Grand Mosque of Tangier, a ticket straight to paradise
When visiting an Arab city, or anywhere with a large Muslim population, you’ll always find a prominent minaret piercing the skyline. You’ll spot several minarets in Tangier but the one with the longest history belongs to the Grand Mosque in the historic centre, next to the Medina quarter.
Organise your trip to Tangier well so you can make the most of every moment without missing any of the main attractions. If the Grand Mosque appeals, you’ll also enjoy visiting the city’s palaces and museums, or strolling the streets of the Kasbah and Medina to soak up some history. Set aside some time for sitting at one of Tangier’s historic cafés where you can muse on the life and works of the many artists (including Matisse and Delacroix) who considered the city to be one of their favourite places in the world. And if you’re a TV and film fan, you’ll also have plenty to do in Tangier because numerous films have been made here, such as “El tiempo entre costuras”, based on the wonderful novel by María Dueñas.
- History of the Grand Mosque of Tangier
- The building of the Grand Mosque of Tangier
- How to visit the Grand Mosque of Tangier
- Where to stay in Tangier
This post focuses on the Grand Mosque of Tangier and includes all the information you’ll need to appreciate its impressive exterior.
History of the Grand Mosque of Tangier
The Grand Mosque of Tangier has a history that can be traced back for centuries. The current building dates from the 19th century but the site has been used for religious purposes since 5th century AD when a Roman church stood here. Three centuries later, following the Arab conquest of Tangier, the Marinid family had the building converted into a mosque and it was used for this purpose until the 15th century. Then came the period of Portuguese and British domination and the mosque was replaced by a church. But that wasn’t the end of its journey: in 1684 Moulay Ismail reconquered the city for the Alawi Dynasty who restored it to a mosque. The definitive change came in 1815 when sultan Suleiman decided to have it rebuilt and gave it the magnificent appearance visitors can see today. It was later expanded and restored in 1962 and 2001. The end to its tale is bittersweet because although it once stood in the heart of the city, the city centre was later moved far away when the French built the Nouvelle Ville. But, as you’ll see when you visit it in person, there is something special about this place.
The building of the Grand Mosque of Tangier
If you could see a 3D image of the building, you’d see that it’s rectangular in shape and 34 m long from north to south and 30 m wide from east to west. The main entrance is in the centre of the north-east side, opposite the mihrab which is located in the centre of the south-east wall. Inside, which you can just about glimpse if you lean round the door, there is a prayer hall and an interior courtyard (11 m wide by 13 m long) with a fountain for ritual ablutions. Make sure you look for the minaret on the north-east corner. Its square floor plan is around 4 m on each side and the upper part has a decorative battlement followed by a further shaft that is topped by a pyramid-shaped dome with metallic finishing.
The walls of the main building of the Grand Mosque of Tangier are covered in white stucco, although some surfaces around the doors and part of the minaret have green and orange ceramic tiles in geometric shapes. If you could look down on it from above, you’d see that the roof is covered in green ceramic tiles.
How to visit the Grand Mosque of Tangier
Unfortunately, you can’t visit the Grand Mosque unless you’re a Muslim. If you are, you are free to go and pray there. If you’re female, you’ll need to check whether or not there is a separate space inside. Although you might not be able to enter, it’s still worth visiting to admire the details of the mosque’s exterior and to discover its convoluted history first-hand.
And if you’d like to discover more mosques, you could tour the city to see the magnificent mosque of Mohammed V in the square of the same name; the Casabarata mosque and its beautiful ochre iron arches; Sidi Bou Abib Mosque, in 9 April Square; and the surprising Syrian mosque with its original minaret.
Where to stay in Tangier
You need to spend several days in Tangier to see it properly so we recommend choosing a hotel and staying for at least two or three nights. The Barceló Tánger is one of the best options, a four-star hotel with all the assurances of a Spanish hotel group. The hotel has 138 comfortable rooms where you can rest from seeing the sights and excellent facilities with a large pool, restaurants, a snack bar, café and pub. It’s a magnificent place to stay and you can combine touring the city with visiting the beach, which is just two minutes away, and exploring the surrounding area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the Grand Mosque of Tangier?
The Grand Mosque of Tangier is in the Medina quarter, close to the Petit Socco. To reach it, walk along Rue de la Marina from the Socco towards the port. You’ll find it in a couple of minutes.
Can you visit the Grand Mosque of Tangier?
No, there are no tours of the Grand Mosque of Tangier. You can’t visit it independently either unless you’re a Muslim and go there to pray. However, the exterior of the building is well worth seeing.
When was the Grand Mosque of Tangier built?
The Grand Mosque as seen today originates from the 19th century but a Christian temple stood on this site in the 5th century. It has a fascinating history and was once the largest mosque in Tangier and the centre of city life.