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The Almoravid koubba

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The Almoravid koubba (Koubba Ba’adiyn) is just a small, two-storey kiosk, but as the only Almoravid building to survive intact in Morocco (excepting possibly a minaret in Tit near El Jadida), its style is at the root of all Moroccan architecture. Its motifs – such as pine cones, palms and acanthus leaves – appear again in later buildings such as the nearby Ben Youssef Medersa. The windows on each of the different sides became the classic shapes of Almohad and Merenid design – as did the merlons, the complex “ribs” on the outside of the dome, and the square and star-shaped octagon on the inside, which is itself repeated at each of its corners. It was probably just a small ablutions annexe to the Ben Youssef Mosque, but its architecture gives us our only clue as to what that mosque might originally have looked like.

Excavated only in 1952, the koubba had previously been covered over amid the many rebuildings of the Ben Youssef Mosque. It is well below today’s ground level, and you have to go down two flights of stairs to get to the level it was built at, now uncovered once again thanks to excavations. Once down there, you can also look around the attendant facilities, including a large water cistern, and remains of latrines and fountains for performing ablutions, much like those you will still find adjacent to many Moroccan mosques.

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