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A Quick Guide to Marrakech’s Medieval Attractions

Thinking about traveling to Morrocco’s ever-popular Marrakech? If the food, markets and nightlife aren’t tempting enough, the city’s incredible medieval features are reason alone to make the trip. Here’s a quick guide of what not to miss:

Ben Youssef Madrasa
Thought to be the most beautiful building in Marrakech, this Islamic school was rebuilt in the 1560s – it once housed almost 900 students and is now arguably home to the city’s finest art and architecture. You’ll be mesmerised by the exquisitely detailed woodwork and stucco, colourful zellij tiles and stunning reflecting pools.

Saadian Tombs
Only recently rediscovered in 1917, the Saadian Tombs are beautifully adorned with vivid tiles, elaborate carvings and Arabic script. Archaeologists believe that the Saadian Tombs date from the same period as the Ben Youssef Madrasa, due to similar ornamentation and construction techniques. The tombs have since been reconditioned to their original grandeur and are not to be missed.

Koutoubia Mosque
Famous for its impressive 70m-high sandstone minaret, the Koutoubia Mosque is the oldest mosque in the city; it is also one of only three Almohad minarets that remain in the world. This Marrakech landmark derives its name from the Arabic word for ‘book’ (koutoub), because of its original proximity to a neighboring book market, and served as the inspiration for countless church towers across southern and eastern Europe.

Mausoleum of Sidi Abdelaziz
Be sure to take a stroll past this lovely mausoleum on your way to the Ben Youssef Madrasa. As many as 200 holy men and women are buried here, the most important being the Sabatou Rijal, or ‘seven saints.’ While the Mausoleum is only open to Muslims, others can admire the beautiful exterior, including a beautifully patterned doorway, green tile roof and intricately carved wooden eaves.

Shrob ou shouf fountain
Also near the Ben Youssef Madrasa is the beautifully constructed Shrob ou shof fountain. Covered by a carefully tiled green roof and displaying a wooden crown formed like honeycomb, the fountain’s inscriptions invite those walking by to ‘drink and look’ (or in Arabic,‘shroub ou shouf’)

Almoravid Koubba
The oldest building in Marrakech, the Almoravid Koubba is the only building remaining in Morocco that dates from the era of the Almoravid dynasty which ruled in the 1000s-1100s. The motif of palms, pine cones and acanthus leaves is similar to the Ben Youssef Mosque. The distinctly shaped windows became a common feature in many Almohadian and Merenidian designs.

El Badi Palace
Commissioned in 1578 by Saadian Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and dismantled less than a century later, El Badi Palace now stands in mysterious ruins. Extensive restoration work, predominantly to the walls and pools, allow visitors to appreciate the detailed craftsmanship of the period.

Palais Dar Si Said (Museum of Moroccan Arts)
This lovely museum is housed inside a magnificent palace, worth the visit alone. It is open daily (but closes for lunch) and features excellent displays of historical ceramics, jewelry, costumes and other artifacts.

Now stop reading, grab your camera and get yourself to Marrakech for a holiday you won’t forget!

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