Sunday, March 6, 2011

Portrait of Marrakech: The Koutoubia

The Koutoubia is to Marrakech what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and what the Space Needle is to Seattle. The minaret was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199) and was used as the model for the Giralda of Seville and for the Hassan Tower of Rabat.

The name is derived from the Arabic al-Koutoubiyyin for librarian, since it used to be surrounded by sellers of manuscripts. It is considered the ultimate structure of its kind. The tower is 69 m (221 ft) in height and has a lateral length of 12.8 m (41 ft). Six rooms (one above the other) constitute the interior; leading around them is a ramp by way of which the muezzin could ride up to the balcony. It is built in a traditional Almohad style and the tower is adorned with four copper globes.

According to legend, the globes were originally made of pure gold, and there were once supposed to have been only three globes. The fourth globe was donated by the wife of Yaqub el-Mansur 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 flab the fourth globe.
The minaret of the Koutoubia was the model for the minaret of the Giralda mosque in Seville which in its turn has influenced thousands of church towers in Spain and Eastern Europe.

Gate to the Koutoubia from the garden in the back.
The Koutoubia from the garden in the back.

This beautiful garden was not here when I was living in Marrakech during my Peace Corps days.

This is almost exactly the spot that I used to bring my watercolors to paint the Koutoubia al fresco.

It was great to share my Moroccan experience with my Indonesia

The Koutoubia used to be on lower ground. Notice the position of the doors.

A lovely view of the tower.

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