.
What to see and do at the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech?
What must be understood is that the Almohad dynasty favored a rather austere architecture: stripped, its arches remain bare and devoid of rich decorations. It is therefore not the building itself that turns out to be extraordinary, but the elements that surround it.
The minaret, for example, built later, was indeed more ostentatious in its design, with incredible intertwined arches called "sebka", revealing a unique skill; dominated by three golden copper balls symbolizing the three great mosques of Islam that are the Kaaba (in Mecca), that of Al Quds, and that of Medina (Madina of KSA). A legend tells that these three balls were made with molten gold .. coming from the jewels of the wife of the caliph, who had the recklessness of eating during the day during Ramadan!
It was this minaret that served as a model for the Giralda in Seville! Its exterior decoration is different on its four sides, with painted floral ornaments, network of interlacing in relief, bands of white mosaics on a turquoise background, and was built in shale sandstone from the quarries of Gueliz. Its proportions are close to perfection: 12.8 meters side, 69 meters high and up to 77 counting the tip of the arrow. This tower houses six superimposed rooms, surrounded by a ramp leading to a covered walkway protected by a serrated balustrade, a real gem of a goldsmith!
The lantern, measuring almost sixteen meters, curiously resembles a second minaret .. placed on the first!
The booksellers' mosque (yes, that is the other name for the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech) also housed a splendid minbar, a stool serving as a pulpit and from where the Friday prayer sermon is delivered by a religious leader. This jewel of Moroccan art commissioned by Sultan Ali Ben Youssef was built in Cordoba from 1137: its development took more than eight years! Then, carefully transported to Marrakech in Ali's mosque, it was then moved to the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech where it was quickly described as a work of perfection. Indeed, adorned with silver and rare wood inlays, this monument composed of a thousand pieces of cedar is a truly exceptional piece .. and ingeniously designed and used: hidden in a niche located very close to the mihrab, it was extracted every Friday thanks to a clever invisible system made up of pulleys and ropes. Removed from the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech in 1962 in order to restore it, it is now visible in a small building located at the northeast corner of the nearby El Badi` palace.
If visiting the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech has tired you, you will be able to rest in the splendid gardens of Lalla Hasna park, which surround the mosque, which have splendid green alleys and refreshing richly decorated fountains. Or go and discover the ruins of the old mosque (its first version), right next door!
GOOD TO KNOW
Animals are prohibited throughout the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech.
Non-Muslims will not be able to access the interior of the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech. This is how ! But you can still discover it from the outside, and this is probably what, from a tourist point of view, turns out to be the most interesting.
This normally goes without saying, but let's remember it all the same: it is appropriate to behave in a correct manner, and to dress accordingly in this place of worship.