dimanche 16 octobre 2011

The Koutoubia


the absence of any architectural feature on Djemaa El Fna - which even today seems like a haphazard clearing -serves to emphasize the drama of the Koutoubia Minaret, the focus of any approach to the city. Nearly seventy metres high and visible for miles on a clear morning, this is the oldest of the three great Almohad towers (the others remaining are the tour hassan in Rabat and the Giralda in Seville)and the most complete.its proportions-a 1:5 ratio of width to height -established the classic Moroccan design. Its scale, rising from the low city buildings and the plains to the north, is extraordinary, the more so the longer you stay and the more familiar its sight becomes.
Completed by Sultan Yacoub El Mansour (1184-99), Work on the minaret probably began shortly after the Almohad conquest of the city, around 1150. It displays many of the features that were to become widespread in Moroccan architecture - the wide band of ceramic inlay near the top, the pyramid-shaped, castellated merlons rising above it, the use of darj w ktarf and other motifs -and it also established the alternation of patterning on different faces. Here, the top floor is similar on each of the sides but the lower two are almost eccentric in their variety; the most interesting is perhaps the middle niche on the southeast face, a semicircle of small lobed arches, which was to become the dominant decorative feature of Almohad gates.
If you look hard, you will notice that at around this point,the stones of the main body of the tower become slightly smaller. This seems odd today but originally the whole minaret would have been covered with plaster and its tiers of decoration painted. To see just how much this can change the whole effect - and, to most tastes, lessen much of its beauty - take a look at the Kasbah mosque (by the saadain Tombs) which has been carefully but completely restored in this manner.
there have been plans over the years to do the same with the Koutoubia and the local press have recently been running a number of articles on various schemes, possibly involving a restoration of the whole mosque area. To date, however, the only parts of the structure that have been renovated are the three gilt balls made of copper at the summit.These are the subject of numerous legends, mostly of supernatural intervention to keep away the thieves.They are thought originally to have been made of gold and were possibly the gift of the wife of Yacoub El Mansour, presented as a penance for breaking her fast for three hours during Ramadan.
Currently,the tower itself is encased in scaffolding, the purpose of which is not yet clear. At the same time ,archeologists are excavating the precincts of the mosque,possibly to verify that the original mosque, which predates the tower, had to be rebuilt to correct its alignment with Mecca.
Alongside the mosque, and close to Av.Mohammed V, is the tomb of Fatima Zohra, now in white koubba. She was the daughter of a seventeenth-century religious leader and tradition has it that she was a women by day and a white dove by night; consequently children dedicated to her,even today, never eat pigeons.

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