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Marrakesh is possibly the most important of Morocco's four former imperial cities. The region has been inhabited by Berber farmers since Neolithic times, but the actual city was founded in , by Abu Bakr ibn Umar , chieftain and cousin of Almoravid king Yusuf ibn Tashfin. In the 12th century, the Almoravids built many madrasas Koranic schools and mosques in Marrakesh that bear Andalusian influences.
The red walls of the city, built by Ali ibn Yusuf in —, and various buildings constructed in red sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the "Red City" or "Ochre City". Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading centre for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa; Jemaa el-Fnaa is the busiest square in Africa.
After a period of decline, the city was surpassed by Fez , but in the early 16th century, Marrakesh again became the capital of the kingdom. The city regained its preeminence under wealthy Saadian sultans Abu Abdallah al-Qaim and Ahmad al-Mansur , who embellished the city with sumptuous palaces such as the El Badi Palace and restored many ruined monuments.
Beginning in the 17th century, the city became popular among Sufi pilgrims for Morocco's seven patron saints, who are entombed here. In the French Protectorate in Morocco was established and T'hami El Glaoui became Pasha of Marrakesh and held this position nearly throughout the duration of the protectorate until the role was dissolved upon independence of Morocco and the reestablishment of the monarchy in In , Marrakesh mayor Fatima Zahra Mansouri became the second woman to be elected mayor in Morocco.
Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls the medina , a UNESCO World Heritage Site ,  bordered by modern neighbourhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz.
Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic centre and tourist destination. Tourism is strongly advocated by the reigning Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI , with the goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Morocco to 20 million by Despite the economic recession, real estate and hotel development in Marrakesh has grown dramatically in the 21st century.
Marrakesh is particularly popular with the French, and numerous French celebrities own property in the city. Marrakesh has the largest traditional market souk in Morocco, with some 18 souks selling wares ranging from traditional Berber carpets to modern consumer electronics.
Crafts employ a significant percentage of the population, who primarily sell their products to tourists. Much of this trade can be found in the medina and adjacent squares. Tortoises are particularly popular for sale as pets but Barbary macaques and snakes can also be seen.
Marrakesh has several universities and schools, including Cadi Ayyad University. The exact meaning of the name is debated. From medieval times until around the beginning of the 20th century, the entire country of Morocco was known as the "Kingdom of Marrakesh", as the kingdom's historic capital city was often Marrakesh. Conversely, the city itself was in earlier times simply called Marocco City or similar by travelers from abroad. The name of the city and the country diverged after the Treaty of Fez divided Morocco into a French protectorate in Morocco and Spanish protectorate in Morocco , but the old interchangeable usage lasted widely until about the interregnum of Mohammed Ben Aarafa — Marrakesh is known by a variety of nicknames, including the "Red City", the "Ochre City" and "the Daughter of the Desert", and has been the focus of poetic analogies such as one comparing the city to "a drum that beats an African identity into the complex soul of Morocco.
The Marrakesh area was inhabited by Berber farmers from Neolithic times, and numerous stone implements have been unearthed in the area.
Andalusian craftsmen from Cordoba and Seville built and decorated numerous palaces in the city, developing the Umayyad style characterised by carved domes and cusped arches. 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. Marrakesh is one of the great citadels of the Muslim world.
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 As a result, almost all the city's monuments were destroyed.
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. The death of Yusuf II in 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 , 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.
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 , dinars.
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 , 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. 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.
Pilgrims visit the tombs of the saints in a specific order, as follows: During the early 20th century, Marrakesh underwent several years of unrest. After the premature death in 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 , 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.
Mauchamp, a French doctor, was murdered in Marrakesh, suspected of spying for his country. 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 , the French Protectorate in Morocco was established. 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.
T'hami El Glaoui , known as "Lord of the Atlas", became Pasha of Marrakesh, a post he held virtually throughout the year duration of the Protectorate — 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 due to the launch of the Algerian War — immediately following the end of the war in Indochina — , 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 , bringing an end to the despotic rule of Glaoui over Marrakesh and the surrounding region.
Since the independence of Morocco, Marrakesh has thrived as a tourist destination. In the s and early s 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 and United Nations agencies became active in Marrakesh beginning in the s, and the city's international political presence has subsequently grown.
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 In , a major gas explosion occurred in the city.
On 28 April , a bomb attack took place in the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, killing 15 people, mainly foreigners. The blast destroyed the nearby Argana Cafe. It is mainly composed of Jurassic limestone. The mountain range runs along the Atlantic coast, then rises to the east of Agadir and extends northeast into Algeria before disappearing into Tunisia. The spectacle of the mountains is superb. Through the clear desert air the eye can follow the rugged contours of the range for great distances to the north and eastward.
The winter snows mantle them with white, and the turquoise sky gives a setting for their grey rocks and gleaming caps that is of unrivaled beauty. With , hectares of greenery and over , palm trees in its Palmeraie, Marrakesh is an oasis of rich plant variety. Throughout the seasons, fragrant orange , fig , pomegranate and olive trees display their color and fruits in Agdal Garden , Menara Garden and other gardens in the city.
However, the city receives less rain than is typically found in a Mediterranean climate, resulting in a semi-arid climate classification. Between and the city averaged The location of Marrakesh on the north side of the Atlas , rather than the south, forbids its from being described as a desert city, but it remains the northern focus of the Saharan lines of communication, and its history, its types of dwellers, and its commerce and arts, are all related to the great south Atlas spaces that reach further into the Sahara desert.
According to the census, the population of Marrakesh was , against , in The number of households in was , against , in Marrakesh is a vital component to the economy and culture of Morocco. Because of the importance of tourism to Morocco's economy, King Mohammed VI has vowed to attract 20 million tourists a year to Morocco by , doubling the number of tourists from Despite the global economic crisis that began in , investments in real estate progressed substantially in both in the area of tourist accommodation and social housing.
The main developments have been in facilities for tourists including hotels and leisure centres such as golf courses and health spas, with investments of In , alone, 19 new hotels were scheduled to open, a development boom often compared to Dubai. It has seen rapid development of residential complexes and many luxury hotels. Avenue Mohammed VI contains what is claimed to be Africa's largest nightclub: Trade and crafts are extremely important to the local tourism-fueled economy. There are 18 souks in Marrakesh, employing over 40, people in pottery, copperware, leather and other crafts.
The souks contain a massive range of items from plastic sandals to Palestinian-style scarves imported from India or China. Local boutiques are adept at making western-style clothes using Moroccan materials.
Through the squawking chaos of the poultry market, the gory fascination of the open-air butchers' shops and the uncountable number of small and specialist traders, just wandering around the streets can pass an entire day.
Ciments Morocco, a subsidiary of a major Italian cement firm, has a factory in Marrakech. Marrakesh, the regional capital, constitutes a prefecture-level administrative unit of Morocco, Marrakech Prefecture , forming part of the region of Marrakech-Safi. Marrakesh is a major centre for law and jurisdiction in Morocco and most of the major courts of the region are located here.
Testament to Marrakesh's development as a modern city, on 12 June , Fatima-Zahra Mansouri , a then year-old lawyer and daughter of a former assistant to the local authority chief in Marrakesh, was elected the first female mayor of the city, defeating outgoing Mayor Omar Jazouli by 54 votes to 35 in a municipal council vote. The court found that "some ballots were distributed before the legal date and some vote records were destroyed. Since the legislative elections in November , the ruling political party in Marrakesh has, for the first time, been the Justice and Development Party or PDJ which also rules at the national level.
The Jemaa el-Fnaa is one of the best-known squares in Africa and is the centre of city activity and trade. It has been described as a "world-famous square", "a metaphorical urban icon, a bridge between the past and the present, the place where spectacularized Moroccan tradition encounters modernity. The surrounding mosque, palace, hospital, parade ground and gardens around the edges of the marketplace were also overhauled, and the Kasbah was fortified.
Subsequently, with the fluctuating fortunes of the city, Jemaa el-Fnaa saw periods of decline and renewal. The square attracted dwellers from the surrounding desert and mountains to trade here, and stalls were raised in the square from early in its history. The square attracted tradesmen, snake charmers "wild, dark, frenzied men with long disheveled hair falling over their naked shoulders" , dancing boys of the Chleuh Atlas tribe, and musicians playing pipes , tambourines and African drums.
Snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, mystics, musicians, monkey trainers, herb sellers, story-tellers, dentists, pickpockets, and entertainers in medieval garb still populate the square.
Marrakesh has the largest traditional Berber market in Morocco and the image of the city is closely associated with its souks. Paul Sullivan cites the souks as the principal shopping attraction in the city: These divisions still roughly exist but with significant overlap. Many of the souks sell items like carpets and rugs, traditional Muslim attire, leather bags, and lanterns.
One of the largest souks is Souk Semmarine , which sells everything from brightly coloured bejewelled sandals and slippers and leather pouffes to jewellery and kaftans. Similarly, Souk Kchacha specializes in dried fruit and nuts, including dates , figs , walnuts , cashews and apricots.
Criee Berbiere, to the northeast of this market, is noted for its dark Berber carpets and rugs. Souk Cherratine specializes in leatherware, and Souk Belaarif sells modern consumer goods. Ensemble Artisanal is a government-run complex of small arts and crafts which offers a range of leather goods, textiles and carpets. Young apprentices are taught a range of crafts in the workshop at the back of this complex.
The walls are made of a distinct orange-red clay and chalk, giving the city its nickname as the "red city"; they stand up to 19 feet 5. Akal-n-iguinawen — land of the black. The gate was called Bab al Kohl the word kohl also meaning "black" or Bab al Qsar palace gate in some historical sources. The corner-pieces are embellished with floral decorations. This ornamentation is framed by three panels marked with an inscription from the Quran in Maghrebi script using foliated Kufic letters, which were also used in Al-Andalus.
Bab Agnaou was renovated and its opening reduced in size during the rule of sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. Bab Aghmat is located east of the Jewish and Muslim cemeteries, and is near the tomb of Ali ibn Yusuf. Built in the 12th century, it provides access to roads leading to the mountain towns of Amizmiz and Asni.
The Menara gardens are located to the west of the city, at the gates of the Atlas mountains. They were built around by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu'min. The name menara derives from the pavilion with its small green pyramid roof menzeh. The pavilion was built during the 16th century Saadi dynasty and renovated in by sultan Abderrahmane of Morocco , who used to stay here in summertime. The pavilion and a nearby artificial lake are surrounded by orchards and olive groves.
The lake was created to irrigate the surrounding gardens and orchards using a sophisticated system of underground channels called a qanat. There is also a small amphitheater and a symmetrical pool  where films are screened. Carp fish can be seen in the pond. Famed designer Yves Saint Laurent bought and restored the property, which features a stele erected in his memory,  and the Museum of Islamic Art, which is housed in a dark blue building.
The Agdal Gardens , located south of the medina and also built in the 12th century, are royal orchards surrounded by pise walls. Measuring hectares acres in size, the gardens feature citrus, apricot, pomegranate, olive and cypress trees. Sultan Moulay Hassan's harem resided at the Dar al Baida pavilion, which was situated within these gardens. The Koutoubia Gardens are situated behind the Koutoubia Mosque.
They feature orange and palm trees, and are frequented by storks. The historic wealth of the city is manifested in palaces, mansions and other lavish residences. Riads Moroccan mansions are common in Marrakesh.
Based on the design of the Roman villa, they are characterized by an open central garden courtyard surrounded by high walls. This construction provided the occupants with privacy and lowered the temperature within the building. The El Badi Palace flanks the eastern side of the Kasbah. This allowed Carrara marble to be brought from Italy and other materials to be shipped from France, Spain and India.
The Almohads built the palace in the 12th century on the site of their kasba,  and it was partly remodeled by the Saadians in the 16th century and the Alaouites in the 17th century. Bou Ahmed resided here with his four wives, 24 concubines and many children.
Bou-Ahmed paid special attention to the privacy of the palace in its construction and employed architectural features such as multiple doors which prevented passers-by from seeing into the interior.
The palace acquired a reputation as one of the finest in Morocco and was the envy of other wealthy citizens. Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in the city, located in the southwest medina quarter of Marrakesh alongside the square. It was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur — , and has inspired other buildings such as the Giralda of Seville and the Hassan Tower of Rabat. The minaret was designed to prevent a person at the top of the tower from viewing activity within the king's harems.
It was originally covered with Marrakshi pink plaster, but in the s experts opted to remove the plaster to expose the original stone work. The spire atop the minaret is decorated with gilded copper balls that decrease in size towards the top, a style unique to Morocco. Ben Youssef Mosque, distinguished by its green tiled roof and minaret, is located in the medina and is Marrakesh's oldest mosque.
It was rebuilt in the s  by Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib , as the original had fallen into ruin. He also built a madrasa with a large library beside the mosque, but this also deteriorated over time, leaving only the 19th-century mosque intact.
In the Moroccan architectural style, its arches are scalloped on the first floor, while those on the second floor bear a twin horseshoe shape embellished with a turban motif. The dome of the kiosk is framed by a battlement decorated with arches and seven-pointed stars.
The interior of the octagonally arched dome is decorated with distinctive carvings bordered by a Kufic frieze inscribed with the name of its patron, Sultan Ali ibn Yusuf.
The quinches at the corners of the dome are covered with muqarnas. It was built by the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansour in the late 12th century to serve as the main mosque of the kasbah citadel where he and his high officials resided.
It contended with the Koutoubia Mosque for prestige and the decoration of its minaret was highly influential in subsequent Moroccan architecture. The Mouassine Mosque also known as the Al Ashraf Mosque was built by the Marinids in the 14th century in the style popularized by the Almohads. Located on a small square to the north of the mosque, it is a triple-arched fountain of Saadian origin. The Saadian Tombs were built in the 16th century as a mausoleum to bury numerous Saadian sultans.
It was lost for many years until the French rediscovered it in using aerial photographs. The mausoleum comprises the corpses of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River. It is located next to the south wall of the Almohad mosque of the Kasba,  in a cemetery that contains several graves of Mohammad 's descendants. The room exemplifies Islamic architecture with floral motifs, calligraphy, zellij and carrara marble, and the stele is in finely worked cedar wood and stucco.
The Medina holds the tombs of the seven patron saints of Morocco, which are visited every year by pilgrims during the week-long ziara pilgrimage. According to tradition, it is believed that these saints are only sleeping and will awaken one day to resume their good deeds.
A pilgrimage to the tombs offers an alternative to the hajj to Mecca and Medina for people of western Morocco who could not visit Arabia due to the arduous and costly journey involved. This ritual is performed on Fridays in the following ordained sequence: The old Jewish Quarter Mellah is situated in the kasbah area of the city's medina, east of Place des Ferblantiers.
It was created in by the Saadians at the site where the sultan's stables were previously located. During the 16th century, the Mellah had its own fountains, gardens, synagogues and souks. Until the arrival of the French in , Jews could not own property outside of the Mellah; all growth was consequently contained within the limits of the neighborhood, resulting in narrow streets, small shops and higher residential buildings.
The Mellah, today reconfigured as a mainly residential zone renamed Hay Essalam, currently occupies an area smaller than its historic limits and has an almost entirely Muslim population. The Alzama Synagogue, built around a central courtyard, is located in the Mellah. Characterized by white-washed tombs and sandy graves,  the cemetery is located within the Medina on land adjacent to the Mellah.
As one of the principal tourist cities in Africa, Marrakesh has over hotels. The Marrakech Museum , housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace in the old city centre, was built at the end of the 19th century by Mehdi Menebhi. The palace was carefully restored by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation and converted into a museum in Recently renovated, its small exhibition rooms have displays of Islamic artifacts and decorations including Irke pottery, polychrome plates, jewellery, and antique doors.
Two types of music are traditionally associated with Marrakesh. Berber music is influenced by Andalusian classical music and typified by its oud accompaniment. By contrast, Gnaoua music is loud and funky with a sound reminiscent of the Blues. It is performed on handmade instruments such as castanets , ribabs three-stringed banjos and deffs handheld drums.
Gnaoua music's rhythm and crescendo take the audience into a mood of trance; the style is said to have emerged in Marrakesh and Essaouira as a ritual of deliverance from slavery. You currently have no favorite writers. Sports Illustrated treats this information with care and respect.
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