Landmarks of Marrakesh
- 1 Places and squares
- 2 Souks
- 3 Palaces and riads
- 4 Places of worship
- 5 Tombs and burial grounds
- 6 Mellah
- 7 Hotels
- 8 Museums
- 9 Institutions
- 10 References
Places and squares
The Jemaa el-Fnaa or Djemaa el Fna, is one of the most famous squares in all of Africa and is the centre of city activity and trade. It has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985. The name roughly means "the assembly of trespassers" or malefactors. Jemaa el-Fnaa was renovated along with much of the Marrakech city, whose walls were extended by Abou Yacoub Youssef and particularly by Yacoub el Mansour in 1147-1158. The surrounding mosque, palace, hospital, parade ground and gardens around the edges of the marketplace were also overhauled, and the Kasbah was fortified. Subsequently, with the fortunes of the city, Jemaa el-Fnaa saw periods of decline and also renewal.
Historically this square was used for public executions and decapitations by the rulers to maintain their power by frightening the people. The square attracted dwellers from the surrounding desert and mountains to trade here and stalls were set up on the square from early in its history. The square attracted tradesmen in foods, animal forage and domestic items, snake charmers ("wild, dark, frenzied men with long disheveled hair falling over their naked shoulders"), Berber women in long robes, camels and donkeys, dancing boys of the Chleuh Atlas tribe, and shrieking musicians with pipes, tambourines and African drums. Richard Hamilton said that Jemaa el-Fnaa once "reeked of Berber particularism, of backward-looking, ill-educated countrymen, rather than the reformist, pan-Arab internationalism and command economy that were the imagined future."
Today the square attracts people from a diversity of social and ethnic backgrounds and tourists from all around the world. Snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, mystics, musicians, monkey trainers, herb sellers, story-tellers, dentists, pickpockets, and entertainers in medieval garb still populate the square. It has been described as a "world-famous square", "a metaphorical urban icon, a bridge between the past and the present, the place where (spectacularized) Moroccan tradition encounters modernity."
Shortly before noon on April 28, 2011, a blast originating in a cafe in the square killed 17 people and injured another 25. Initial reports blamed an accidental gas explosion, but officials later blamed "criminals" and "terrorists".
Other squares and places include El Mashwar, El Moussalla, Place Bab Doukkala, Square Charles de Foucauld, Place de la Liberté, Place du 16 Novembre, Place des Ferblantiers, Place Sidi Ahmed El Kamel, Place Youssef Ben Tachfine, Place Mourabiten, Square Bir Anzaran.
Marrakech has the largest traditional Berber market in Morocco and the image of the city is closely associated with its souks. Paul Sullivan cites the souks as the principal shopping attraction in the city, describing it as "a honeycomb of intricately connected alleyways, this fundamental section of the old city is a micro-medina in itself, comprising a dizzying number of stalls and shops that range from itsy kiosks no bigger than an elf's wardrobe to scruffy store-fronts that morph into glittering Aladdin's Caves once you're inside." Historically the souks of Marrakech were divided into areas of retail, including leather, carpets, metalwork, pottery, etc. The areas are still roughly ordered but there is significant overlap today. Many of the souks sell items such as carpets and rugs, traditional Muslim attire, leather bags, and lanterns etc. Haggling is still a very important part of trade in the souks.
One of the largest souks is Souk Semmarine selling anything from brightly coloured bejewelled sandals and slippers and leather pouffes to jewellery and kaftans. Souk Ableuh contains stalls which specialize in the retail of olives, a variety of types and colours including green, red, and black olives, lemons, chilis, capers, and pickles and mint, a common ingredient of Moroccan cuisine and tea. Similarly, Souk Kchacha specializes in dried fruit and nuts, including dates and figs, walnuts, cashews and apricots. Rahba Qedima contains stalls selling hand-woven baskets, natural perfumes, knitted hats, scarves and t shirts, Ramadan tea, ginseng, and alligator and iguana skins. Criee Berbiere, to the northeast of this market, is noted for its dark Berber carpets and rugs. Souk Siyyaghin is noted for its jewellery, and Souk Smata nearby is noted for its extensive collection of babouches and belts. Souk Cherratine specializes in leatherware, and Souk Belaarif sells modern consumer goods. Souk Haddadine specializes in ironware and lanterns.
Ensemble Artisanal is a government-run complex of small arts and crafts which has a reasonable range of goods dealing with leather, textiles and carpets. In the workshop at the back of this shop young people are taught a range of crafts.
City walls and gates
The ramparts stretch for some 19 kilometres (12 mi) around the medina of the city. They were built by the Almoravids in the 12th century to fortify the city. Made of a distinct orange-red clay and chalk which gives the city its nickname as the "red city", the walls, which stand up to 19 feet (5.8 m) high, have some 20 gates and 200 towers along it. Bab Agnaou was built in the 12th century in the time of the Almohad dynasty. The name Agnaou, like Gnaoua, in Berber refers to black people (cf. Akal-n-iguinawen - land of the black). The gate was called Bab al Kohl (also referring to black people) or Bab al Qsar (palace gate) in some historical sources. The corner-pieces are decorated with floral decorations extending around a shell. This ornamentation is framed by three panels and on these panels is an inscription from the Quran in Maghribi, foliated Kufic letters, which were also used in Al-Andalus. Bab Agnaou was renovated and its opening reduced in size, during the rule of sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. Bab Aghmat - Bab Aghmat is located east of the Jewish and Muslim cemeteries, and is near the tomb of Ali ibn Yusuf. Bab Berrima with its "solid towers" stands near the Badi Palace. Bab er Robb (meaning Lord's gate) is a southern gate exit to the city, near Bab Agnaou. Built in the 1100s, it leads to the roads up to the mountain towns of Amizmiz and Asni. Bab Doukkala is located in the northwest portion of Marrakech, is constructed of red brick with double horseshoe arches and saw-like crenellation features. Near it are a synagogue, which had been inside a leper colony, as well as a mosque, which was constructed during the time of Sultan Mawlay al-Ghalib and was commissioned by his mother. Bab el Khémis is one of the city's main gates, situated in the medina's northeastern corner and has a man-made spring. Bab al-Ra'is is located near the grounds of the imperial palace. Bab al-Rubb is located by the city's mellah, in the western portion of the Kasbah.
The Menara gardens are gardens located to the west of the city, at the gates of the Atlas mountains. They were built in the 12th century (c. 1130) by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu'min. The name menara derives from the pavilion with its small green pyramid roof (menzeh). The pavilion was built during the 16th century Saadi dynasty and renovated in 1869 by sultan Abderrahmane of Morocco, who used to stay here in summertime. The pavilion and basin (an artificial lake) are surrounded by orchards and olive groves. The intention of the basin was to irrigate the surrounding gardens and orchards using a sophisticated system of underground channels called a qanat. The basin is supplied with water thanks to an old hydraulic system which conveys water from the mountains located approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) away from Marrakech. There is also a small amphitheater and a symmetrical pool, where 3D films of old battles are screened. Carp fish can be seen in the pond.
The Majorelle Garden, on Av Yacoub el Mansour, was at one time the home of the landscape painter, Jacques Majorelle. The designer, Yves Saint Laurent, bought and restored the property, which features a stele erected in his memory, and the Museum of Islamic Art, which is housed in a dark blue building. The garden, open to the public since 1947, has a large collection of plants and “floral exotica” (acquired since the 1920s) of five Continents. All the plants have descriptive signs and the commonly seen plants are cacti, palms and bamboo. It is very well laid out with pools with lilies, and pathways.
The Agdal (Berber: "walled meadow") Gardens are located south of the medina. Also built in the 12th century, they are royal orchards surrounded by pise walls. Measuring 400 hectares (990 acres) in size, the gardens feature citrus, apricot, pomegranate, olive and cypress trees. It contains another basin, this one filled with carp, retention ponds, working orchards, and flower paths. Sultan Moulay Hassan's harem resided at the Dar al Baida pavilion, which was situated with Agdal Gardens. Apart from the pavilions the place is known for a swimming pool used by soldiers; a Sultan is also reported to have drowned here.
The Koutoubia Gardens are situated behind the Koutoubia Mosque; it features orange and palm trees, and is frequented by storks. The Mamounia Gardens, more than 100 years old, named after Prince Moulay Mamoun, has olive and orange trees, with flower beds and different kinds of flora which make it a pleasant experience to walk around in a formal dress.
Palaces and riads
Wealth in the city is manifested in palaces and many other mansions and lavish houses.The main palaces are Badi Palace, the Royal Palace and Bahia Palace. Mansions, known as riads, are common in Marrakech, defined as "traditional courtyarded homes" which are "based on the Roman villa, with a large interior garden surrounded by high walls to obscure it from the view of passers-by, the principle of the construction was to allow privacy and cooler temperatures inside." ) Buildings of note inside the Medina are Riad Argana, Riad Obry, Riad Enija, Riad el Mezouar, Riad Frans Ankone, Dar Moussaine, Riad Lotus, Dar Marzotto, Dar Darma, and Riad Pinco Pallino. Others of note outside the Medina area include Ksar Char Bagh, Amanjena, Villa Maha, Dar Ahlam, Dar Alhind and Dar Tayda.
The Badi Palace or Badii Palace ( ), along with the Royal Palace, flanks the eastern side of the Kasbah. It was built by Saadian Ahmad al-Mansur after his success against the Portuguese at the Battle of the Three Kings in 1578. The lavish palace, which took around a quarter of a century to build, was funded by compensation from the Portuguese and Black African gold and sugar cane revenue. This allowed Carrara marble to be imported from Italy, other materials coming from France, Spain and even India. It is a larger version of the Alhambra's Court of the Lions. The Marrakech Folklore Festival is held in the spring at the palace.
The Royal Palace, also known as Dar el-Makhzen, is located next to the Badi Palace. It was built on the site of the Almohad kasba, by the Almohads in the 12th century and underwent changes by the Saadians in the 16th century and the Alaouites in the 17th century. Historically, it was one of the palace owned by the Moroccan king, and the palace employed some of the most genial craftsmen in the city. One visitor in the mid-1980s described the reception room which was "filled with Grand Concourse-repro Victorian settees covered in white-and-gold." The palace is not open to the public, and is now privately owned by French businessman Dominique du Beldi. The rooms are large, with unusually high ceilings for Marrakech, with zellige and cedar painted ceilings. At the entrance is an ancient pulley fastened to the ceiling.
The Bahia Palace ( ), set in extensive gardens, was built in the late 19th century by the Grand Vizier of Marrakech, Si Ahmed ben Musa (Bou-Ahmed). Bou Ahmed resided here with his four wives, 24 concubines and many children. With a name meaning "brilliance", it was intended to be the greatest palace of its time and, as in similar developments of the period in other countries, it was designed to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style. Bou-Ahmed paid special attention to the privacy of the palace in its construction and employed architectural features such as multiple doors which prevented unwelcome views of the interior. The palace took seven years to build, with hundreds of craftsmen from Fes working on its wood, carved stucco and zellij. The palace acquired a reputation as one of the finest in Morocco and was the envy of other wealthy citizens. Upon the death of Bou-Ahmed, the palace was raided by Sultan Abdel Aziz. There is a 2 acre (8,000 m²) garden with rooms opening onto courtyards.
Places of worship
Koutoubia Mosque, also known as Kutubiyya Mosque, Jami' al-Kutubiyah, Kutubiyyin Mosque, and Mosque of the Booksellers, is the largest mosque in the city, located in the southwest medina quarter of Marrakech aside the square. The minaret, 77 metres (253 ft) in height, includes a spire and orbs. It was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184 to 1199), and has inspired other buildings such as the Giralda of Seville and the Hassan Tower of Rabat. The mosque is made of red stone and brick in a traditional Almohad style, and measures 80 metres (260 ft) in width towards the east and 60 metres (200 ft) to the west along a north to south direction. It was designed so as to prevent anyone gazing in from the minaret to the harems of the king.There are four entrances to the mosque, of which three open directly into the prayer hall. There are six interior rooms, one above the other. The prayer hall is a hypostyle with more than 100 columns which support horseshoe-shaped arches along the parallel naves.The minaret is designed in Umayyad style and was constructed of sandstone. It was originally covered with Marrakshi pink plaster, but in the 1990s, experts opted to expose the original stone work and removed the plaster. The spire includes gilded copper balls, decreasing in size towards the top, a traditional style of Morocco.
Ben Youssef Mosque
Located in the medina with a green tiled roof and a minaret, Ben Youssef(also Ben Yusef) is the oldest mosque in the city. It was originally built in the 12th century by the Almoravid Sultan Ali ben Youssef in honor of Sidi Yusef ben Ali. When built it was the city's largest mosque but now it is half of its original size. It was rebuilt by Saadin Sultan Abdulla el Ghalib, as the original had fallen into ruin. He also built a madrasa with a very well stocked library of books beside the mosque. However, this also fell into ruin, leaving only today's 19th-century mosque.
The Koubba Ba’ Adiyn, also known as Kobbat el Mourabitine or Kobba el Boroudiyine, is a two storied kiosk which was discovered in 1948 from a sunken location on the mosque site. In the Moroccan architectural style, it is a double storied structure with arches, scalloped on the ground floor and twin horseshoe shaped in the first floor, combined with a turbaned motif. The dome is framed with a battlement decorated with arches and seven pointed stars. The interior of the octagonally arched dome is decorated with very distinguishing carvings bordered by a Kufic freeze inscribed with the name of the creator, Al ben Youssef. The quinches at the corner of the dome are covered with muqarnas. The kiosk has motifs of pine cones, palms and acanthus leaves which are also replicated in the Ben Youssef Madrasa.
The Mouassine Mosque (also known as the Al Ashraf Mosque) was built in the 14th century in the style of the Almohads. It is part of the Mouassine complex which includes a library, a hamman, a madrasa and the Mouassine Fountain, the largest and most important in the city. Located on a small square to the north of the mosque, it is a tripled-arched fountain of Saadian origin. It is ingrained with geometric patterns and calligraphy.
Tombs and burial grounds
The Saadian Tombs ( ) were built in the 16th century as a mausoleum to bury many Saadian rulers and entertainers. It was lost for many years until the French rediscovered it in 1917 using aerial photographs. The mausoleum comprises the corpses of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River. Among the graves are those of Ahmad al-Mansur and his family. The building is composed of three rooms, of which the best known is the room with the twelve columns. This room contains the grave of the son of the sultan's son Ahmad al-Mansur. Architecturally it represents Islamic architecture, with floral motifs, calligraphy and geometric mosaic tiles (zellij) and carrara marble, and the stele is in finely worked cedar wood and stucco work. Outside the building is a garden and the graves of soldiers and servants.
Seven Saints Tombs
In the Medina of Marrakech, there are seven tombs of the “Patron Saints of Morocco”, which are visited every year by pilgrims on successive days during the ziara (a week long pilgrimage) It is believed that these saints are only sleeping and will wake up one day to do good deeds. A pilgrimage to the tombs was considered as an alternative to pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina for people of western Morocco who could not visit due to arduous journey involved. The most important of the seven tombs is the shrine of Sidi bel Abbas. The spiritual tour, known as the Visit of the Seven Men of Marrakech, includes a rotary movement as an expression of the quest for inner perfection. The tour of the Seven Saints Tombs follows the city's configuration rather than the Patron Saints' chronological order. Performed on Fridays, the tour follows a sequence: Sidi Yusuf ibn Ali Sanhaji, Sidi al-Qadi Iyyad al-Yahsubi, Sidi Abul Abbas Sabti, Sidi Mohamed ibn Sulayman al-Jazouli, Sidi Abdellaziz Tabba'a, Sidi Abdellah al-Ghazwani, and lastly, the tomb of Sidi Abderrahman al-Suhayli.
The mellah (old Jewish Quarter) is situated in the kasbah area of the city's medina, east of Place des Ferblantiers. It was created in 1558 by the Saâdians at the site where the sultan's stables had previously been situated. At the time, the Jewish community consisted of a large portion of the city's bankers, jewelers, metalworkers, and tailors, and sugar traders. During the 16th century, the Mellah had its own fountains, gardens, synagogues, and souks. Up to the French arrival in 1912, Jews could not own property outside of the Mellah, so expansion occurred within its quarter, explaining the narrow streets, small shops, and higher placement of houses. The present Mellah, now named Hay Essalam, is smaller than the original one, and has an almost entirely Muslim population within its largely residential quarter. The Alzama Synagogue is built around a courtyard. The synagogue's ezrat nashim ("upstairs gallery") is an unusual feature as Moroccan women more often stay at a synagogue entrance or a different room. The blue-and-white building also contains a community center, Talmud Torah school, and soup kitchen. The Jewish cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco, characterized by white-washed tombs and sandy graves, is adjacent to the mellah, within the medina.
As one of the biggest tourist cities in Africa, Marrakech has over 400 hotels. La Mamounia, also known as Hôtel La Mamounia, is a 5-star hotel in the Art Deco-Moroccan fusion style, built in 1925 by Henri Prost and A. Marchis. It is considered the most eminent hotel of the city, cited as the "grand dame of Marrakesh hotels." The hotel has hosted numerous internationally renowned people including Winston Churchill, Charles, Prince of Wales and Mick Jagger. Churchill used to relax within the gardens of the hotel and paint there. The 231-room hotel,  which contains a casino, was refurbished in 1986 and again in 2007 by French designer Jacques Garcia. Other hotels include Eden Andalou Hotel, Hotel Marrakech, Sofitel Marrakech, Royal Mirage Hotel, Piscina del Hotel, and Palmeraie Golf Palace. In March 2012, Accor opened its first Pullman-branded hotel in Marrakech, Pullman Marrakech Palmeraie Resort & Spa. Set in a 17 hectare olive grove at La Palmeraie, the hotel has 252 rooms, 16 suites, six restaurants and a 535 square metres (5,760 sq ft)congress room.
The Marrakech Museum is located in the old centre, housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace, built at the end of the 19th century by Mehdi Menebhi. The palace was carefully restored by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation and converted into a museum in 1997. The house itself represents an example of classical Andalusian architecture, with fountains in the central courtyard, traditional seating areas, a hammam and intricate tilework and carvings. It has been cited as having "an orgy of stalactite stucco-work" which "drips from the ceiling and combines with a mind-boggling excess of zellij work." The museum's large atrium (originally a courtyard, now covered in glass and fabric) contains a very large centrally hung chandelier consisting of metal plates decorated with fine geometric and epigraphic cuttings. Several features of the original courtyard, including the floor-set basins and mosaics have been retained. The museum holds exhibits of both modern and traditional Moroccan art together with fine examples of historical books, coins and pottery of Moroccan Jewish, Berber and Arab cultures.
Dar Si Said Museum
Dar Si Said Museum (Museum of Moroccan Arts is located to the north of the Bahia Palace, right from the Rue Riad Ziroun el-Jedid. It was formerly the house of the brother of Bou-Ahmed, Sisi Said. The collection of the museum is considered to be one of the finest in Morocco, with "jewellery from the High Atlas, the Anti Atlas and the extreme south; carpets from the Haouz and the High Atlas; oil lamps from Taroudannt; blue pottery from Safi and green pottery from Tamgroute; and leatherwork from Marrakesh."), also known as the
Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art (Musée d'Art Islamique) is a blue-coloured building located in the Marjorelle Gardens. The private museum was created by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in Jacques Majorelle's home, who had his studio there. Recently renovated, its small exhibition rooms have displays of Islamic artifacts and decorations including Irke pottery, polychrome plates, jewellery, and antique doors.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
The Ben Youssef Madrasa, located to the north of the Medina, was an Islamic college in Marrakech, named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Medrasa in all of Morocco and was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students.
The college was founded during the period of the Marinid (14th century) by the Marinid sultan Abu al-Hassan and allied to the neighbouring Ben Youssef Mosque. This education complex in Koranic teachings was part of similar institutions in Fez, Taza, Tale, and Meknes. The Madrasa was re-constructed by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib (1557–1574) in 1564 as the largest and unrivaled madrasa in Morocco. In 1565 the works ordered by Abdallah al-Ghalib were finished, as attested by the inscription in the prayer room. Its 130 student dormitory cells cluster around a courtyard richly carved in cedar, marble and stucco. In accordance with Islam, the carvings contain no representation of humans or animals, consisting entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns. One of the school's best known teachers was Mohammed al-Ifrani (1670-1745). Closed down in 1960, the building was refurbished and reopened to the public as a historical site in 1982.
Cadi Ayyad University
Cadi Ayyad University (also known as the University of Marrakech), and its component, the École nationale des sciences appliquées de Marrakech (ENSA Marrakech), which was created in 2000 by the Ministry of Higher Education and specializes in engineering and scientific research. Cadi Ayyad University was established in 1978 and operates 13 institutions in the Marrakech Tensift Elhaouz and Abda Doukkala regions of Morocco in 4 main cities, including Kalaa of Sraghna, Essaouira and Safi aside from Marrakech.
Sup de Co Marrakech
Sup de Co Marrakech, also known as the École supérieure de commerce de Marrakech, is a private four-year college based in Marrakech, founded in 1987 by Ahmed Bennis. The school is affiliated to École supérieure de commerce de Toulouse of France, and since 1995, the school has built many partnership programs with numerous American universities including the University of Delaware, University of St. Thomas, Oklahoma State University, National-Louis University, and Temple University.
Théâtre Royal de Marrakesh, Institut Français and Dar Chérifa are major performing arts institutions in the city. The Théâtre Royal, built by Tunisian architect Charles Boccara with columns, puts on theatrical performances of comedy, opera, and dance in French and Arabic. A greater number perform outdoors and entertain tourists on the main square and the streets, especially at night. Christopher Hudson of the Daily Mail noted that "men dressed as women performed bawdy street theatre, to the delight of a ring of onlookers of all ages."
The Marrakesh-Menara Airport (RAK) is 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) southwest from the city centre. It is an international facility that receives several European flights as well as flights from Casablanca and some of the Arab world nations. The airport is located at an elevation of 471 metres (1,545 ft) at . The airport has two formal passenger terminals, but these are more or less combined to one large terminal. A third terminal is being built. The existing T1/T2 terminals offer a space of 42,000 metres (138,000 ft) and has a designed capacity to handle 4.5 million passengers a year. The runway is 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) long and has a width of 45 metres (148 ft). The airport ramp can accommodate 14 Boeing 737-sized aircraft and four Boeing 747-sized aircraft. The separate freight-terminal has 340 square metres (3,700 sq ft) of covered space.
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