The largest mosque in Marrakech is the Koutoubia Mosque. It is located in the southwest medina quarter of Marrakesh about 200 metres west of the city’s Jemaa El Fna souq. Construction was completed during the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184–1199). It later inspired other buildings such as the Hassan Tower in Rabat.
The mosque is made of red stone and brick measuring 80 metres long and 60 metres wide. The minaret was designed to prevent any one at the top of the tower from peeking into the king’s harems. The minaret stands 77 metres high was originally covered in pink plaster but in the 1990s was removed to expose the original stone works.
When the Koutoubia mosque was built, the orientation facing Mecca was off by 5°. The solution was to build a second mosque, the present Koutoubia. The two mosques existed side by side, the first as a sort of annexe. As time passed by, the older structure fell into disrepair and eventual ruin.
From afar, the minaret is surrounded by palm trees giving that garden feeling.
The 77m high minaret of the Koutoubia mosque.
Copper balls on top of the minaret that tapers upwards, a style unique to Morocco.
A distance view of the minaret.
Part of the Koutoubia mosque.
Ruins of the 1st mosque next to the current.
Whats left of the foundation of the 1st mosque.
The Koutoubia mosque facing a fountain.
Yet another fountain further down. To the left & right, orange trees flank the walkways.
The Menara Gardens (if it could even be called a garden, there are no flowers) is about 4km from Djeema El Fna. Built in the 12th century it consists of a long wide boulevard flanked by rows upon rows of olive trees leading to an artificial basin and a pavilion. Entering the garden, you would likely be harassed to buy cheap clothing, souvenirs and camel rides.
The basin is used to irrigate the surrounding gardens and orchards. The basin gets its water from the mountains approximately 30 km away from Marrakech. There are fishes in the basin if you care to feed them.
On a fine day it is said that you can see the Atlas mountains in the distance but in November nothing much can be said of this. It is a well photographed site in Marrakech appearing on postcards and brochures. It might be different at other times of the year as pictures of the Atlas mountains from the Menara gardens is fantastic. So, if you only have time to spare and be there at the correct time of the year, you may want to visit the Menara Gardens.
The basin with the pavilion in the background. There are fishes in the basin.
Closer view of the pavilion.
Marrakech’s Menara International airport ATC tower in the background.
Olive trees, rows upon rows.
Care for a camel ride? You’ll find them at the entrance of Menara Garden.
About the only souvenir you need not be harassed to get. A greeting card written with your name in Arabic. Unique actually.
In all fairness, depending on the time of your visit, you could get a shot like this of the Menara Gardens, the pavilion and the Atlas mountain at the back. Credit:darijadictionary.com
About the size of a football field, Djemaa el Fna (as well as the medina) is the main reason for us coming to Morocco. We have seen documentaries regarding this square and decided that we have to experience it for ourselves.
Djemaa el Fna presents an ever-changing character from the time of the rising sun till well into the night. It is a mixture of color, scent, smell, sight and sound and is the main attraction in Marrakech if not Morocco. It is not just a tourist attraction as many locals too enjoy the activities the square offers.
During the day it is predominantly occupied by orange juice stalls, water sellers, snack stalls, monkeys performing acts and snake charmer.
As the day progresses, Djemaa el Fna becomes more crowded, with dancing-boys, story-tellers, musicians, healers, magicians and peddlers of traditional medicines.
Before darkness sets in, the square fills with food-stalls as the number of people in the square peaks. These street food stalls have large variety of traditional dishes to choose from that includes meat, vegetables and fish. Either the dishes has been prepared or it will be cooked upon your order.
At the fringes of the Djemaa el Fna square, stalls selling toys.
Orange juice sellers and musicians.
Approaching late evening, women folks getting their hands a henna tattoo.
A horse carriage ride if you fancy.
The square is busy with locals and tourists alike.
The evening peddlers packing up giving way for the night eating stalls.
While the eating stalls are being set up, tea sellers are already up to speed.
Locals are a hungry lot. Stalls not fully up, the eating started. Chefs busy preparing cooking ingredients.
Up there on the terrace is where you want to be, to see the square transforms into eating stalls before nightfall. You are expected to purchase something from the cafe to get up the terrace. Just a soda is fine.
From the terrace above, you’ll have a commanding view of the square.
Nightfall setting in and only a couple of orange juice stalls remains. Otherwise, they dominate the square from the morning.
The eating stalls are almost all up.
At twilight, the glow of the electric bulbs lights up the square.
Ok, they are ready for customers.
Stall owners busy preparing their dishes.
Stall No. 1 belongs to Chez (chef) Aicha.
Varieties of local delicacies.
Locals and tourists enjoying their meals.
Our guide Mr Ridzuan treating us to local tea. Thank you.
The busy square at night.
Walking back to our bus parked close by Koutoubia mosque.