Visit the Medina in the evening for the spectacular sight of the minaret lit up.
In the southwest corner of Marrakech’s Medina district - and a stone’s throw from Djemaa El Fna - is the iconic minaret of Koutoubia Mosque. Koutoubiyyin means ‘booksellers,’ in reference to the long-established trade of the nearby souk: at one time as many as 100 booksellers peddled their wares in the surrounding streets.
The mosque itself is an astounding structure, its minaret reaching an impressive 77 metres into the sky. The minaret is topped by a spire, with gilded globes decreasing in size. It is a prototype of Moorish design: its scalloped arches, pointed merlons, band of ceramic tiles and decorative patterning are all features that have been incorporated in religious buildings throughout the country, and similar elements of design can even be found in the Spanish town of Toledo, a legacy of the Moorish conquest.
The present mosque was finished in the 12th century. Nearly 900 years later, the tower is still used by a muezzin to broadcast the call to prayer five times daily. Recent excavations have proved the truth of an old legend: that the original Almoravid structure wasn’t correctly aligned with Mecca, so the pious Almohad caliphate demolished it to build another on the site. Originally, the building was covered in pink plaster, but restorers working in 1990 chose to expose its original brickwork.
Although non-Muslims are not allowed inside the building, Koutoubia remains the quintessential symbol of the Marrakshi skyline for every visitor. The tower is visible from as far as 29 kilometres away - you quite literally can’t miss it!
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