Tin Mel mosque is the spiritual Amazigh (Berber) heartland of the Almohads who came out of the desert in the south and were led by the Mahdi Mohamed Ibn Toumert of the Masmoudi tribe who had returned from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and declared a jihad against the Almoravids whom he considered to be decadent proclaiming a pure and austere form of islam. He built a fortified town called a ribat with a mosque in 1122.
Ibn Toumert inspired the mountain people and gained a following aiming to take Marrakech , 100 kms from Tin Mel which became the base for the Almohads. It was Ibn Toumert’s successor , Abd el Mumin who actually took Marrakech in 1148 after Ibn Toumert’s death. He built the mosque we now see at Tin Mel. It’s minaret was modelled on the great minaret of Koutoubia in Marrakech and the great mosque of Taza near Fez also built by Abd el Mumin. All of Ibn Toumert’s relatives were killed off after his death, it was quite literally a cut throat business to prevent later attempts at succession.
Tin Mel’s mosque looks like a fortress which it was for a time. Situated on a hillside overlooking the river N’Fis with all round visibility along the wide valley topped by snow capped peaks.The stone minaret is very short and probably collapsed during the long period of neglect following the destruction of the fortified town and the death of all its inhabitants by the Merenids in 1269 , until the restoration work on the mosque under the auspices of UNESCO in 1997.
The restoration included the reestablishment of the rows of large pillars with arches which are one of the features on Tin Mel. Not all the pillars have been completed. The walls and pillars are the red earthen colour you can see on the ramparts of Marrakech. The mosque would probably have been painted in white.Its rugged simplicity includes some decorative features such as the the mirhrab the niche where the imam leads the prayer (which unusually is placed at the base of the minaret). The mosque has three doors on either side and you can imagine the congregation entering . They would have discussed strategies for the next campaign. The fighting lasted of generations as their army grew and they eventually conquered the whole of the Maghreb region, Spain and Portugal.
The Almohad Sultans were buried at Tin Mel and before a campaign they came to pray there. They never forgot their roots and the inspiration of the Mahdi Ibn Toumert.
The mosque has no roof but this gives it a light and airy feel, open to the heavens.It’s still the village mosque and may be closed for prayer on Fridays. Otherwise the official keeper is happy to show you round and give an informative talk in French.
Only two mosques in Morocco are open to non muslims, Tin Mel and the vast King Hassan II mosque in Casablanca.
On the return journey to Marrakech via the village of Ijoukak and Ouirgane you can stop for lunch at Momo’s restaurant with its excellent cuisine and pleasant pool side garden.
Our riad Staff are happy to arrange comfortable vehicles and English speaking drivers to help you to explore the wonders of Morocco.