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Morocco’s splendid Koutoubia Mosque!

Architecture

The mosque is made of red stone, formerly plastered, and has six rooms in succession, one above the other. It was designed so as to prevent anyone gazing in from the minaret to the harems of the king. Even in the modern day, such restrictions are enforced by blocking Google Earth access to Moroccans.

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.

Photograph from 1930, By Walter Mittelholzer – E-Pics Bildarchiv online, Public Domain

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.

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.

Koutoubia Mosque grounds, By Dániel Csörföly – Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The minbar was designed by engineer al-Hajj Ya’ish of Málaga. It is carved in sandalwood and ebony with ivory and silver inlay work. It is regarded as one of the unsurpassed creations of Islamic art.

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.

The Minaret Tower, By NicolasLoeuillet – Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

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 minaret is topped by a spire. The spire includes gilded copper balls, decreasing in size towards the top, a traditional style of Morocco.

Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco, By joaomaximo – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Sources: Wikipedia, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, E-Pics Bildarchiv online
Cover Image by Marcin Sochacki – Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0