Medina of Marrakesh

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Medina of Marrakesh

Medina of Marrakesh




Marrakesh, also known by the French spelling Marrakech, is a major city of the Kingdom of Morocco. It is the fourth largest city in the country, after Casablanca, Fes and Tangier. It is the capital city of the mid-southwestern region of Marrakesh-Safi. Located to the north of the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh is located 580km southwest of Tangier, 327km southwest of the Moroccan capital of Rabat, 239km south of Casablanca, and 246km northeast of Agadir.



The Marrakesh area was inhabited by Berber farmers from Neolithic times, and numerous stone implements have been unearthed in the area. Marrakesh was founded in 1062 (454 in the Hijri calendar) by Abu Bakr ibn Umar, chieftain and second cousin of the Almoravid king Yusuf ibn Tashfin (c. 1061–1106. Under the Almoravids, pious and learned warriors from the desert, numerous mosques and madrasas were built, developing the community into a trading center for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.


Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural and religious center, supplanting Aghmat, which had long been the capital of Haouz. Andalusian craftsmen from Cordoba and Seville built and decorated numerous palaces in the city, developing the Umayyad style characterized by carved domes and cusped arches. This Andalusian influence merged with designs from the Sahara and West Africa, creating a unique style of architecture which was fully adapted to the Marrakesh environment.


Yusuf ibn Tashfin completed the city’s first mosque (the Ben Youssef mosque, named after his son), built houses, minted coins, and brought gold and silver to the city in caravans. The city became the capital of the Almoravid Emirate, stretching from the shores of Senegal to the center of Spain and from the Atlantic coast to Algiers.

Gold coin minted during the reign of Ali ibn Yusef

irrigate his new garden. In 1125, the preacher Ibn Tumert settled in Tin Mal in the mountains to the south of Marrakesh. He preached against the Almoravids and influenced a revolt which succeeded in bringing about the fall of nearby Aghmat, but stopped short of bringing down Marrakesh following an unsuccessful siege in 1130.


The Almohads, Masmouda tribesmen from the High Atlas mountains who practiced orthodox Islam, took the city in 1147 under leader Abd al-Mu’min. After a long siege and the killing of some 7,000 people, the last of the Almoravids were exterminated apart from those who sought exile in the Balearic Islands. As a result, almost all the city’s monuments were destroyed.

The Almohads constructed a range of palaces and religious buildings, including the famous Koutoubia Mosque (1184–1199), and built upon the ruins of an Almoravid palace. It was a twin of the Giralda in Seville and the unfinished Hassan Tower in Rabat, all built by the same designer.


Marrakesh is one of the great citadels of the Muslim world.[16] The city was fortified by Tashfin’s son, Ali ibn Yusuf, who in 1122–1123 built the ramparts which remain to this day, completed further mosques and palaces, and developed an underground water system in the city known as the rhettara to

The Kasbah housed the residence of the caliph, a title borne by the Almohad rulers from the reign of Abd al-Mu’min, rivaling the far eastern Abbasid Caliphate. The Kasbah was named after the caliph Yaqub al-Mansur. The irrigation system was perfected to provide water for new palm groves and parks, including the Menara Garden. As a result of its cultural reputation, Marrakesh attracted many writers and artists, especially from Andalusia, including the famous philosopher Averroes of Cordoba.


The death of Yusuf II in 1224 began a period of instability. Marrakesh became the stronghold of the Almohad tribal sheikhs and the ahl ad-dar (descendants of Ibn Tumart), who sought to claw power back from the ruling Almohad family. Marrakesh was taken, lost and retaken by force multiple times by a stream of caliphs and pretenders, such as during the brutal seizure of Marrakesh by the Sevillan caliph Abd al-Wahid II al-Ma’mun in 1226.


which was followed by a massacre of the Almohad tribal sheikhs and their families and a public denunciation of Ibn Tumart’s doctrines by the caliph from the pulpit of the Kasbah mosque. After al-Ma’mun’s death in 1232, his widow attempted to forcibly install her son, acquiring the support of the Almohad army chiefs and Spanish mercenaries with the promise to hand Marrakesh over to them for the sack. Hearing of the terms, the people of Marrakesh sought to make an agreement with the military captains and saved the city from destruction with a sizable payoff of 500,000 dinars. In 1269, Marrakesh was conquered by nomadic Zenata tribes who overran the last of the Almohads. The city then fell into a state of decline, which soon led to the loss of its status as capital to rival city Fes.

El Badi Palace


In the early 16th century, Marrakesh again became the capital of the kingdom, after a period when it was the seat of the Hintata emirs. It quickly reestablished its status, especially during the reigns of the Saadian sultans Abu Abdallah al-Qaim and Ahmad al-Mansur. Thanks to the wealth amassed by the Sultans, Marrakesh was embellished with sumptuous palaces while its ruined monuments were restored.

El Badi Palace, built by Ahmad al-Mansur in 1578, was a replica of the Alhambra Palace, made with costly and rare materials including marble from Italy, gold dust from Sudan, porphyry from India and jade from China. The palace was intended primarily for hosting lavish receptions for ambassadors from Spain, England and the Ottoman Empire, showcasing Saadian Morocco as a nation whose power and influence reached as far as the borders of Niger and Mali. Under the Saadian dynasty, Marrakesh regained its former position as a point of contact for caravan routes from the Maghreb, the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan African.


For centuries Marrakesh has been known as the location of the tombs of Morocco’s seven patron saints (sebaatou rizjel). When sufism was at the height of its popularity during the late 17th century reign of Moulay Ismail, the festival of these saints was founded by Abu Ali al-Hassan al-Yusi at the request of the sultan.[26] The tombs of several renowned figures were moved to Marrakesh to attract pilgrims, and the pilgrimage associated with the seven saints is now a firmly established institution.

Pilgrims visit the tombs of the saints in a specific order, as follows: Sidi Yusuf Ali Sangadji (1196–97), a leper; Kadi Iyad or Kadi of Cueta (1083–1149), a theologian and author of Ash-Shifa (treatises on the virtues of Muhammad); Sidi Bel Abbas (1130–1204), known as the patron saint of the city and most revered in the region; Sidi Muhammad al-Jazuli (1465), a well known Sufi who founded the Djazuli brotherhood; Abdelaziz al-Tebaa (1508), a student of Djazuli; Abdallah al-Ghazwani (1528), known as Mawla; and Sidi Abu al-Qasim Al-Suhayli, (1185), also known as Imam Al Suhyani. Until 1867, European Christians were not authorized to enter the city unless they acquired special permission from the sultan; east European Jews were permitted.

During the early the major metropolitan center of Casablanca in the west. The French colonial army encountered strong resistance from Ahmed al-Hiba, a son of Sheikh Ma al-‘Aynayn, who arrived from the Sahara accompanied by his nomadic Reguibat tribal warriors. On 30 March 1912, the French Protectorate in Morocco was established.

After the Battle of Sidi Bou Othman, which saw the victory of the French Mangin column over the al-Hiba forces in September 1912, the French seized Marrakesh. The conquest was facilitated by the rallying of the Imzwarn tribes and their leaders from the powerful Glaoui family, leading to a massacre of Marrakesh citizens in the resulting turmoil.


20th century, Marrakesh underwent several years of unrest. After the premature death in 1900 of the grand vizier Ba Ahmed, who had been designated regent until the designated sultan Abd al-Aziz became of age, the country was plagued by anarchy, tribal revolts, the plotting of feudal lords, and European intrigues.

In 1907, Marrakesh caliph Moulay Abd al-Hafid was proclaimed sultan by the powerful tribes of the High Atlas and by Ulama scholars who denied the legitimacy of his brother, Abd al-Aziz. It was also in 1907 that Dr. Mauchamp, a French doctor, was murdered in Marrakesh, suspected of spying for his country. France used the event as a pretext for sending its troops from the eastern Moroccan town of Oujda to



T’hami El Glaoui, Pasha of Marrakesh (1912 to 1956).

T’hami El Glaoui, known as “Lord of the Atlas”, became Pasha of Marrakesh, a post he held virtually throughout the 44-year duration of the Protectorate (1912–1956. Glaoui dominated the city and became famous for his collaboration with the general residence authorities, culminating in a plot to dethrone Mohammed Ben Youssef (Mohammed V) and replace him with the Sultan’s cousin, Ben Arafa.

Glaoui, already known for his amorous adventures and lavish lifestyle, became a symbol of Morocco’s colonial order. He could not, however, subdue the rise of nationalist sentiment, nor the hostility of a growing proportion of the inhabitants.


Nor could he resist pressure from France, who agreed to terminate its Moroccan Protectorate in 1956 due to the launch of the Algerian War (1954–1962) immediately following the end of the war in Indochina (1946–1954), in which Moroccans had been conscripted to fight in Vietnam on behalf of the French Army.

After two successive exiles to Corsica and Madagascar, Mohammed Ben Youssef was allowed to return to Morocco in November 1955, bringing an end to the despotic rule of Glaoui over Marrakesh and the surrounding region. A protocol giving independence to Morocco was then signed on 2 March 1956 between French Foreign Minister Christian Pineau and M’Barek Ben Bakkai.

Marrakesh in April 2013


Since the independence of Morocco, Marrakesh has thrived as a tourist destination. In the 1960s and early 1970s the city became a trendy “hippie mecca”. It attracted numerous western rock stars and musicians, artists, film directors and actors, models, and fashion divas, leading tourism revenues to double in Morocco between 1965 and 1970. Yves Saint Laurent, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jean-Paul Getty all spent significant time in the city; Laurent bought a property here and renovated the Majorelle Gardens. Expatriates, especially those from France, have invested heavily in Marrakesh since the 1960s, and developed many of the riads and palaces. Old buildings were renovated in the Old Medina, new residences and commuter villages were built in the suburbs, and new hotels began to spring up.


United Nations agencies became active in Marrakesh beginning in the 1970s, and the city’s international political presence has subsequently grown. In 1985, UNESCO declared the old town area of Marrakesh a UNESCO World Heritage Site, raising international awareness of the cultural heritage of the city. In the 1980s, Patrick Guerand-Hermes purchased the 30 acres (12 ha) Ain el Quassimou, built by the family of Leo Tolstoy. On 15 April 1994, the Marrakesh Agreement was signed here to establish the World Trade Organization, and in March 1997 Marrakesh served as the site of the World Water Council’s first World Water Forum, which was attended by over 500 international participants.

In the 21st century, property and real estate development in the city has boomed, with a dramatic increase in new hotels and shopping centres, fuelled by the policies of Mohammed VI of Morocco, who aims to increase the number of tourists annually visiting Morocco to 20 million by 2020. In 2010, a major gas explosion occurred in the city. On 28 April 2011, a bomb attack took place in the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, killing 15 people, mainly foreigners. The blast destroyed the nearby Argana Cafe.Police sources arrested three suspects and claimed the chief suspect was loyal to Al-Qaeda, although Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb denied involvement. On november 2016 the city hosted the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference.


Marrakesh contains an impressive number of masterpieces of architecture and art (ramparts and monumental gates, Koutoubia Mosque, Saâdians tombs, ruins of the Badiâ Palace, Bahia Palace, Ménara water feature and pavilion) each one of which could justify, alone, a recognition of Outstanding Universal Value.

The capital of the Almoravids and the Almohads has played a decisive role in medieval urban development.  Capital of the Merinids, Fès Jedid (the New town), integral part of the Medina of Fez, inscribed in 1981 on the World Heritage List, is an adaptation of the earlier urban model of Marrakesh.

Marrakesh, which gave its name to the Moroccan empire, is a completed example of a major Islamic capital of the western Mediterranean.

In the 700 hectares of the Medina, the ancient habitat, rendered vulnerable due to demographic change, represents an outstanding example of a living historic town with its tangle of lanes, its houses, souks, fondouks, artisanal activities and traditional trades.



The boundary of the property inscribed on the World Heritage List is correctly defined by the original ramparts that enclose all the requisite architectural and urban attributes for recognition of its Outstanding Universal Value.  A revision of these boundaries is envisaged for increased protection of the surroundings of the property.

Nevertheless, the integrity of the property is vulnerable due to pressure from urban development, uncontrolled alterations to upper floors and construction materials of the houses, the abandonment of the Khettaras (underground drainage galleries) and exploitation of the palm groves.



The ramparts, the Koutoubia Mosque, the kasbah, the Saâdians tombs, the ruins of Badiâ Palace, Menara water feature and pavilion, are examples of many monuments that clearly reflect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The authenticity of the inner urban structure and of the monuments remains intact.  It is ensured by qualified workmanship carrying out restorations in accordance with standards in force.

Reconstruction and redevelopment work carried out in the heart of the historic centre generally respects the original volume and style. The use of traditional materials in these restoration operations has tremendously revived the artisanal trades linked to construction (Zellige, lime plaster (tadallakt), painted and sculpted wood, plastering, wrought ironwork, cabinetmaking, etc.) in addition to trades linked to furnishing and decoration.

Morocco as a Centre of Mathematical Studies

Abd al-Wahid Al-Murrakushi was born in Marrakech in 1185; he studied there, in Fes, and after 1208 in Spain. In 1217, he went to Egypt where he seems to have spent the rest of his life. In 1224, he completed a history of the Almohad dynasty, preceded by a summary of Spanish history from the Muslim conquest to 1087 (Kitab al-mu’jib fi talkhis akhbar ahl al-Maghrib) .The text has been edited by R. P. A. Dozy .There is a French translation by Fagnan . Extracts can be found in Wustenfeld, Brockelman and Lévi Provençal .


Hassan-al-Murrakushi’s main scientific work is Jami’ al-Mabadi’ wa-‘l-ghayat fi ‘ilm al-miqat (The compendium of principles and results in the science of timekeeping), probably completed in 1229-1230. This is a very good compilation of practical knowledge on astronomical instruments, trigonometry and gnomonics . Part of this work has been translated by Sédillot . Sarton holds that the book was the most elaborate trigonometrical treatise of the Western caliphate, the best medieval treatise on practical astronomy, on gnomonics and the best explanation of graphical methods .

The part dealing with gnomonics contained studies of dials traced on horizontal, cylindrical, conical and other surfaces for every latitude . Al-Murrakushi gave a table of sines for each half degree as well as tables of versed sines and arc sines (this last one he called the table of Al-Khwarizmi). To facilitate the use of gnomons, he added a table of arc cotangents .

The second part of the book was devoted to the explanation of graphical methods of solving astronomical problems. In Al-Murrakushi’s Jami’ al-mabadi’ the construction of planispheres, astrolabes, quadrants and the need of gnomonics are developed. This constituted the great interest of Sédillot who wrote one of the best accounts on Muslim astronomical instruments .


In his treatise, Al-Murrakushi shows his good acquaintance with the mathematical and astronomical works of Al-Khwarizmi, Al-Farghani, Al-Battani, Abu ‘l Wafa, Al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Al-Zarqali and Jabir Ibn Aflah. For example, he shared Al-Zarqali’s belief that the obliquity of the ecliptic oscillates between 23°,33′ and 23°,53’, a belief which tallied with the notion of the trepidation of the equinoxes .

It is interesting to note how much study Al-Murrakushi has devoted to trigonometry and associated subjects, and yet we read in some works of history of science, including that by a renowned figure such as Alistair Crombie, that:

“The development of modern trigonometry dates from mathematical work done in Oxford and France in the fourteenth century in connection with astronomy .”

Had Crombie even briefly consulted Al-Murrakushi, he would have realised just how far from the truth he was.

Geographers and Travellers


Several well known geographers and travellers who left a noteworthy legacy also originated from Morocco. We mention Al-Idrisi and Ibn Battuta, who both came from northern Morocco.


Two examples of the Almohad architecture: the Giralda in Seville and the Kutubiya in Marrakech.


Muhammad Al-Idrisi was born in Ceuta (Morocco) in 1099-1100 CE, and died in 1166 CE. He studied at Cordoba, and although he died in his birth place, Ceuta, he spent his working life at the Norman court of Palermo. At the age of 16, he travelled through Asia Minor, Morocco, Spain and the South of France and even visited England .

His description of most of Western Europe is lively and, on the whole, quite accurate . The same is true of his treatment of the Balkans, whilst for the rest of Europe and for most of the Islamic world (with the exception of North Africa, with which he had a firsthand acquaintance) his account is based on the writings of others .


Al-Idrisi was a noteworthy and original geographer. He used in a creative way the system of cylindrical projection of the Earth’s surface, which was to be claimed some centuries later, in 1569, by the Flemish Gerard Mercator . Al-Idrisi’s other merit, according to Udovitch is the extensive information he provides about contemporary Western Europe .Hitti also notes that Al-Idrisi’s map places the sources of the Nile-supposedly discovered in the latter part of the 19th century in the equatorial highlands of Africa .

At the court of Palermo, Al-Idrisi’s patron was King Roger II for whom he wrote Al-Kitab al-Rujari (Roger’s book) also known as Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq (Pleasures of Men and Delights of Souls), a book that has the scope of a large geographical encyclopaedia. This work is the most elaborate description of the world of medieval times, and for a considerable time thereafter. In the preface of the text, Al-Idrisi says that he spent fifteen years on his work .

“Judging by the level of knowledge and the concept of critical research of his time,” Ronart writes, “Idrisi’s Rogerian Book must have ranked among the most prominent achievements in the history of geographical science .


Al-Idrisi also constructed a silver planisphere prepared with the utmost attention to scientific accuracy. This planisphere, Dunlop notes, has surely has been lost, melted down, but the book still stands as “a great monument of Arabic and Muslim geography” .


Ibn Battuta

Figure : View of the restored building of the Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakech founded in the 14th century by the Marinid Sultan Abu al-Hassan and allied to the neighbouring Ben Youssef Mosque. This madrasa was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students.

Ibn Battuta was born in Tangier on 24 February 1304 and died about 1368-9. He left his native Tangier on 14 January 1325 in order to make his pilgrimage to Mecca, but he only returned to Morocco almost a quarter of a century later, in November 1349 .

Soon after his return to Morocco, Ibn Battuta left on a trip for Spain, and then turned south to visit the Mali Madinka state, especially the cities of Timbuktu and Gao. He returned to Morocco in 1354, and it is at this date that he dictated the story of his travels to Ibn Juzayy’, a scholar at the court of Merinid Sultan Innan of Fes .

Ibn Battuta’s Rihla is an account of his travels first crossing many countries to India, where he occupied an important official function. Then he travelled by sea to China, Java and the Maldives. In modern scholarship, his travel account was translated into French by Defremey and Sanguinetty . There is also an abridged version by H.R. Gibb .who only translated selected extracts (thus the Arabic and French versions remaining more comprehensive and whole).


The Rihla is very instructive for all the vegetation named and described within it, but also, as Rosenthal recognises, for its unique information on India in the 14th century, and even more so for the description of the Maldives, southern Russia and Black Africa .The merit of Gibb’s version .which is used in the following to illustrate some of Ibn Battuta’s descriptions of places he visited, is that it gives a very useful and lengthy introduction on Ibn Battuta’s life, relating to his ascetic regime, resigning all his offices and giving away all his possessions at some stage, before he was urged into accepting office again by Sultan Muhammad and became his envoy at the head of an important mission to the most powerful ruler in the world then, the Emperor of China.


Gibb also tells of how Ibn Battuta was a hunted fugitive for eight days and was left only with the clothes he was wearing and his prayer mat, forcing him to seek refuge in Malabar, where he became judge again. During his journey from Alexandria to the Maghrib, and on two occasions, he narrowly escaped capture by European pirates; still his love of travel was never extinguished. From each part visited, Ibn Battuta relates his experiences and observations. Thus, on the River Nile, he states:


“The Egyptian Nile surpasses all rivers of the earth in sweetness of taste, length of course and utility. No other river in the world can show such a continuous series of towns and villages along its banks, or a basin so intensely cultivated. Its course is from south to north, contrary to all other [great] rivers.

One extraordinary thing about it is that it begins to rise in the extreme hot weather, at the time when rivers generally diminish and dry up, and begins to subside just when rivers begin to increase and overflow. The river Indus resembles it in this feature… Some distance below Cairo the Nile divides into three streams, none of which can be crossed except by boat, winter or summer.

The inhabitants of every township have canals led off the Nile; these are filled when the river is in flood and carry the water over the fields .

The Turks, Ibn Battuta observes, leave their livestock free to graze without guardians or shepherds. This is due to their strict laws against theft. Anyone caught with a stolen horse is forced to restore it with nine others; if he cannot do this, his sons are taken instead .

China amazes Ibn Battuta for its porcelain and the huge size of hens’ eggs, bigger than what he knew of goose eggs. The skills of the Chinese are what thrills him most, though, “very talented and precise people” he admits. He has this to say:

“I never returned to any of their cities after I had visited it a first time without finding my portrait and the portraits of my companions drawn on the walls and on sheets of paper exhibited in the bazaars… Each of us set to examining the other’s portrait .

the likeness was perfect in every respect….They had been observing us (in the palace) and drawing our portraits without our noticing it. This is a custom of theirs, I mean making portraits of all who pass through their country. In fact they have brought this to such perfection that if a stranger commits any offence that obliges him to flee from China, they send his portrait far and wide. A search is then made for him and where so ever the [person bearing a] resemblance to that portrait is found is arrested .

For briefer regional accounts on Ibn Battuta’s travels, it is worth looking at M. Husain for India, Ceylon and the Maldives [96]. For Africa, in English, there is G.S.P. Freeman-Greenville on the east African coast . Sarton’s Introduction includes useful shorter extracts.

Ibn Sa’id al-Maghribi

Also worth mentioning here also is a little known geographer of the Islamic west who stayed in Marrakech for part of his life. He is rightly noted by Sarton .Ali Ibn Musa Ibn Sa’id is a geographer, historian and the most important collector of poetry from al-Andalus in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Ali ibn Musa ibn Sa’id al-Maghribi (1213-1286) was born at Alcalá la Real near Granada, grew up in Marrakesh, studied in Seville and lived in Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalem and Aleppo. He died in Tunis or Aleppo in 1275 or 1286. Being an indefatigable traveller, he was profoundly interested in geography. In 1250 he wrote Kitab bast al-ardh.

His Kitab al-jagrfiya embodies the experience of his extensive travels in the Muslim world and the shores of the Indian Ocean. He also gives an account of parts of northern Europe including Iceland. Ibn Said also visited Armenia and was at the Court of Hulagu from 1256 to 1265.

His Rayat al-mubarrizin wa-ghayat al-mumayyizin (Banners of the Champions, also translated as Pennants of the Champions), written in 1243, is his best known anthology of poetry. He also wrote a history of the Maghribi region (Book of the Maghrib).


Ibn Sa’id’s work, although containing much from his predecessors, also included new material, for example much information not given by Al-Idrisi. Ibn Sa’id had some knowledge of the Senegal River, and of the northern countries of Europe, including Iceland. He had travelled extensively throughout the Islamic world and his work was much used, and later corrected, by Abu ‘l Fida in the following period

Finally, the name of Al-Marrakushi cited above should be added for his contribution in the field. He crossed southern Spain and all northern Africa down to Egypt, himself determining the coordinates of the principal towns and cities .

Marrakech City of Power and Knowledge


The Madrasa al-Bu’naniya in Fes was founded in 1356. It is widely acknowledged as a marvel of Marinid architecture. The madrasa functioned at the same time as both an educational institute and a congregational mosque at the same time. It is the only madrasa in Fes which has a minaret. Opposite the main doorway of the madrasa is the entrance to the dar al-wudu Left and right of the central court are class rooms.

Marrakech was founded about 1070 by the Almoravids as the headquarters of their army north of the High Atlas, close to Aghmat, then a centre for trade across the mountains to the south.

In 1147, Marrakech fell to the Almohads of the High Atlas who made it their own capital. Even when Seville was the capital of the Almohad territories, Marrakech was the centre of the Almohad community with its scholars and military. Marrakech became by the desire of its rulers the centre of attraction for Maghribi scholars and even for a certain number from Spain .

So Ibn Rushd became engaged in astronomical observations in 1153 in Marrakech and was associated with the Almohad court. He had been introduced and recommended to Abu Ya’qub by the philosopher Ibn Tufayl (1105-1185), who was also based in the same city .


Marrakech is renowned for the Kutubiya Mosque cited above, famed for its books, manuscripts, libraries and book shops, which gave it its name . The Kutubiya had a hundred or so librarians gathered in the shade of the minaret; and next to them there were many intermediaries who rushed between places searching for rare and new manuscripts to copy; and also the traders who bought and sold ancient works from and to the scholars of the city . The sultans themselves collected both works and their authors, whom they wanted to have very close to them .

In Marrakech there was also a great tradition of constructors of astrolabes , and a good deal of detail on such figures and their accomplishments can be found in Mayer . Many historians flourished in Marrakech, most living surrounding the Caliphs. Abu Bakr al-Sanhadji who wrote extensively on the Almohads, and whose works were traced by Lévi Provençal to the Spanish collection at the Escurial. Because he observed from very close in time the events he describes, he is the most authentic voice on the Almohad movement in history .


Another historian born in Marrakech in 1185, but who studied at Fes, was Abd al-Wahid al-Murrakushi . Towards 1224, he wrote his Kitab al-Mu’jib fi talkhis akhbar al-Maghrib which is a good personal account of the author’s history of the Western Maghrib and where, of course, Marrakech has a leading place .

Marrakech has its other great historical attractions, such as the walled Agdal Gardens, stretching for two miles south of the Casbah, and also dating from Almohad times .These gardens were irrigated, just as the city was supplied, by mainly subterranean canals from the mountains twenty miles to the south . One of the greatest accomplishments of the Almohad rule was the Marrakech hospital, also called the Bimaristan of Amir al-Muminin al-Mansur abu Yusuf. On this, Al-Murrakushi wrote:


“Abu Yusuf built a bimaristan in Marrakech, which I believe has no equal in the world. For this purpose he chose a very extensive area in the centre of the city. He ordered the masons and the builders to carry out his plans with the greatest perfection possible. He decorated the hospital with inscriptions and designs of surpassing beauty… He ordered that flowers should be planted and cultivated in the courtyard, as well as fruit trees, and to have flowing water conducted to all the wards and rooms.

Of the sources of water one was paved with marble. He ordered the hospital to be equipped with furniture and to be covered with tapestries of wool, linen and silk, which gave an indescribable richness. He endowed it with ample waqfs and donations, providing the hospital with a daily sum of forty dinars for its expenses.

Views of the Qarawiyyin mosque and university in Fes:

(a) from above and (b) glimpse of the courtyard. (Source).


Pharmacists were employed to prepare food and drink and needed medicaments, as well as clothing for the summer and winter for the patients. When a poor patient left the hospital he was given a sum of money until he could find employment. When a rich patient was discharged he received his money and belongings beforehand. The hospital was accessible to rich and poor alike.

If a stranger was taken ill in the city, he was admitted and treated until he was well or until he died. Every Friday the monarch rode to the hospital and visited the sick, asking about the state of their health and making inquiries about their needs. The caliph con





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