Koutoubia Mosque Place guide



Koutoubia Mosque

Two hundred meters to the west of Jemaa El Fna lies Koutoubia Mosque, the city’s pre-eminent landmark visible for miles around.


Marrakech’s Most Recognizable Icon

Two hundred meters to the west of Jemaa El Fna lies Koutoubia Mosque, the city’s pre-eminent landmark visible for miles around. Standing at 77m (252ft), it towers over the Medina where other buildings are prohibited from rising above the height of a palm tree. 

Originally built in 1147, the minaret is the oldest of the three great towers erected by Morocco’s 12th-century Almohad rulers. The two others are Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda in Seville, Spain. The first structure was demolished because it was not correctly aligned with Mecca, and was reconstructed more than half a century later under the Almohad Caliph Yacoub El-Mansour. 

The name Koutoubia derives from the Arabic for “booksellers”, reflecting the manuscript-selling that used to thrive in the surrounding streets. The mosque’s exterior is of red stone, the tower 13 meters (43ft) wide. Its proportions give it an extraordinary lightness of feel, with a 1:5 ratio of width and height setting the standard for minarets throughout the country. 

Lit up at night, Koutoubia Mosque provided the focal point for urban planner Henri Prost when he laid out the modern neighborhood of Gueliz. Legend says that this structure once overlooked the harem, and only a blind muezzin was allowed to climb it to call the faithful to prayer.

Inside Koutoubia: Non-muslims are forbidden inside the mosque itself, so for the benefit of those who can’t enter…

Six rooms on top of each other constitute the mosque’s interior. A ramp leads around them allowing the muezzin to reach the balcony, with enough space for him to go on horseback!

The minaret is topped with four copper globes, allegedly made of pure gold originally. They were said to be only three, until the wife of Yacoub El-Mansour donated another to make up for eating four grapes during Ramadan. Her self-imposed penance involved melting down her gold jewellery to fashion the fourth sphere. 

Outside the mosque, around the plaza, one will find sunken areas that used to be reservoirs that served Dar El-Hajar – a fortress built by Youssef Ben Tachfine, Marrakech’s founder. It was the first permanent structure of the pre-city encampment, but it didn’t last long. The Almohads destroyed it, replacing it with the first mosque to stand on the site. 

Koubba of Lalla Zohra: A small, white-domed shrine on the plaza that used to be open to the public until the former mayor’s sun ploughed his car into the structure. The door was sealed up as part of the repairs. 

How to visit: It’s possible to walk around either side of the Koutoubia, clockwise between the main entrance and wall enclosing the grounds of the French Consulate. You can also go counter-clockwise along the top of the Almohad ruins; either route leads into the orange tree filled Koutoubia Gardens. You can also view it from the roof of Hotel Islane opposite…

Koutoubia Gardens
Open daily 8am-6pm at Av Houman el Fetouaki

To Koutoubia’s south and west lie these attractively laid out gardens featuring pools and fountains, roses, orange trees and palms. Marrakshis promenade here beneath excellent views of the mosque. 

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