Koutoubia Mosque

Top choice mosque in Djemaa El Fna & Southern Central Medina
Image by monticello / Shutterstock

Five times a day, one voice rises above the Djemaa din as the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer from the Koutoubia Mosque's minaret. The tower is a monumental cheat sheet of Moorish ornament: scalloped keystone arches, jagged merlon crenellations and mathematically pleasing proportions; the square design is an Amazigh trademark. This 12th-century 75m-high tower was the prototype for the Giralda in Seville, Spain. In the 19th century, booksellers clustered around its base – hence the name, from kutubiyyin (booksellers).

The minaret's gleaming brass spire keeps its shine year-round thanks to an old Moroccan technique: each year the balls are filled with mineral-rich salt from the High Atlas, which keeps the spire from oxidising.

A Marrakshi legend tells that the pious Almohads had the original mosque felled half way through construction because it wasn’t properly aligned with Mecca; exact dates of construction are murky. The area northwest of the Koutoubia minaret was once the mosque's prayer hall, which is believed to have collapsed during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, killing hundreds as it fell.