Suitcase and World: Marrakesh. مراكش

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Marrakesh. مراكش

Bab Agnaou is one of the nineteen gates in Marrakesh.
It was built in the 12th century by the Almohads.
Ahhh.....Marraskesh. I think this the city that most people think of when they think of Morocco.  It is the city that evokes all the exotic images that people most often associated with Morocco

Marrakesh (or Marrakech), nicknamed the Ochre City because of the red Kasbah wall surrounding the medina, was founded in 1062.

The city has had a tumultuous history since its founding as a desert encampment.

Although it was the Almoravid leader, Abu Bakr ibn Umar who first designated Marrakesh as a regional capital city, it wasn't until his successor, Yusuf ibn Tashfin, came along that the desert encampment was transformed into medieval urban center, complete with stone buildings and a mosque.  The city had a style evocative of desert life, with planted palm trees and an oasis-like feel.

Under the Almoravid rule, Marrakesh,grew into an important splendid Islamic city of commercial power and wealth.

 Koutoubia Mosque. 
The Koutoubia is to Marrakech what the Statue of Liberty is to New York and the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Nearly seventy metres in height and visible for miles afar, the Koutoubia is a landmark that dominates the whole of Marrakesh. Originally built by the early Almohads, this is the oldest and most complete of three great Almohad towers – the other two are the Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda in Seville.

Captured by the Almohads in 1147, the city experienced its greatest period under the leadership of Yaqub al-Mansur, the third Almohad sultan. A number of poets and scholars entered the city during his reign and he began the construction of the Koutoubia Mosque and a new kasbah. Other important structures such as Menara Gardens were also built in this time frame. Scholars, philosophers and other thinkers of the time converged on the city. Caravans came through ancient Marrakesh, making it a very powerful commercial center.

El Badi Palace.

Marrakesh on a downward spiral when it was taken over by the Merenids in the mid-1200s. Fes had already been established as the capital. Caravans stopped coming and the major source of income was lost. Marrakesh was neglected by the Merenids and fell into a period of decline.

The Saadians took over Morocco in 1522. Mostly in ruins, the leader chose to make Marrakesh his capital in 1551. Under the guidance of Mohammed Al Mahdi, Marrakesh began to be restored to its former grandeur. During this period, the Saadians built many wonderful structures such as the El Badi Palace. Moroccan crafts reached a pinnacle under this dynasty attracting many artisans whose work is still visible today. Additionally, Marrakesh drew Islamic holy men to its gates. Upon death, many were buried within the city’s splendid tombs. By the 1600s, Marrakesh had been restored to its former glory. Remaining culturally and economically important until the 1669, it had become the most important and influential city in all of Morocco.

Jardin Marjorelle is a twelve-acre botanical garden and artist's landscape garden. It was designed by the expatriate French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 1930s.  In 1980, the gardens were purchased and restored by Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé.

An invasion and capture by the Alaouites in1669 saw Marrakesh lose its status, again. The Alaouite sultan moved the capital back to Fes. Marrakesh fell into disrepair one more time.

Mohammed III restored most of Marrakesh in the mid-1700's and it remained largely unchanged until 1917. After the French invaded, a French-styled city was begun outside the medina walls in 1913. French protection ended in the mid 20th century.

Morocco gained her independence from France in 1956. The new king, Mohammed V took over the throne and with the new monarchy, the capital was moved to Rabat.

Marrakesh will be our final destination and I'm deliberately not going to plan any activities, except for a day trip to Essaouira, so we can just linger and enjoy our last few days on what I hope will be a wonderful trip to a country I have longed dreamed of visiting.