Five must-see architectural gems of Marrakech

Founded in the 11th century, Marrakech is a city steeped in history, as evidenced by several of its most famous monuments and buildings. Here are five examples of Moroccan architecture in Marrakech that shouldn’t be missed.

1. Tombeaux Saadiens. Only a few hundred yards from Les Borjs de la Kasbah, these highly decorated tombs form one of the most important heritage sites in Morocco. One of the few remaining vestiges of the important Saadien dynasty, they date from the time of Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603) although were sealed off on the orders of Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail who wanted all traces of the Saadien dynasty to be destroyed. Untouched for more than two centuries, the tombs were uncovered in 1917 and restored by the national ‘Beaux-Arts’ service. Due to their intricate decoration, a clear indication of the opulence of the time and a perfect example of the beauty of Islamic art, the tombs are a major attraction for visitors to Marrakech and should be high on your list of “what to see in Marrakech”. Expect domed ceilings, intricately carved marble pillars, cedar wood ceilings  and, most notably, extensive use of exquisite mosaic decoration.

2. Mansouria Mosque. Built by Yaqub al-Mansur, the Mansouria Mosque is also known as the Kasbah Mosque, being just 100 yards from the monumental gate into this fortified southern part of the Marrakech medina, Bab Agnaou. Although access to the interior is not open to non-Muslims, one can admire the impressive architecture of the building now restored to its former glory following an extensive facelift.

3. Koutoubia Mosque. The Koutoubia is the largest mosque in Marrakech. Completed during the reign of Yaqub al-Mansur (1184 to 1199), it is located beside the extensive Koutoubia Gardens in the centre of the city, its minaret overlooking the famous main square, Jemaa el Fna. The mosque is ornamented with curved windows and decorative arches and its minaret, standing at 77 metres (253 ft), can be seen for miles around, the most visible landmark of the city.

4. Palais al Badi. One of many examples of Sultan Moulay Ismail’s attempt to destroy everything Saadian, this is a nonetheless an impressive ruin, all that now remains of the once proud palace with its 360 rooms and an interior courtyard measuring 135m x 110m resplendent with fountains and a huge pool. It was built on the orders of Sultan Ahmed el-Massour to celebrate his victory over the Portuguese in 1572, although he died before its completion in 1603.

5. Palais al Bahia. A palace from a later era, the 19th century, and fully intact, the Bahia was built, in two phases, to capture the essence of contemporary Moroccan styling. Featuring classical patterned tiles, beautiful carved archways, marble floors, mosaics, painted cedar ceilings and tiled panels, its unfurnished rooms around paved marble courtyards and planted patios are a fascinating example of traditional and more modern Moroccan art. The building stands in a two acre garden with trees and flowering shrubs.

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