Palmeraie (Marrakesh)

Gardens in Marrakesh

La Palmeraie De Marrakech
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Viault

Palmeraie (palm grove) is a palm oasis of several hundred thousand trees outside of Marrakesh, Morocco. Situated at the edge of the city’s northern section, it measures 5 miles (8.0 km) in length, and covers an area of 54 square miles (140 km2). It is known for its eponymous palm trees and resorts, as well as the Palmeraie Rotana Resort, and Nikki Beach It is approached on the Circuit de la Palmeraie, which branches off from the N8 highway to Fez.

Where is the Palm Grove of Marrakech located?

El Palmeral is located on the Route de Fès in Marrakech, northeast of the city, occupying some 7,000 hectares of land.

How can you get to the Palm Grove of Marrakech?

By taxi or carriage. The Palmeral, located on the outskirts of Marrakech, can be reached by taxi or by hiring a carriage ride from the city center. You can rent the carriage in the medina area or in the New City. From the popular Jemaa el Fna square, the journey takes two hours.

By bus. There is a tourist bus service, City Tour, which has a route, ‘Ruta Tour Palmeral’, which is made up of 13 stops and addresses the North area of ​​the City, in which the Palmeral of Marrakech is visited. The duration of the tour is approximately one hour. Other tourist companies also propose itineraries for small groups, which depart from the hotels towards the Palmeral. The price is from 20 or 25 euros per person.

What is the best way to visit the Palm Grove of Marrakech?

Taking a camel ride through the Palmeral is undoubtedly the most recommended and widespread activity to get to know the Palmeral. An authentic experience that you will not regret.

History of Palmeraie (Marrakesh)

Although legend mentions that this Palmeraie was created from date seeds cast off centuries ago by Arab warriors, it was created during the Almoravid period, using a khettara network.

The ancient tale (more than 1000 years old) refers to this garden of palm trees as “the ardent children of the African earth and sun”. Sultan Yussef Ben Tachefine, while searching for land to establish his Almoravid dynasty had camped at the plain of Haouz. His soldiers, who had camped there, after consuming palm-dates had thrown the date seeds around and some of them had dropped into holes created by the lances which they had pitched there, and these sprouted into trees. Many centuries later the same plain had become an oasis of a lush garden of 50,000 trees. Here, Stuart Church, an American architect and designer, and Jaoud Kadiri created their dream project of building an edifice of oriental culture and Buddhist philosophy, which they called the Dar Alhind, which is a mansion which permeates the spirit and traditions of India.

Now there are over 100,000 date palms, as well as olive and fruit trees. In the present day, nearby reservoirs and artesian wells supply the irrigation.

In the town planning norms of the 1920s, buildings were not allowed be built to heights taller than the palm trees and as a result palm trees have grown in pavements also. However, in recent years urbanization has affected the area.

Visiting Palmeraie (Marrakesh)




adult/child Dh40/free

Address: Musée de la palmeraie, Art contemporain et nature, Marrakesh, Morocco
Duration: 1 hours

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The three valleys in the Atlas mountains are an easy day trip from Marrakech. What are they and why should you visit them?

The Atlas Mountains separate the Sahara Desert from the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; the name “Atlantic” is derived from the mountain range. It stretches around 2,500 km (1,600 mi) through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The range’s highest peak is Toubkal, which is in central Morocco, with an elevation of 4,167 metres (13,671 ft). The Atlas mountains are primarily inhabited by Berber populations. It is known by local Berbers as ‘Idraren Draren’ (Mountains of Mountains).

Ourika Valley

Ourika valley is known for its stunning gorges and terraced fields along the river, is a popular destination for day trips due to its beautiful scenery, refreshing air, and proximity to Marrakech. The popularity of the area can be seen in the numerous restaurants and souvenir stalls along the route, as well as plans for a property development funded by Dubai.

The valley begins at the village of Souk Tnine de l’Ourika (Akhlij), which hosts a market on Mondays and attracts tourists like the nearby Asni Village market on Saturdays. 

During the warmer months, it is possible to hike to the peak of Jebel Oukaïmeden (3,263 meters/10,705 feet) from the village. The moderate 650-meter (2,133-foot) ascent offers beautiful views, particularly at sunset. This area is a good choice for a peaceful and refreshing break, as it is about 10 degrees cooler here in the summer than in Marrakech. Birdwatchers may want to look for the elusive crimson-winged finch that lives in this area.

At the end of the tarred road in the Ourika Valley is the village of Setti Fatma, which was rebuilt after devastating floods in 1995 and now has a mix of modern concrete housing blocks and traditional homes. Despite the development, the village’s setting among grassy terraces, walnut groves, and mountain peaks is still beautiful and makes it a good starting point for treks to Jebel Toubkal and the surrounding area. A 30-minute scramble up the rocky foothills above Setti Fatma leads to a series of waterfalls (called cascades by the locals) with cafes nearby. The lower falls are easy to access, but the higher ones may be more challenging. Guides are available to take visitors to the higher falls. 

Oukaimden Valley

Oukaimden valley, and taking a secluded mountain road route standing at 1800 meters above sea level, you will pass through traditional Berber villages built from adobe and stones, and discover the authentic life of Berber people. It is a ski base during the winter and a beautiful starting point for trekking during the warmer months. If a proposed property development is approved, the village will be transformed into a golf course and ski resort with a water park, exclusive shops, and artificial beachfront. The chairlift on Jebel Oukaïmeden, previously the highest in the world at an elevation of 3,273 meters (10,739 feet), may also be renovated.

Ansi Valley

Asni valley is famous by its fruit trees (Apples, walnut, almonds, peaches…), this is where you can enjoy the sight of the snowy summits of the High Atlas Mountains. Tourists visiting Imlil may encounter aggressive touts, but the weekly Saturday market, or souk, is worth checking out. The market offers a variety of local produce and livestock, as well as services such as dentistry and barbering. Visitors may also see a large group of mules with brightly colored saddles. This is a good opportunity to purchase supplies for trekking, although it is advisable to arrive early to avoid the crowds of day-tripping tourists. Above the village are the lower, forested slopes of the Kik Plateau, which is a beautiful place to go for a walk, especially in spring when it is covered in alpine flowers.

Azzaden Valley

Azzaden Valley, just south of Imlil, is often touted as the quieter alternative to Imlil. It is possible to walk from Imlil to Azzaden Valley (about six hours). You can also start the hike to the summit of Jbel Toubkal from here.

Ouirgane Valley

Ouirgane Valley in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains Marigha. The Ouirgane valley is at its most beautiful in spring. At this time, flowers line the valley floor and the crops are a bright green. It is in the middle of the Toubkal National Park. It contains the villages of Ouirgane, Marigha, Torord and Tinmel. Salt is mined from huge wells of brine in the valley. The brine is left for the water to evaporate on salt pans before it is gathered and carried on donkeys to the neighbouring villages to be sold. 

The Oued Nfis river which runs through the valley has been dammed to form a reservoir.

The valley has the Tinmal Mosque or Great Mosque of Tinmal, a 12th-century mosque located in the village of Tinmel. Although no longer operating as a mosque today, its remains are preserved as a historic site.

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If you’re planning on spending some time in Marrakesh and want to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s a good idea to take breaks in the many beautiful gardens and parks scattered throughout the city. These green spaces not only offer a chance to relax and get back to nature, but they’re also great destinations in their own right. Many of the gardens are free or only cost a small fee of 10 dirhams, making it easy to take a quick break and unwind. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the crowds and chaos of the medina, make sure to visit one of these peaceful gardens to rejuvenate your spirits.

Jardin Majorelle

Le Jardin Des Majorelle
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Viault

Jardin Majorelle is a must-visit garden in Marrakesh and a popular spot for tourists to take selfies. The 12-acre botanical garden is centered around a stunning riad with Moroccan architectural elements, and features vibrant blue and yellow colors. Visitors can wander through the shady lanes surrounded by exotic plants and relax by tranquil streams with floating lilies and lotus flowers. The garden was named after French artist Jacques Majorelle, who designed the building in the 1920s and 1930s. It also houses a small archaeological museum with interesting displays on Islamic art and Berber culture. To enjoy the garden in peace and quiet, it’s recommended to visit early in the morning before the crowds arrive or later in the afternoon after they have left.

Read more about the Jardin Majorelle

Bahia Palace Gardens

Bahia Palace Large Court
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Val Traveler

The Bahia Palace is a must-see destination for anyone interested in traditional Marrakeshi palaces and gardens. Located inside the old medina of Marrakesh, the palace boasts beautiful Andalusian-style architecture and intricate zelij mosaic and woodwork. The exact dates of construction are unknown, but it is believed to have been in use as early as 1859 and completed by 1900. The palace was built in two stages by Si Moussa and his son, resulting in an irregular and disjointed layout that adds to the sense of adventure and discovery as you explore its different sections. The materials used in the palace’s construction, including zelij, ceramic, and wood, were sourced from all over North Africa. Consider taking a guided tour to learn more about the history and geography of Morocco through the palace’s architecture. It’s best to visit the Bahia Palace early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

Read more about the Bahia Palace

Sunken Gardens of El Badi Palace

Badia Palace Marrakesh
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Pedro

El Badi Palace is a ruined palace located in the Mellah district of Marrakesh, a short walk from the Bahia Palace. The palace, which was commissioned by Arab Saadian sultan Ahmad-al-Mansur and completed in 1593, is currently being renovated and restored. Despite its state of disrepair, many visitors prefer El Badi to Bahia Palace due to its unique charm. The palace complex took 25 years to build and was constructed using the most expensive materials available at the time, including gold and onyx. Visitors can explore the sunken gardens and pavilions and marvel at the superb examples of Saadian architecture on display. El Badi Palace can be easily combined with a visit to Bahia Palace for a full day of exploring Marrakesh’s rich history and culture.

Read more about the Badi Palace

The Palmeraie Gardens

La Palmeraie De Marrakech
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Viault

The Palmeraie is a vast palm grove on the northern outskirts of Marrakesh, covering an area of 54 square miles and stretching for 5 miles in length. At one time, it was one of the largest palm groves in North Africa. While there are hotels and restaurants located within the oasis, such as the Palmeraie Golf Palace, you can also get a feel for the area by simply driving through it. Camels and guides can often be found along the roadside, waiting to take tourists on camel rides through the oasis. There is a legend that the Palmeraie was created from the date seeds thrown on the ground by Arab warriors, but it was actually developed during the Almoravid period using a system of underground irrigation channels known as qanats. Today, the irrigation system has run dry, but you can still see traces of it if you walk through the grove.

Read more about the Palmeraie (Marrakesh)

The Menara Gardens

Menara Gardens Marakesh
pixabay / Marco Federmann

The Menara garden is located west of Marrakesh, near the gates to the Atlas mountains. It is often referred to as the “little sister” of the Agdal garden. Both gardens were established by the Almohad dynasty and feature large basins that were used to irrigate the surrounding groves and orchards using an advanced system of underground channels. The Menara garden gets its name from the small green pyramid-roofed pavilion (menzeh) located within it, which translates to “light house.” However, the name does not refer to any actual lighthouse function, but rather to the pavilion’s religious significance. The Menara garden has a similar feel to the Agdal and is a peaceful place to relax and enjoy nature.

Read more about the Menara Gardens

Koutoubia Gardens and Cyber Park

Koutoubia Mosque In Marrakesch
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Max221B

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to escape the hustle and bustle of the medina in Marrakesh, there are several parks and gardens located near the Koutoubia Mosque that are worth checking out. Simply cross the road from Djemma El Fna and take a stroll through the parks and fountains behind the mosque. The Cyber Park is also just a short 2-minute walk from the Koutoubia and offers a slightly more modern atmosphere. It’s a popular spot for locals to relax and is a great place to sit under a palm tree and read a book or watch the world go by. These parks are convenient and offer a welcome respite from the busy city.

Read more about the Koutoubia Gardens (Lalla Hassna Park)

Agdal Gardens

Agdal Garden, Marrakech
CC BY-SA 2.0 / mwanasimba

The Agdal Gardens are perhaps the most important garden in Marrakesh and were built by the Almohad dynasty in the 12th century. The gardens were originally created as an orchard and cover an area of over 400 hectares. The name “Agdal” derives from an Amazigh word meaning “walled meadow,” which reflects the lines of groves that make up the vast expanse of the garden. These groves include orange, lemon, fig, apricot, and pomegranate trees, as well as rows of olive groves. While some visitors may find the Agdal gardens a bit underwhelming, as there is no specific trail to follow or museum on site, the panoramic view over the water and groves is breathtaking. The true spectacle of the Agdal gardens lies in their sophisticated irrigation system, which includes a network of underground channels that bring water from the Atlas mountains to a vast water basin that feeds the groves and orchards all year round.

Read more about the Agdal Gardens (Aguedal Park Gardens)

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Marrakesh, one of Morocco’s four Imperial Cities, was founded in the 11th century and is known for its abundance of mosques, palaces, and museums. It is the most popular tourist destination in the country. The medina, the historic walled city, is the centre of Marrakesh and is characterized by its narrow, cobblestone streets and vibrant souks. The streets are primarily used by pedestrians and donkey carts, and have remained largely unchanged for centuries.

Jemaa el-Fnaa square

Djemaa El Fna,Marrakesh
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Boris Macek

The Jemaa el-Fnaa square ishe bustling hub of activity in Marrakech. it is situated in Medina, its wide, open space contrasts with the narrow, maze-like streets around. You can find so many various food and other goods stalls here that it’s overwhelming. By day, snake charmers and henna ladies dot the square and scout for customers. When the sun goes down, the smoke from numerous cauldrons with soup and grill with meat rises and floats above Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Read more about the Jemaa el-Fnaa

Marrakesh's Medina

Marrakech Street
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edviges

Marrakesh’s Medina is the equivalent to “Old Town” in European cities. It’s basically a maze of winding, tiny streets filled with shops and old style apartments. If you don’t mind the ubiquitous chaos, mess and noise – it’s a good place to stay – you will be close to most of the attractions around. Remember that no cars are allowed in Medina – taxis stop outside the main gate. But beware of motorcycles. They can appear out of nowhere and the drivers don’t seem to care much about the passer-by. Here, in the souks (street stalls and markets), you can buy many herbs, spices and souvenirs. You must know how to bargain though, as the sellers can be pushy and intimidating.

Souk Semmarine

Located next to the city’s main square, Jemaa al-Fnaa, the visually appealing Souk Semmarine is the largest market in the whole of Morocco, where traders have been selling goods for the past 1,000 years. If you’re after colorful accessories such as authentic bags, shoes, or clothes, then this is the right place to wander around. The henna artists, hawkers and other locals trying to take advantage of tourists can get somewhat overwhelming, but that is all part of the experience.

Rahba Kedima Square

This is one of the best market squares (though really more of a triangle) in the Medina district and is friendlier and more spacious than the souks, with ready-to-haggle vendors setting up their wares on the ground or on trestle tables. More traditional and more street-market-style than other, busier spots, it’s also a great area to see basket weavers in action.

Souk Zrabia (Carpet Market)

Souk Zrabia is found on the left side of the Rahba Kedima. Here you will find handmade rugs, carpets and kilims that are brightly painted and at reasonable price. There are also embroidered sheep wool hats found on this market.

Souk des Teinturiers (Dyer’s market)

The Souk des Teinturiers is probably one of the most picturesque in Marrakech. For many, it is the favourite Instagram spot in the city. The souk is maintained despite the industrial dyes because nowadays it is primarily a tourist attraction. Here you can see workshops with steam emanating from the tanks and big skeins of wool hanging to dry.

Read more about the Souks of Marrakech

Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret
CC BY-SA 2.0 / duncan cumming

Le Jardin Secret was in the 19th century one of the largest riads in the medina of Marrakech and belonged to the Chancellor of Sultan Moulay ‘Abd-al-Hāfiz, who was the last sultan of Morocco before the French protectorate.

The riad includes two courtyards. The larger has been restored as an Islamic paradise garden, reflecting the pure geometry and Koranic symbolism of its progenitors. The smaller garden shows another view of paradise, as described in the Old Testament book of genesis, where “out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.”

Read more about the Le Jardin Secret

Dar el Bacha

Dar El Bacha
CC BY-SA 4.0 / 74913002A

The Dar el Bacha Museum, located near the entrance to the medina of Marrakech, is considered one of the most beautiful places in the Red City. The Dar el Bacha Museum was once the home of Thami El Glaoui, the pacha of Marrakech. It underwent a restoration project led by the National Museum Foundation, and reopened as a museum in December 2017.

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Almoravid Koubba

Marrakesh, Almoravid Koubba
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Michal Osmenda

The Koubba is a 12th-century building in Morocco that is the only surviving Almoravid structure in the country. It was renovated in the 16th century and was later covered by an outbuilding attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque. The Koubba was discovered during excavation work in 1948 and can now be accessed by a flight of stairs. It is known for its ornate dome, decorative windows, and intricate interior motifs, including acanthus leaves, palms, pine cones, and calligraphy from the Quran. The Koubba was used for ritual washing before prayer and has an inscription in ancient cursive Maghrebi script that reads, “I was created for science and prayer.”

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Musee de Marrakech (Marrakech Museum)

Marrakesch Marrakesch Museum
CC BY-SA 3.0 / giggel

Housed in the 19th century Dar Menebhi Palace, which was beautifully restored in 1997 by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation, the Musée de Marrakech is worth visiting to see one of the best examples of Arab/Spanish architecture. With its calming fountains, seating areas and detailed tile work, the central courtyard, which functions as the museum’s atrium, was once open to the sky but now has been covered with glass. Its show-stopper is, undoubtedly, the huge hanging chandelier made of metal shards, each one delicately decorated with inscriptions and geometric symbols. The side rooms around the courtyard have lovely painted wooden ceilings and house several pieces of interest, such as historical books and manuscripts, jewel-encrusted daggers and swords, clothes, coins, carpets and pottery from Arab, Berber and Jewish civilizations. The museum also holds temporary exhibitions on modern Moroccan art, but sadly, the explanations of each item, along with those in the permanent exhibition, are all in Arabic/French.

Read more about the Marrakech Museum

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa Marrakesh, Morocco
CC BY-SA 2.0 / yeowatzup

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was the largest and most important Islamic school in Marrakech and Morocco. Built almost 500 years ago, the Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakech feels like it has changed very little in that time.

You’ll find the Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa in the Medina district of Marrakech and you shouldn’t miss a trip to visit this important building, renovated and opened to the public in 1982. Founded in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 16th, during the Saadian Dynasty, the Madrasa was part of the complex of the nearby Almoravid mosque which was founded by Ali Ben Youssef during his reign between 1106-42, to which it was once attached.

Read more about the Ben Youssef Madrasa

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Marrakesh has it all colourful souks, Moorish architecture, intimate gardens and boutique hotels. This self guided tour will take you from the quiet courtyards and snaking alleyways of the historic Medina, alongside stunning palaces leading to the 12th century Koutoubia Mosque.

Jemaa el-Fnaa

Djemaa El Fna,Marrakesh
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Boris Macek

Jemaa el-Fnaa is a great place to start our tour. Look for the Minaret de la Koutoubia in the west. You will use this to orient yourself if you get lost!

The Jemaa el-Fnaa is Marrakech’s main square and the most important part of the medina. Jemaa el-Fna is the city’s top attraction and can be visited at all hours of the day.  At this fascinating spot, you’ll find snake charmers, the magical souk, monkeys and henna artists. The best view of Jemaa el Fna is from one of the roof terraces framing the edge of the square. Look for Le Grand Balcon du Café Glace – it is perfectly positioned to witness the full scale of the activity on the square below.

Read more about the Jemaa el-Fnaa

Musee Dar Si Said

Dar Si Said Museum
CC BY-SA 4.0 / C messier

Leave the square by the eastern road (away from the Minaret de la Koutoubia), turn right onto Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid by the restaurant Marrakchi. About halfway down this street (by the Herboristerie La Musée – avoid this place), you nee to turn left – you may need to ask for directions or find the sign posts for the Musee Dar Si Said.

The Musée Dar Si Saïd, also known as the Museum of Moroccan Art, is housed in a stunning palace in Marrakech. The palace was built in the mid 19th century for Si Saïd ibn Moussa, the Minister of War, and boasts a beautiful courtyard with flowers, cypress trees, a gazebo, and a fountain. The exhibition rooms surrounding the courtyard are adorned with intricately carved doors, intricate stucco work, and mosaics, as well as a domed reception room and harem quarters.

The museum’s collection is highly regarded and includes jewellery from various regions in Morocco, carpets, oil lamps, pottery, and leather work. A standout piece in the collection is a 10th-century Spanish marble basin, which was brought to Marrakech by Sultan Ali ben Youssef in 1120 and initially placed in a mosque despite its depiction of an eagle and griffons, which goes against Islamic law. The basin was later moved to the Ben Youssef Madrasa and eventually donated to the museum after the college’s restoration.

Read more about the Dar Si Said

Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace Large Court
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Val Traveler

Head south from the Musée Dar Si Saïd, turn right onto Rue de la Bahia. You should pass the Tiskiwin Museum on your right. You shoudl turn left onto Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid, at the end of which is theentrance to the Bahia Palace.

The Bahia Palace, also known as the “Palace of the Brilliant/Beautiful,” is a stunning late 19th century palace that spans 8 hectares, including a garden. Located close to the royal El Badi Palace and about 900 meters southeast of Jemaa el-Fnaa, the Bahia Palace is an oasis of calm in the midst of the bustling medina souk and offers a respite from the noise of traffic. The complex features 150 rooms, patios, courtyards, fountains, and gardens, and is adorned with intricate tile work, mosaics, coloured glass, carvings, and elaborate ceilings.

Originally built for Si Moussa, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Hassan I, the Bahia Palace was the largest and most luxurious palace in Morocco at the time. During the French Protectorate, it was the residence of General Hubert Lyautey, who added electricity, fireplaces, and heating. Although the rooms are not furnished with period furniture, the tiled walls and ceilings more than make up for it. Visitors can explore the palace in about 30 minutes, but it is also enjoyable to spend more time taking in all of the details of the palace.

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El Badi Palace

Badia Palace Marrakesh
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Pedro

From the Badia Palace head west and you will soon find yourself in the Place des Ferblantiers,a palm-lined square in the Mellah with artisans selling handcrafted tin lamps & housewares. People will probably approach you to tell you that the Badi palace is closed for lunch, but that is not the case. Don’t listen to them, the palace is open non-stop all day!Leave the square to the south through the archway. Turn right onto Rue de Berrima.

The El Badi Palace, also known as the “Incomparable Palace,” was once a grand and stately palace but now stands in ruins. Commissioned by Sultan Ahmed el-Massour of the Saadian Dynasty in 1572 to celebrate his victory over the Portuguese in the Battle of the Three Kings, the El Badi Palace was intended to be the most impressive building in Marrakech. However, the sultan died before the palace was completed in 1603.

The El Badi Palace was a massive complex with 360 rooms surrounding an interior courtyard that measured 135 meters by 110 meters and featured fountains and a large pond. The palace was funded using reparation debt imposed on Portugal after the battle and was decorated with mosaics from Italy, gold fittings from the gold mines of Sudan, and onyx, ivory, cedar wood, and semi-precious stones.

After the Saadian Dynasty fell to the Alaouites in 1683, Sultan Moulay Ismail stripped the El Badi Palace of its valuable decorations to use in his new palace in another town, and the El Badi Palace slowly fell into ruin. Visitors can explore the ruins of the palace and climb an internal staircase on the northeast side to a small terrace with a view of the complex. The palace also houses a small museum containing a restored 12th-century carved minbar (Imam’s pulpit) from the nearby Koutoubia Mosque.

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Saadian Tombs

Saadian Tombs Marrakesh
CC BY-SA 2.0 / David Stanley

Continue along the Rue de Berrima to the Saadian Tombs.

The Saadian Tombs, located in the Kasbah of the royal district in the medina of Marrakech, offer a glimpse into the beauty of ancient Morocco. The tombs were commissioned by Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansur of the Saadian dynasty in 1554 for himself and his family, and are the only surviving remnants of the dynasty’s reign, which lasted from 1554 to 1659. When the dynasty fell to the Alaouites, the new sultan attempted to destroy all evidence of the Saadians’ rule, but spared the tombs, which were partially sealed off (although important individuals were still buried there until 1792).

The Saadian Tombs are incredibly well-preserved due to their partial sealing and protection from external elements. The “Hall of the Twelve Columns,” where Al-Mansur and 60 members of the Saadian family are entombed, is adorned with imported Italian marble, intricate tile work, gilded honeycomb muqarnas, and elaborate, detailed and colorful ceilings. The “Hall of the Three Niches” houses important princes, while approximately 170 chancellors and their wives are buried in the garden.

The tombs were discovered in 1917 through aerial photography and were lovingly restored by the French organization, the Beaux-Arts Service. The tombs offer a peaceful resting place for those interred within.

Read more about the Saadian Tombs

Kasbah Mosque

Kasbah Mosque
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Yastay

The Kasbah Mosque is one of the oldest and largest mosques in Marrakech, having been built in 1190. It is the second-best-known mosque in the city after the Koutoubia Mosque and features typical Almohad architecture. The mosque opens onto a square surrounded by interesting buildings and has a distinct minaret, which served as a prototype for many later minarets in the Maghreb and al-Andalus and is decorated differently from the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. The exterior of the mosque is imposing, with high walls topped by merlons above a row of corbels and large pointed horseshoe arches, some of which are now walled-in, while others frame the gates of the mosque or house shops.

The Kasbah Mosque has undergone multiple restorations and is now in excellent condition. It is an active place of worship, with the call to prayer drawing in hundreds of worshipers daily (although it has the capacity to accommodate many thousands more). Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the mosque, but it is still enjoyable to sit outside and take in the atmosphere. The area around the mosque is quieter and more open than other parts of the medina, and there are several nice cafes where visitors can sit and appreciate the surrounding architecture.

Read more about the Kasbah Mosque

Bab Agnaou & the Walls of Marrakech

Bab al-Makhzen
CC BY-SA 2.0 / János Korom Dr

Bab Agnaou, located in the southwest corner of Marrakech, is one of the 19 huge gates that once guarded entry into the city as part of its protective walls. It is the most noteworthy of the surviving gates, with rich decoration reflecting the 12th-century fortification design and embellishments. At one point, the gate served as an entrance to the El Badi Palace, home to the royal family, and was more of a decorative feature than a defensive one.

The entryway of the Bab Agnaou gate is a large horseshoe arch with concentric circles of symmetrical carvings – four semi-circular carved arcs, one above the other, with geometric floral patterns and a frieze along the top inscribed with verses from the Koran in Kufic lettering. The gate is constructed of Gueliz sandstone, which gives it its blue/ochre color. The two broken areas at each end of the top suggest that two slender towers once stood in this location, which may be the source of the gate’s name, “Agnaou,” which means “sheep without horns” in ancient Berber.

Today, the Bab Agnaou gate is a popular photo opportunity in the old city of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read more about the Walls of Marrakesh

Koutoubia Gardens (Lalla Hassna Park)

Koutoubia Mosque In Marrakesch
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Max221B

From Bab Agnaou head north to see Lalla Hasna Park and the Koutoubia Mosque.

Lalla Hasna Park is a pretty garden just west of the Koutoubia. Laid out with pools, roses, palms and orange trees. it’s the prefect place to stroll or sit while enjoying views of the mosque.

Read more about the Koutoubia Gardens (Lalla Hassna Park)

Koutoubia Mosque

Panoramic view of Koutoubia mosque, Marrakesh.
CC BY-SA 4.0 / C messier

The Koutoubia Mosque and minaret, located 200 meters west of Jemaa el-Fnaa on Avenue Mohammed V, is the largest mosque in Marrakech and serves as a useful landmark for orienting oneself within the medina’s labyrinth. The mosque’s name, “Koutoubia,” is derived from the Arabic “al-Koutoubiyyin,” which means “bookseller,” as the area was once home to many sellers of books and manuscripts. The mosque is closed to non-Muslims, but everyone can enjoy the adjacent park, which features trees (palms, orange, olives), flower beds, fountains, and benches, at all times for free.

A smaller predecessor mosque was built on this site in 1147 by the Almohad dynasty after they defeated the Almoravides and took control of Marrakech. However, the qiblah wall of the mosque, which should have faced Mecca, was incorrectly oriented, so instead of correcting its position, the Almohades built a new, larger mosque nearby and the old one fell into disuse. The current mosque is constructed of reddish-brown sandstone and is decorated with curved window arches and pointed “merlons” or crenellations.

The Koutoubia’s minaret is a square structure that stands 69 meters high and 13 meters wide, with six rooms stacked on top of one another and crowned with a ceramic strip, small tower, and four gilded copper balls decreasing in size. The north-western side of the minaret contains ruins and cisterns from an Almoravid palace that stood on the site before the Almohades took over.

Read more about the Koutoubia Mosque

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