Walking tour in Marrakech! The Mosque that Refused to Die

Walking tour in Marrakech! The Mosque that Refused to Die

 The Ben Youssef Mosque is one of the Marrakech highlights historical site to visit  . The mosque is huge, and it is located in the medina quarter of Marrakech, which naturally makes it virtually impossible to miss. Also, there are a number of other popular attractions very close to where this mosque is located, so most visitors find themselves in the vicinity anyway.

The Ben Youssef Mosque has been the most important mosque in Marrakech ever since it was first built, and it is still the most important mosque in the city. As is the case with some mosques, non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the mosque.

Fortunately for non-Muslims, you can still snap some excellent photos of the exterior. Ben Youssef Mosque is arguably the oldest mosque in the city, and it is one with a rather fascinating history.

A Brief History

The original Ben Youssef Mosque was built in 1070 by Yusuf ibn Tashfin, an Almoravid emir. It was built to serve as the central place of worship for Marrakech which at that time was only a tiny fledgling city.

It was one of the very first buildings to be built from bricks, and it is said that ibn Tashfin was personally involved in the building work, mixing mortar and laying bricks alongside other workers.

Later, his son, Ali ibn Yusuf, went on to build an even bigger and grander central mosque which was completed at some point between 1121 and 1132. This mosque was named Masjid al-Siqaya (Mosque of the Fountain) due to a huge fountain and its solid marble basin located in the mosque’s courtyard.

It is believed that the fountain and the marble basin cost around 60,000 gold dinars.

In 1147, when the Almohads captured Marrakech after having defeated the Almoravids, the Almohad caliph Abd al-Mu’min was of the belief that the mosque’s mihrub was not perfectly aligned with Mecca. He determined that it was in fact pointing 6 degrees to the south of Mecca, and as a result, he promptly issued orders for the mosque to be demolished, and for a new mosque to be built on top of it.

Despite the old mosque being destroyed, the name of the original mosque refused to die, and so the new mosque also became known as the Ben Youssef Mosque.

A few hundred years later in 1563, during the time of the Saadian dynasty, sharif Abdallah al-Ghalib had the Ben Youssef Mosque totally refurbished.

As the city began to grow and spread, the original city center drifted away from the mosque, and newer mosques soon began to take center stage. However, a vast Islamic educational institute was build next to the mosque, and this more or less gave it a new lease on life.

Nonetheless, the mosque fell into a serious state of disrepair during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Later, during the 19th century, the ruling Alaouite sultan Suleiman gave the orders to completely renovate the Ben Youssef Mosque. Rather than just being renovated, the mosque was almost entirely rebuilt.

Today, there are almost no remaining traces of either Almoravid architecture or Almohad architecture, but once again, the original name has survived.

Visiting the Mosque of Ben Youssef

Ben Youssef Madrasa is located in the northern medina and a ten-minute walk from Djemaa el Fna. Take for example, the 1 km route through the souks Stailia, Harazzine al Bali and al Qassasine — watch out for the signposts leading the way to the Madrasa.

Opening hours:

The Madrasa is open daily

  • from April 1st to September 30th: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • from October 1st to March 31st: 9 a.m.– 6 p.m.

Entrance fee:

  • Ben Youssef Madras: DH 40
  • Combined ticket (Koubba, Madrasa, Museum of Marrakesh): DH 60

About Author