Saadian Tombs: The forgotten Dynasty. Marrakech

Saadian Tombs: The forgotten Dynasty. Marrakech

Tucked behind the Kasbah of Marrakech, hidden behind a small, wooden door you’ll find the Saadian Tombs.

They close promptly at 5pm, so don’t be late!

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The tombs from the Kasbah restaurant just opposite

The Kasbah Mosque

The tombs are next to the Kasbah mosque built by the Almohad dynasty in 1184. It was refurbished in 2016 (it was originally remodeled in the 17th and 18th century) and is one of Morocco’s first green mosque’s, entirely powered by solar energy. Non-Muslims aren’t able to visit the mosque interior but often times the doors are open and you can peek in.

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The Kasbah mosque

Deliberately blocked off

For two centuries the tombs were deliberately lost and only rediscovered in 1917 during a French aerial survey.

The tombs’ long neglect is in part responsible for its enduring preservation however the tombs and rooms have now been fully restored. There are many fascinating photos around the walls of the tombs restoration which are well worth a passing glance.

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Photo of the tombs when discovered
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The tombs when discovered

The first mausoleum

Seen on the left as you enter, the first mausoleum is the prettiest and coldest of the two mausoleums. Built to house Mansour’s tomb, it has a vaulted roof, marbled columns, fine carvings and stunning zellij tiles.

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The tombs
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Marble columns in the tombs

An oratory

The first hall is an oratory and probably not originally intended for burial, but nevertheless contains the thin marble stones of several Saadian princes.

In the back of the mausoleum is a very fine mihrab, supported by a delicate group of columns. El Mansour’s tomb is in the domed central chamber, flanked by the tombs of his sons and successors.

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The gardens

Scattered around the gardens are the tombs of a hundred or more Saadian princes and members of the royal household, including a few Jewish graves. The gravestones are covered in brilliantly colored tiles and most have inscriptions with quotes from the Qur’an.

zellij tiles

Zellij, or mosaic tiles, are individually made from chiseled, geometric tiles and used to ornament walls, ceilings and even tables.  The art of Zellij flourished between 711-1492 when the Merinid dynasty introduced blue, green and yellow into the tiles. Red was added much later in the 17th century.

Usually zellij tiles depict luxury and sophistication so are used to decorate the homes of the wealthy.

Mr Tortoise

If you’re lucky you might be able to see the resident tortoise!

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