The Koutoubia mosque is the largest in Marrakech and located just next to the main square, Place Jemaa el Fna’. It derives its name from the Arabic for books “kutub” as there was formerly a book market nearby – way back in 1150. The tower is almost 70 m high and serves as a useful landmark for tourists.
The design of the minaret was highly influential and you see many other mosques with a similar design, most notably the Hassan minaret in Rabat and the La Giralda in Seville, Spain.
The minaret has three copper balls of decreasing size topped by a pointed one at the pinnacle (like one of Hershey’s kisses); legend has it that this was a gift from Saadian ruler Yacoub el Mansour’s wife as an offering for breaking her fast for three hours during Ramadan.
One of the top ten places to visit in Marrakech – unfortunately if you are not Muslim you cannot go inside, but there are very pleasant gardens to stroll in around the outside.
The Sounds of Marrakech
All of our senses come alive when we walk in the Medina. People often write of the sights and smells – the colours, the spices and so on – but what of the sounds?
This week we stumbled upon a wonderful collection of sound vignettes on the website of Reorient Magazine called ‘Here and Now. Voices of Marrakech’. The recordings capture the sounds of Marrakech perfectly.
This is the creator, Julia Tieke, of the ‘soundscape’ or ‘sonic map’ talking about the project:
-Usually visuals take precedence when one visits cities. Do you hear cities?
“I am very aware of the soundscape of cities, and try to exercise separating sounds from sight, as our vision influences our hearing a lot. Sounds are much less clear, and very often ambiguous when separated from their sources. Hearing cities, for me, also goes beyond the literally audible; it includes listening to stories – those told by people, those hidden, and those imagined.”
Just close your eyes and listen and you’ll be taken straight to the souks.
Restaurant Oscar Progrés
On the middle road of the roads leading south of the main square, Place Jemaa’ el Fna’, on the rue Bani Marine, you’ll find Restaurant Oscar Progrés. It’s not chic but is a favourite of travellers and locals. Ambience provided by ceramic tile walls with a band of sculpted plaster above – rows of tables one next to the other so you can strike up conversation with strangers.
You can eat a good, satisfying meal for a very reasonable price – a yogurt dessert is only 3 dirhams. Two people can eat well on 100 dirhams.
20 rue Bani Marine, Marrakech medina
Tel. 06 66 93 71 48 / 06 66 93 71 47