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Huddersfield, United Kingdom
October 2, 2012
From journal A wander round the sights and smells of Marrakech
November 27, 2004
The first thing that will strike you as you enter the small, but well-kept grounds to the tombs is the absolute calm. It is hard to place yourself in the bustling city because here the only noise is that of the tourists, both human and bird. You will also see cats prowling the grounds, as this is a haven for Marrakech’s wild cats. Don’t worry, they’re small!
There are three distinct burial areas. One is a sole tomb. I’d like to assume that this contains the remains of al-Mansour, as it would be befitting that the mausoleum’s designer should have pride of place. The second area has been dedicated to the women of the family–initially it appears as an adjunct to the first tomb, but on reflection, it is in a prominent place in the garden. This open-sided building is incredibly ornate, with brightly tiled walls and highly polished marble tiled floor. The appearance of being open to the elements under a high, protective roof provides a real sense of freedom with the boundaries defined, but a real connection with the outdoor garden space.
In contrast to this light, bright space is the dark and restricted area that was reserved for the male successors of al-Mansour and the children. The more open space was reserved, by and large, for the royal children, and it is somewhat chilling to see the small headstones signifying the child deaths in this powerful Saadian dynasty. Typically the building is decorated with intricate stuccowork above a bright mosaic. The superb geometric decorative work extends to the brightly floor and encloses the stark marble pyramid type structure that mark the graves.
At either end and to the rear of this room are darker spaces accessed by the classical, highly decorated tall archways. The tiled theme seemed to run through to these darker niches, confirming that the designer was anticipating the future needs of his dynasty!
All the guidebook references seem to imply that there has been little restoration applied to this building, and it is referred to as the "best surviving example of Moorish craftsmen from Al-Andalus." It certainly is impressive and perhaps the fact that it was sealed for two centuries has assisted its survival. It is indeed a great tribute that will command your admiration and reverence.
From journal A long weekend in Marrakesh
August 15, 2004
Please note that visiting gravesites is a taboo for Moroccan and Islamic culture, so it is kind if you dress conservatively and be silent.
From journal The mysterious city of Morocco
October 12, 2003
The necropolis lay semi-forgotten until early C20 when a French aerial map identified the hidden passageway which gave access from the kasbah mosque. Now restored, it seems to be the city’s "must-sees" and is consequently very busy with tour parties; but, no matter, it is spectacular sight – 66 Saadians are buried under two of the three main structures and there are child graves liberally scattered everyone; the third of the buildings (called the Hall of the Twelve Columns) contains the leading members of the family. It’s quite exhaustive in its detail and decoration--the zellij-covered tiled tombs are unfortunately quite dark and you can’t really appreciate the inner carvings of the doorway arches (see below).
The former compulsory guided tours have been suspended so you can wander about or sit towards the back next to the high walls where you can be shaded with shrubs and palms and bright flowers, admiring the dotted tomb tiling.
Daily 9am-5pm; 10dh.
From journal Mesmerising Marrakech
December 20, 2002
You may spot the minaret of the Kasbah Mosque, which was the personal mosque of the Sultan. The minaret, located at the northwest corner of the mosque, is plastered orange and features some nice tilework. It may be seen as a stylistic cousin to the great Koutoubia minaret.
The path to the tombs is a mysterious, dark and narrow path alongside one of the mosque walls. Once you get to the main courtyard, you will then branch off towards various rooms housing about a hundred tombs. The two main mausoleums house 66 royal Saadian tombs. The first room after the entrance is the resting place for the Sultan's mother. The next room is the lavishly decorated Hall of the Twelve Columns, housing various tombs raised above a floor of polished marble. The Sultan's sarcophagus, elegantly carved and shaped with a long narrow ridge at the top, has the nicest mosaic tilework. Another room contains the tombs of his wives, concubines, and many of his children (though not all of them). The more elaborate the tomb, the higher the status of the person. There are also many unmarked flat "tombstones" that look like rectangular sections of colored tile floors. The rooms housing the tombs are dimly lit, but with enough daylight you can take some wonderful photographs of these richly ornamented spaces. Note the use of materials like dark wood, milky-hued marble, and swirling colored zellij tiles.
The main courtyard has a pleasantly peaceful atmosphere, with some greenspace surrounding the unsheltered tombstones. You will probably encounter lots of cuddly stray cats in the courtyard, but watch out! Above as an overactive bird that may poop on you!
From journal Bill in Morocco - MARRAKESH