The Koutoubia Mosque
77 Meters tall and nearly 13 meters wide… Koutoubia, situated in the west of the place Djemaâ El Fna, is without doubt the symbol of the town. Its name is said to come from the <<kutubiyyin>>, sellers of manuscripts who in the middle Ages sold their wares on the courtyard in front of the mosque. However, according to other sources, its name may have come from the fact that it housed a huge library on the 6 floors of its minaret. It was built on the ruins of the former almoravid palace. The Koutoubia Mosque was completed under the reign of the Almohad dynasty CaliphYaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199) and was used as model for the Giralda of Seville then for the Hassan Tower of Rabat. The minaret is subject to seven legends that symbolize Marrakesh’s seven patrons. Among the seven, the most famous according to legend, is that the balls of the minaret were originally made of pure gold, and there were once supposed to have been only three. The fourth was donated by the wife of Yacoub el-Mansour as compensation for her failure to keep the fast for one day during the month of Ramadan. She had her golden jewelry melted down to fashion the fourth globewhich she offered in atonement for breaking the Ramadan fast. The balance of the balls is supposed to be kept by the influence of the planets.
The mosque is made of red stone, formerly plastered, and has six rooms in succession, one above the other. Architectural details of the old mosque and the new mosque are identical except for the orientation. Hence, what is true of one holds true for the other, though the first mosque is now derelict. It is designed in a traditional Almohad style and the tower is adorned with copper globes.
The building, of bricks and sandstone, measures 80 metres (260 ft) in width towards the east and 60 metres (200 ft) to the west along a north to south direction. Brick work is found in the columns, arcades, middle of the qibla wall, and niche of the mihrab. Sandstone is used for the external walls built in the southern, eastern and western directions. The stone wall on the northern side abutted the old Almoravid fortress wall. The surfaces are enlivened by simple designs. All window sections have horseshoe-shaped and multifoil arches, arranged within a rectangle.
There are six interior rooms, one above the other. Wrapping around them is a ramp which can be used by the muezzin to reach the balcony. The prayer hall is in a "T" shape. It is large, to the south, and abuts the courtyard at its northern end. The prayer hall is a hypostyle with more than 100 columns which support horseshoe-shaped arches along the parallel naves. The mihrab niche is on the qibla wall in the prayer hall along the widened central nave, for which entry is from the courtyard.
The minaret is designed in almohad style and was constructed of sandstone. It was originally covered with Marrakshi pink plaster, but in the 1990s, experts opted to expose the original stone work and removed the plaster. The minaret tower is 77 metres (253 ft) in height, including the spire, itself 8 metres (26 ft) tall. Each side of the square base is 12.8 metres (42 ft) in length. The minaret is visible from a distance of 29 kilometres (18 mi). Its prominence makes it a landmark structure of Marrakesh, which is maintained by an ordinance prohibiting any high rise buildings (above the height of a palm tree) to be built around it. The muezzin calling the faithful for the adhan (prayer), is given from the four cardinal directions at the top of the minaret.