The Koutoubia cannot be visited but only admired. More than 70m high, it is the pride of the inhabitants of Marrakech. It was restored a few years ago and at night it lights up, imposing and visible from far away. The Koutoubia meaning “The Mosque of the Booksellers” takes its name from the fact that its former location was in the souk of the manuscript merchants (Al-Kutbiyyine). It is the most famous monument of Marrakech, one of the largest and oldest and paradoxically, the one that is not visited. Indeed, only Muslims are allowed to enter. This prohibition was instituted by Lyautey who wanted to make it a real place of asylum and prayer. There were two Koutoubia built. We can distinguish the remains of the first Koutoubia, built in the twelfth century and which had apparently a bad orientation in relation to Mecca.
Built by the Khalifa Adeb El Moumen Ibn Ali in the twelfth century, with a minaret of 77 meters, built in a rather austere style, is composed of a large courtyard, a prayer hall, the qibla wall (indicating the direction of orientation for prayer). It is one of the oldest mosques in Morocco and the Maghreb that fascinate until today its visitors with its beauty and its Spanish-Moorish architecture. It served as a model for the construction of the Hassan Mosque in Rabat, and the Giralda in Seville.
The second one (the one that can be admired today) started by Sultan Abd El Moumen and completed by his grandson Yacoub el Mansour is of a great architectural simplicity.
The minaret is surmounted by 4 golden copper balls (the largest measuring 2 meters in diameter!); legend has it that they were originally made of gold with the jewels of Yacoub El Mansour’s wife to punish her for breaking the Ramadan fast by eating grapes. The 4 faces of the Koutoubia are decorated differently. One can admire sculptures in the stucco, ceramics, epigraphs, ornaments in the form of flowers. Inside, there are 6 superimposed rooms, decorated with a huge ramp that allowed to go to the platform on horseback or with carts. It is 77 meters high, 90 meters wide (the minaret is only 12 m2), 60 meters deep, can hold up to 20,000 worshippers and is considered one of the most beautiful monuments in North Africa.
At the foot of the Koutoubia stands the white koubba, the tomb of the daughter of a great religious leader of the 17th century.
You can also walk in the gardens around the mosque while discovering the architecture of the mosque and its decorative richness which make it one of the masterpieces of the Hispano-Moorish art.
It is a great pride for the Marrakchis as well as for the faithful. Some parts were used as a model for the construction of the Giralda in Seville and the Hassan Tower in Rabat.
For tourists, it is an excellent landmark because you can see it from far away and if you are lost, just walk in its direction. Originally, when it was also a religious school, there were hundreds of booksellers (Koutoubiyines) who gathered there to sell their manuscripts.
There was a great cultural animation which was lost over the centuries; today, it is a monument impossible to circumvent whose renovation finished in 1998 saw gathering specialists of the whole world in order to give again the glare which it has now.
Don’t forget to go and admire this great illuminated tower at night, an indestructible jewel of Hispano-Moorish and Almohad art. In any case, this monument is so imposing that you will not be able to avoid it.
How to get there?
It is located on avenue Mohamed V near the Jemaa El Fna square.
You can go there by small cab or better by taking a carriage.
Medina Jamaa El Fena, 40000, Morocco