The Koutoubia, resplendent by day and night

An emblematic monument that watches over the medina, the Koutoubia dominates the imperial city from the top of its 69 metres and represents a landmark for orientation. A product of Almohad architecture, this religious edifice was built in the 12th century. It is commonly known as the Booksellers' Mosque due to its location in the old manuscript merchants' souk, to which it owes its name. Each facade has different characteristics. At the top of its minaret, you can admire 3 globes symbolising the holy places of Islam. Unfortunately, the Koutoubia is not open to the public and cannot be visited, but it is still worth a look from the outside and remains one of the must-see monuments. Don't hesitate to come back at night to see the mosque illuminated.

The Koutoubia, mosque in the Medina, Marrakech, Morocco.

- © monticello/Shutterstock

The cultural heritage of a religious dynasty

This is the most important religious building in the ochre city. The first mosque was built in 1148 after the conquest of the city by the Almohad sultan Abdelmoumen, the first caliph of the Almohad dynasty, a Berber family with a pious upbringing. For reasons that are still unclear, he had the first version demolished. The most widely held hypothesis is that he discovered that the building was facing the wrong way. After its demolition, he had a new mosque rebuilt in 1158, which is the current version.

The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech, Morocco.

- ©FreeProd33/Shutterstock

Left unfinished, his grandson, Yacoub Al-Mansour, took over the construction and completed the minaret as we know it today. Apart from its orientation, the plan, dimensions and materials used are similar. Revered, envied and copied, it was also used as a model for the construction of other mosques in Morocco and around the world. Beautiful by day, the sun reflects its rays on the terracotta-coloured façade; it shines at nightfall when it is dressed in light.

The twinkling lights of the Koutoubia Mosque at sunset, Marrakech, Morocco.

- ©saiko3p/123RF

The mosque and its minaret were restored in the late 1990s. As part of our concern for the environment, a number of improvements were installed in 2016, including solar panels, solar water heaters and energy-efficient lamps to help promote renewable energies.

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Details not to be missed

The Islamic monument is in the shape of a 'T', a tradition in mosque construction dating back to the 9th century. It comprises a large inner courtyard, a portico adorned with columns that encircle the patio and a prayer room. The direction of Mecca is indicated by the mihrab, set in a niche, and the minaret has a square shape, which is fairly traditional in the Muslim world.

Close-up of the tall minaret of the Koutoubia, Marrakech, Morocco.

- ©Morocko/Shutterstock

Overall, the mosque's architecture is sober, in keeping with Muslim building codes. On the other hand, the minaret, which was completed later, is much more elaborate, topped by 3 copper balls representing the high places of Islam: Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

The top of the minaret of the Koutoubia, Marrakech, Morocco.

- ©Kutredrig/123RF

Where can you have a drink at the foot of the Koutoubia?

Close to the mosque, you can step back just long enough to contemplate it from another angle and sit on the terrace in the sunshine. The Médina Rouge café has a lovely panoramic view over the square in front of the great religious building. The menu offers oriental specialities and other fast-food dishes. Ideal for a quick bite to eat and a lunch break after your visit.

Where to stay?

⭐ Les Jardins de La Koutoubia

Just a stone's throw from the monument, this 5* establishment, with its rather evocative name, offers a top-of-the-range experience right in the heart of the ochre city. A true haven of peace in a dream location, just a stone's throw from Jemaa-el-Fna Square, Marrakech's cultural hub. The sumptuous setting blends contemporary style with Moroccan tradition, while remaining very chic.

The Koutoubia Gardens Marrakech
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The Koutoubia Gardens

The establishment is set around a **sumptuous flower-filled patio** where a **magnificent swimming pool** surrounded by palm trees proudly stands. For a wellness break, the accommodation has a **spa Carita** and a jacuzzi.
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by Val HANCOCK
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