MARRAKECH: PART 1: LA KOUTOUBIA MOSQUE
Marrakech, the red city: even it’s name tastes exotic. To a “westerner” of Jade’s time, it was a remote and mysterious. The French made the city more accessible by constructing a decent road stretching from Rabat to Casablanca to Marrakech, the road that our heroine, Jade, traveled in her adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter. It was also a road that author, Edith Wharton, took in 1917. And, just as when Jade approached the city hidden behind tall palm gardens, the first sign of Marrakech was the imposing tower of Koutoubia Mosque.
This mosque, which means booksellers mosque, was surrounded by booksellers markets and a library. Constructed by Yakoub el-Mansour in the late 1100’s, it stands 70 meters (76.5 yards) tall, and is the tallest structure in Marrakech by decree. But height is not enough to make an impressive structure. Something about the desert-colored stone, the straight, unwavering walls strikes a note of defiance in its appearance. It demands to endure against the desert and to be noticed, not an easy task with the Atlas mountains in the background. Ms. Wharton wrote (In Morocco, 1920, page 106) “The Koutoubya would be magnificent anywhere: in this flat desert it is grand enough to face the Atlas.”
NEXT WEEK: THE RED CITY RAMPARTS