Saadi dynasty

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Saadi dynasty of Morocco

Flag of Saadi dynasty
Flag of Morocco (780 1070) (1258 1659).svg
Extent of the Saadian empire during the reign of Ahmad al-Mansur[1]
Extent of the Saadian empire during the reign of Ahmad al-Mansur[1]
StatusRuling dynasty of Morocco
Common languagesArabic,
Sunni Islam
1554–1659: Sultanate
• 1509–17
Abu Abdallah, Prince of Tagmadert
• 1544–57
Mohammed Sheikh, first Sultan (1554)
• 1655–59
Ahmad al-Abbas, last Sultan
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Wattasid dynasty
Songhai Empire
Alaouite dynasty
Segou Empire
Pashalik of Timbuktu

The Saadi dynasty or Saadian dynasty (Arabic: السعديونas-saʿdiyyūn) was an Arab[2] Moroccan Sharifian dynasty, which ruled Morocco from 1549 to 1659.[3][4]

From 1509 to 1549, they had ruled only in the south of Morocco. Although still recognizing the Wattasids as Sultans until 1528, Saadian's growing power led the Wattasids to attack them and, after an indecisive battle, to recognize their rule over southern Morocco[5] through the Treaty of Tadla.

Their reign over Morocco began with the reign of Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh in 1554, when he vanquished the last Wattasids at the Battle of Tadla. The Saadian rule ended in 1659 with the end of the reign of Sultan Ahmad el Abbas.


The Banu Zaydan claimed descent from the Islamic prophet Muhammad through the line of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatima Zahra (Muhammad's daughter). They came from Tagmadert in the valley of the Draa River. The family's village of origin in the Draa was Tidzi (a qsar, some 10 km north of Zagora).[6] They claimed Sharifian origins through an ancestor from Yanbu and rendered Sufism respectable in Morocco. The name Saadi or Saadian derives from "sa'ada" meaning happiness or salvation. Others think it derives from the name Bani Zaydan or that it was given to the Bani Zaydan (shurafa of Tagmadert) by later generations and rivals for power, who tried to deny their Hassanid descent by claiming that they came from the family of Halimah Saadiyya, Muhammad's wet nurse. Their putative ancestor is Zaydan Ibn Ahmed a Sharif from Yanbu.[7] The most famous sultan of the Saadi was Ahmad al-Mansur (1578–1603), builder of the El Badi Palace in Marrakech and contemporary of Elizabeth I. One of their most important achievements was defeating the Portuguese at the Battle of Ksar El Kebir, and defending the country against the Ottomans. Before they conquered Marrakech, they had Taroudannt as their capital city.

The Saadian Tombs were rediscovered in 1917 and can be seen in Marrakech.



While the Saadian dynasty marked a political shift from previous Berber-led empires to sultanates led by Arab sharifian dynasties, artistically and architecturally there was broad continuity between these periods. The Saadians are seen by modern scholars as continuing to refine the existing Moroccan-Moorish style, with some considering the Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh as one of the apogees of this style.[8] Other major examples of this Saadian style which survive today include the ornate Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakesh and the ablutions pavilions in the courtyard (sahn) of the Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fes. The Saadians also rebuilt the royal palace complex in the Kasbah of Marrakesh to suit their own needs, though little of this survives. Ahmad al-Mansur famously constructed the extremely lavish reception palace known as El Badi, for which he also imported significant quantities of Italian marble.[8][9]

In terms of religious architecture, the Mouassine Mosque and the Bab Doukkala Mosque of Marrakesh were built under the reign of Moulay Abdallah al-Ghalib and are notable for the fact that they were designed as part of larger civic complexes designed to serve local residents, similar to contemporary Ottoman külliyes and the earlier Mamluk architecture in Egypt. These complexes included various institutions and amenities such as a madrasa, a library, a primary school, a hammam (public bathhouse), an ablutions house (mida'a) with latrines, a water trough for animals, and a public fountain for distributing water to locals.[8][9] The Saadians also contributed to founding, building, or expanding the zawiyas (religious complexes centered around a tomb) of major Sufi shrines in Marrakesh, including the Zawiya of Sidi Ben Sliman al-Jazuli and the Zawiya of Sidi Bel Abbes.[8]

Starting with the Saadians, and continuing with the Alaouites (their successors and the reigning monarchy today), Moroccan art and architecture is presented by modern scholars as having remained essentially "conservative"; meaning that it continued to reproduce the existing style with high fidelity but did not introduce major new innovations.[10][9][8][11] Ornate architectural elements from Saadian buildings, most famously from the El Badi Palace, were also stripped and reused in buildings elsewhere during the reign of the Alaouite sultan Moulay Isma'il (1672–1727).[8]


1509–54: Saadian princes of Tagmadert[edit]

1554–1659: Saadian sultans of Morocco[edit]

1603–27: Succession war[edit]

1627–59: Reunified rule[edit]


After the fall of the banu zaydan dynasty, their last sultan Abdullah ibn Muhammad retired with his family in the Draa desert, the very place from where, many years ago his Great-grandfather Mohamed Al Qaim had raised as the chief leader of the sultanate. Nowadays, his descendants live in the region of Draa, far from the glory of their prestigious ancestors who ruled Morocco.


Ahmad el AbbasMohammed esh Sheikh es SeghirAl Walid ibn ZidanAbu Marwan Abd al-Malik IIZidan Abu MaaliAbu Marwan Abd al-Malik IIAbdallah II SaadiMohammed esh Sheikh el MamunZidan Abu MaaliAbou Fares AbdallahAhmad al-MansurAbu Marwan Abd al-Malik I SaadiAbu Abdallah Mohammed II SaadiAbdallah al-GhalibMohammed ash-SheikhMohammed ash-SheikhAhmad al-ArajAbu Abdallah al-QaimList of rulers of MoroccoSaadian Succession WarList of rulers of MoroccoTagmadert

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Trade and empire in Africa, 1500–1800", Times Books 2007, on [1] Archived 2013-10-02 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Greengrass 2014, p. 503.
  3. ^ Muzaffar Husain Syed, Syed Saud Akhtar, B D Usmani (2011). Concise History of Islam. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. p. 150. ISBN 938257347X. Retrieved 22 September 2017.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Abgadiyat, Editors (2014-05-09). "دراسة في مضمون النقوش الكتابية على عمائر الأشراف السعديين بالمغرب الأقصى (915 - 1069هـ/ 1510 - 1658م)". Abgadiyat. 9 (1): 150–194. doi:10.1163/22138609-90000027. ISSN 2213-8609.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ H. J. Kissling, Bertold Spuler, N. Barbour, J. S. Trimingham, F. R. C. Bagley, H. Braun, H. Hartel, The Last Great Muslim Empires, BRILL 1997, p.102 [2]
  6. ^ The Saadian sultan Mohammed esh Sheikh es Seghir wrote in a letter to a member of the Alaouite family (Moulay Mohammed ould Moulay Cherif): "We are from Tidsi, one of the qsour of the Draa." (Nozhet el Hadi, p. 15). The geographical position of Tidzi is: Latitude: 30° 59' 52 N, Longitude: 7° 24' 49 W.
  7. ^ The use of Analogy and the Role of the Sufi Shaykh in Post-Marinid Morocco, Vincent Cornell, International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (Feb. 1983), pp. 67–93
  8. ^ a b c d e f Salmon, Xavier (2016). Marrakech: Splendeurs saadiennes: 1550-1650. Paris: LienArt. ISBN 9782359061826.
  9. ^ a b c Deverdun, Gaston (1959). Marrakech: Des origines à 1912. Rabat: Éditions Techniques Nord-Africaines.
  10. ^ Marçais, Georges (1954). L'architecture musulmane d'Occident. Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques.
  11. ^ Parker, Richard (1981). A practical guide to Islamic Monuments in Morocco. Charlottesville, VA: The Baraka Press.


  • Greengrass, Mark (2014). Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648. Penguin Books.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Further reading[edit]

  • Rosander, E. Evers and Westerlund, David (1997). African Islam and Islam in Africa: Encounters Between Sufis and Islamists. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1-85065-282-1
  • S. Cory, Reviving the Islamic Caliphate in Early Modern Morocco, Ashgate Publishing (2014). ISBN 9781472413987
  • Morocco in the Sixteenth Century. Problems and Patterns in African Foreign Policy by Dahiru Yahya, Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 18, No. 1 (1984), pp. 252–253
Royal house
House of Banu Zaydan
Preceded by
Wattasid dynasty
Ruling house of Morocco
Succeeded by
Alaouite dynasty