Not to be confused with the small fridge found in hotel rooms, a minbar is roughly the Islamic equivalent to a pulpit, the steps an Imam ascends during midday Friday prayers. It follows the form of the stairs used by the Prophet Mohammed to address the faithful in Mecca, and still remains an essential part of mosque architecture today.
The minbar de la Koutoubia is considered a masterpiece of Islamic art. Indeed, it is undoubtedly one of the finest works of art in wood known to mankind. Built in 1139 in Cordoba during the Almoravid dynasty for Ali Ben Youssef mosque the minbar is decorated with over 1000 intricate carvings in the style of 12th century Moorish art including carved floral motifs, Kufic calligraphy and Quranic scripture. In 1147, however, the Almohad Puritans entered Marrakech and ordered the total destruction of the Ben Youssef mosque – the mihrab was, it seemed, not facing Mecca. But the minbar seemed too exquisite to be destroyed and was moved to the Koutoubia Mosque, where it lived for 8 centuries.
Today the minbar de la Koutoubia has been lovingly restored and rests in El Badi Palace, right in the middle of our ‘Woodworking’ Medina walk available on our free Marrakech Riad App. The El Badi Palace has a small, 10 dirham entrance fee and it costs a further 10 dirhams to visit the small museum that houses the minbar de la Koutoubia, a small price to pay to witness such a unique piece of Marrakech history and a fine example of the traditional woodworking technique and design.