Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Historical Marrakech

The magical city of Marrakech really has it all! Amazing architecture, friendly people, great shopping, a colourful medina, excellent restaurants, luxurious hotels and on top of all of that - a very rich history! The red city is almost a thousand years old, founded in 1070, and you can feel the tide of history everywhere. There are several impressive buildings; the most notable is of course Koutoubia Mosque with its classic minaret. But there are lots of others one has to see, here is our top-10-list:

1) The Koutoubia Mosque
2) The City Wall
3) Ben Youssef Medersa
4) The Almoravid Koubba
5) The El Badi Palace
6) The Saadian Tombs
7) The Royal Palace
8) The Bahia Palace
9) The Seven Saints Tombs
10) The Majorelle Garden

The Koutoubia Mosque, completed in 1190, is the largest mosque in Marrakech and is 70 metre high and 60 metres wide. It is the symbol of the city and can be seen from several kilometres away.

Marrakech was built, destroyed and rebuilt under the first hundreds of years under the rules of the Almoravids, the Almohads, the Merinids and the Saadiens. The Almohad reign was a very successful one, they began in 1140 and they built the Koutoubia mosque, the city walls and the Agdal orchard. They also designed efficient canals to water all the flower gardens scattered throughout the city - this system is actually still in use today!

The city wall was built in the 12th centuary and is 20 km long. The name Marrakush al-Hamra (Marrakech the Red) has been used for centuries becuase of the sandstone that was used for these ancient walls.

Ben Youssef Medersa is the largest islamic school in all of Morocco and was named after the 12th century sultan Ali ibn Yusuf. It was however founded in the 14th century by another sultan. There were around 900 students living here in the 130 student rooms around the beautiful inner courtyard that has carvings of inscriptions and geometric patterns. It was closed down in 1960 and is now open for tourists as an historical site.

Ben Youssef Medersa with its carved cedarwood, exquisite stuccowork and colorful zellij tiles. Some elements of the medersa are remarkably similar to the Alhambra palace in Granada.

The Almoravide Koubba is the oldest building in Marrakech! It's from 1117 but was covered for centuries before the excavation 60 years ago. It can be found just next to the Ben Youssef Medersa.

The Saadians, who ruled Marrakech during the 16th and 17th centuries, are famous today by the El Badi Palace and their magnificient tombs. The tombs were sealed up for centuries until they were rediscovered in 1917 by an airplane, well preserved with their colorful tiles and beautiful carvings.

The El Badi Palace, built by the Saadians, is huge but was only in use for 75 years in the 16th century. Today it is a beautiful ruin.

The Saadian Tombs, built in the 16th century, holds about 60 members of the Saadian dynasty. Some parts are made of cedar wood and italian carrara marble.

Marrakech has been the capital on and off during these historic 1 000 years, often competing with Fez for the title, and is one of the royal cities of Morocco with several royal palaces scattered around the city. The main one is a very large castle in the southern part of the medina, almost like it's own city. It is unfortunately not open to the public.
The Royal Palace was built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 16th century and was owned by the king up to quite recently. Today it is privately owned by a French businessman.
Another palace worth visiting is the Bahia Palace that was built in the 19th century by the Grand Vizier of Marrakech. He had four wives, 24 concubines and alot of children so he needed a lot of rooms! It was meant to be the greatest palace of its time so no expences was spared building this palace. It took seven years to build it with hundreds of craftsmen working in stucco and zellij. Attached is also an 8 000 square meter large garden.
The Bahia Palace means "Palace of the Beautiful" and has over 160 lavishly decorated rooms.
Did you know that Marrakech has seven Saints who protects the city? These men lived several hundreds of years ago and for along time everyone would visit their tombs that are placed all over the medina. Each Saint has his own special power and his own weekday so you could visit one Saint every day. This tradition is not widely in use anylonger but the Saints are still popular in some circles.
The Seven Saints Monument, symbolising the seven holy men, was built just a few years ago.
The Mausoleum of Sidi Abdel Aziz - one of the seven saints (He is Saturday). He was a silk merchant who died in 1508 and women come here to pray for fertility and safe childbirth. (Photos are from 1912 and today.)

The city of Marrakech is however not just the ancient medina anylonger. In 1912 when Morocco became a French protectorate the architect Henri Prost designed Gueliz, the modern part of the city. The painter Jacques Majorelle chose to build his house in Gueliz which would also become the Majorelle Garden. The designer Yves Saint Laurent later bought the property and after his death his ashes were spread in the garden. Today it is a very popular destination for tourist and the house holds a Berber museum.

The Majorelle Garden, famous for it's blue paint, is one of the most visited sites in Morocco.

There are of course more historical sites in Marrakech but if you at least take time to see these ten fantastic places you get a giant gold star from us!

Historically yours,

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