Thursday, 23 June 2011

Tin Mal

Tin Mal mosque lies just off the Tizi n' Test below the col on the Marrakech side. Its village is now called Ifouriren and is just your average Atlas village of some hundreds of inhabitants, but when the mosque was built in the 12th century this was a town of some 20,000. It was the original stronghold of the Almohad dynasty from where they conquered Marrakesh and then the whole of Morocco and Islamic Spain.
The mosque is being restored using historical building techniques (no cement) and except for the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca is the only mosque in Morocco open to non-muslims. There is a small entrance fee and the guardian will give you a guided tour in expectation of a gratuity. The mosque is important architecturally because it is the prototype for all Almohad mosques and the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakesh is modelled on it. 
The Almohads appear to have been the Taliban of their time.Their founder Ben Toumert was a native of the Atlas but when he was about 26 he journeyed first to Cordoba and thence to the middle east. He returned after 12 years in 1118 travelling through the Mahgreb preaching against the Malakite strand of Islam which was orthodox under the then ruling Almoravid dynasty. He preached a strict form of Islam, combined a nationalist appeal by writing in the Berber language and having the call to prayer cried in Berber. He preached against wine, music and women mixing in male society; woman going unveiled or men wearing the veil.He acted as Iman and Judge and used whippings and public executions to encourage those lacking in religous fervour.He also set up a strictly heirachical government and administrative system , identified himself with the Mahdi and called for a Holy War against the "godless states" of the Almoravids. It was however his successor Abd al-Moumin who was able to seize Marrakesh  and eventually the Mahgrebi/Spanish empire. He built Tin Mal mosque in memory of Ben Toumert .
The mosque is very simple with minimal ornamentation in accordance with Almohid religous doctrine. It is an austere 61mx42m rectangle comprising a prayer hall and forecourt. The central aisle opposite the mihrab is slightly wider than the others and has some stucco decoration the arches having friezes of geometric decoration. The whole is surrounded by a crenellated wall which probably formed part of the town's fortifications.There is a single short tower-like minaret.

Tin Mal mosque in the High Atlas

Stucco decoration on horseshoe arches. Tin Mal mosque.

Central Aisle Tin Mal Mosque

Horseshoe arches Tin Mal Mosque

View to courtyard Tin Mal Mosque

Restored roof Tin Mal Mosque  

Tin Mal Mosque

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