Marinid Tombs

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Marinid Tombs

The Marinid Tombs or Merenid Tombs are a set of ruined monumental tombs on a hill above and north of Fes al-Bali, the old city of Fez, Morocco. They were originally a royal necropolis for the Marinid dynasty which ruled over Morocco in the 13th to 15th centuries. Today, they are a popular lookout point over the historic city.

Historical background[edit]

A photograph of the tombs in 1881

There is sparse information available on the site and its history. However, the ruined tombs are believed to date from the 14th century, during the Marinid dynasty (13th-15th centuries), hence their name.[1]

The Marinids conquered Fez in 1250 (CE) and turned it into their capital, eventually cementing this status by building a new fortified palace-city, Fes el-Jdid, in 1276 alongside the existing old city (Fes el-Bali). Before the foundation of Fes el-Jdid, however, some sources describe the Marinids has having already established their first fortified palace on the hill to the north of Fes el-Bali known as al-Qula (today also known as the "Hill of the Marinids").[1][2] This palace also included a mosque (remnants of which, including a mihrab, survived until modern times) and a bathhouse (hammam).[3][2] Some sources attribute these structures, or a predecessor of these structures, to the earlier reign of the Almohad caliph Muhammad al-Nasir (ruled 1199-1213), who was also responsible for rebuilding the city walls.[4] Another author attributes the construction of the al-Qula palace to after 1287,[3] around the same time that the Marinids created the Mosara Garden to the north of Fes el-Jdid.[1] While it has not been possible to reconstruct the layout and appearance of the palace, the historical chronicler Leo Africanus claimed that the palace was impressive.[4]

Ruins of another qoubba (domed building) behind the main tombs, and some outlying parts of the Bab Guissa Cemetery in the background

A royal necropolis eventually developed on this site, where some other tombs may have already existed as early as the 11th and 12th centuries (perhaps connected to the nearby Bab Guissa Cemetery).[4] Two Marinid stelae (tombstones) were discovered near this site in the 20th century: one belonged to a young princess called Zineb who died in 1335 and the other belonged to a high official named Abu Ali al-Nasir who died at beginning of the same century.[5] The two stelae are now kept at the Dar Batha Museum in Fes.[5] Up until the middle of the 14th century the Marinid dynasty buried its rulers in the royal necropolis at Chellah, just outside Rabat.[6] Sultan Abu Inan, however, was interred in the Grand Mosque of Fes el-Jdid upon his death in 1358 and after this his successors, starting with Ibrahim ibn Ali, were buried in the necropolis on the al-Qula hill next to the Marinid palace there.[6][5] (Only one of them was again buried at Chellah, which otherwise became abandoned.[6]) They continued to be interred on this hill between 1361 and 1398 and then again at the end of the dynasty in 1465, when Abd al-Haqq II was buried here.[6][4][5]

To this day, no thorough archaeological excavations have yet been carried out on the site of the tombs.[6] Unfortunately, very few remnants of the Marinid palace complex here have survived, in part due to continuous quarrying over the centuries and to more recent constructions.[2]

Description of the site[edit]

Fragments of stucco decoration and of an inscription inside one of the tombs

Today the ruins of two tall rectangular-base mausoleums with large horseshoe-arch entrances are still visible, and perhaps the remains of other structures.[2][4] It is not known exactly who was buried where in the large mausoleums but given their monumentality they were probably meant for members of the royal family. Some fragments of carved stucco decoration and an inscription can still be seen on the walls of the mausoleums, which is all that remains of their once rich ornamentation. The historical writer Leo Africanus mentioned that the tombs were heavily decorated and featured lavish and colourful marble epitaphs.[1][4]

The site was probably once enclosed by a wall, giving it the form of a rawda, an enclosed funerary garden or private cemetery in the Islamic tradition.[6] Behind (or north of) the two mausoleums are also the ruins of another small domed building or qoubba that may have been part of the Merinid necropolis as well.[7] The hillsides around the tombs (mostly to the north and east) are still occupied by the sprawling Bab Guissa Cemetery (named after the nearby city gate, Bab Guissa),[8] though the graves visible today are likely much more recent.

Today the site is perhaps best known as a lookout with panoramic views over the old city of Fez, popular at sunset, and often mentioned in guidebooks and tourist literature.[9] In addition to the views, it is also a notable place to hear the call to prayer (adhan) broadcasting simultaneously from all the mosques in the old city.[10]

The Marinid Tombs and the view of the medina of Fez below

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Métalsi, Mohamed (2003). Fès: La ville essentielle. Paris: ACR Édition Internationale. ISBN 978-2867701528.
  2. ^ a b c d Bressolette, H.; Delaroziere, J. (1983). "Fès-Jdid de sa fondation en 1276 au milieu du XXe siècle". Hespéris-Tamuda: 245–318.
  3. ^ a b Gaudio, Attilio (1982). Fès: Joyau de la civilisation islamique. Paris: Les Presses de l'Unesco: Nouvelles Éditions Latines. pp. 115, 156. ISBN 2723301591.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Qantara - Necropolis of al-Qulla". Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  5. ^ a b c d Bressolette, Henri (2016). A la découverte de Fès. L'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2343090221.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lintz, Yannick; Déléry, Claire; Tuil Leonetti, Bulle (2014). Maroc médiéval: Un empire de l'Afrique à l'Espagne. Paris: Louvre éditions. pp. 502, 514, 584. ISBN 9782350314907.
  7. ^ "Nécropoles mérinides". À l'ombre du Zalagh, Madinat Fas (in French). 2017-11-26. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  8. ^ Le Tourneau, Roger (1949). Fès avant le protectorat: étude économique et sociale d'une ville de l'occident musulman. Casablanca: Société Marocaine de Librairie et d'Édition. pp. 110–111.
  9. ^ "Historical Attraction of the Merenid Tombs - English Blog - By Morocco Channel". Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  10. ^ Lonely Planet: Morocco (12th edition). Lonely Planet. 2017. pp. 294, 296. ISBN 9781786570321.

Coordinates: 34°4′11.16″N 4°58′45.27″W / 34.0697667°N 4.9792417°W / 34.0697667; -4.9792417