When arriving in Marrakesh, you may be more than a little startled by the loud booming sound, which seems to fill the air at recurrent intervals throughout the day, starting from dawn right through the till daybreak. The thunderous noise is actually the call to congregational prayer, or “adham”, which happens five times a day, each time provoking a rush of movement as locals stream into the nearest mosque. Prayer is obligatory for ever Muslim, with the most important being on Friday afternoon, with a prayer service consisting of a sermon by a religious authority. Clearly, belief and religion hold an integral role in day to day life here, and to understand the Moroccan culture fully, exploring the spiritual side of Marrakesh is of vital importance.
Marrakesh has seven patron saints that have been buried around the city, and for each one, richly embellished shrines (known as Zaouia) have been erected in their honor, which can be traced back to the 16th Century. This makes Marrakesh a place of central religious importance, attracting pilgrims from across the world to come to worship. Although non-Muslim visitors are denied admittance, the tomb facades are impressive architectural constructions that are definitely worth a visit.
But for those of you itching for a peak around a mosque, in the heart of the ‘Medina’ old city is the Ali Ben Youssef Mosque, which is now open to the public. Built in the 12th Century, it is the largest and oldest mosque in Marrakesh, which is an impressive exhibit of Moroccan architecture with an Andalucían twist. After entering the mosque through a low archway, a narrow and dark passageway will lead you out into the splendor of the main courtyard, presenting you with colorful mosaic, focal fountains, and enclosed by a carved wooden screening, crafted by elaborate and intrinsic handwork. Entering the mosque on either side allows you to explore the maze of little prayer rooms, which were once resided in by monks, each with stunning stucco ceilings. The mosque is complete with a comprehensive museum, and an endearing outside cafe to finish off your visit with a mint tea.