A lighthouse monument both in the literal and figurative sense, the Koutoubia Mosque is a must-see attraction during your visit to Marrakesh. The Koutoubia is the second biggest mosque in Morocco after the Hassan II Mosque, in Casablanca, and can welcome up to 20 000 worshippers.
An imposing building
With its 252-feet high minaret, the Koutoubia is the highest building in the city, to which the faithful turn at the call for prayer. It is also a good reference point for lost travelers. This minaret inspired other constructions and in particular the Hassan Tour in Rabat, but also the Giralda of Seville.
The construction of the mosque began in 1220 by the Almohad sultan Abd El Moumen, who wished to commemorate his victory over the Almoravid Berbers. The name Koutoubia is linked to its location. Indeed, it was originally a market of secondhand booksellers, the “Koutoubiyines”. They would sell their manuscripts here.
It was in 1162 that the emir Abou Youssef El-Mansour, his grandson, undertook the construction of a second mosque, since the first one wasn’t correctly oriented. The foundations of the first mosque are still visible today in the building’s courtyard.
The minaret of Koutoubia is topped by a roof lantern, which itself is crested by an arrow endowed with four gold-plated copper balls. According to legend, they were originally made of gold. The metal would have come from the melted jewelry of one of Youssef El-Mansour’s spouses, who had been punished for eating three raisins during the Ramadan.
The different prayers throughout the day are signaled by flags that are hoisted to the summit. This monument, however, cannot be visited, since it is reserved to the faithful. But you will nonetheless enjoy visiting the souks
or the Jaama el Fna square
to delve into Moroccan culture.