Bokharitours

 

 

Marrakech

In 1060, the Almorabid Emir, Abou Bakr Ibn Amer, leading a powerful army of Sanhaja, camped in the heart of the Haouze plains, below the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. His camps were posted near the river Tensift, not far from the rocky hills of Guiliz, which was to provide the stone for the construction of his future town. For Abou Bark, this was a strategic setting from where the Sahara could be easily reached, while having at the same time a close watch on the Masmouda Berber tribe of the High Atlas. Abou Bakre converted the camp of his army into a walled town, building his palace of Dar el H'jar, over whose ruins; the Almowahids were to build, one century later, the Koutoubia mosque.

The small town became known to the Amazigh Masmouda of the High Atlas as “Amor’kouch" or the land of God”. Others say the meaning is the land of kouch, a tribe of warriors of Nubia, as referred in an 11th century manuscript, preserved in the Quaraouyines’ library of Fes". Youssef Ibn Tachfin made of Marrakech the capital of the Almorabids. An adobe buildings soon replaced the Saharan tents used by these nomadic veiled people. Youssef made built a Kasbah and a mosque, as he did order the digging of hundreds of ghettaras; a system of subterranean galleries which conveyed water from the river Tensift to Marrakech. The city grew rich in the gold and ivory trade brought by caravans, and became the chief center of an Empire, which extended from Algeria to the river Ebro in Spain, and from the Mediterranean coast to Senegal. Youssef Ibn Tachfin died in 1106 in Marrakech, and his mausoleum, built by the Sultan, Mohammed V, is located to the south of the Koutoubia Mosque. His son, Ali Ibn Tachfin became one of the greatest rulers of his time. He called for the skill of Andaloucian craftsmen to execute important works in Marrakech. He made build a new palace and a mosque, and encircled the city with ramparts. He called for the genius of the architect, Abdellah Ben Youness Al Mouhandiz, to build the bridge over the river Tensift. This very bridge is still afoot as an eloquent evidence of the Almorabid’s talent. Ali made dig more ghettaras, which numbered thousands and conveyed water to Marrakech and to its Haouze farming plains from the River Tensift.

When the Almowahids captured Marrakech in 1147, the Emir Abdelmoumen decreed the demolishing of all the Almorabids religious and public buildings. Abdelmoumen resolved to wash out the country of every Lemtuna's memorials, and accomplished important urban works, including the building of the Koutoubia Mosque, which was erected over the very foundations of the Almorabid palace of Dar el H'jar. Yaâcoub Al-Manssour encircled the city with magnificent gardens as Agdal or "J'nan Es'Salha", whose magnificence was exalted by the children of all Morocco. The Almowahids built an important hospital in Marrakech. Known then by the "Be-Maristan". This hospital was built during the reigning of the Sultan, Yaâcoub Al-Manssour, and as described by the scholar "Al-Marrakouchi" the Be-Maristan was magnificent in its architectonic form as well as its utility. The structure, included not only the hospital proper with annexes, but it also comprised special wards for segregating various diseases, such as fevers, ophthalmia and dysentery. The hospital was equipped with laboratories, pharmacies, a dispensary, baths, kitchens and storage rooms. Al-Manssour granted the hospital with a daily allowance of 30 golden dinars for its keeping. The Be-Maristan hospital was fit with large gardens, planted with flowers and with a variety of aromatic, decorative and domestic trees. The interiors were embellished with polychrome mosaic and carved stucco, and the ceilings were made of colorful ornamented cedar-wood frames. The rooms had sanitary installations and a water-piping system which supplied running water. The courtyard was befit with four marble fountains, which refreshed the surrounding space with their sprinkling water, whose sound had something mystical. The furniture of rooms, such as beds, tables, mattresses, sheets and curtains, were made of the finest stuff, such as cedar-wood, silk and wool. The hospital dispensed a sort of clothing for the sick, suited for summer and for winter seasons. The kitchen cooked elaborate meals for the ill, and drugs were drawn to the hospital from every corner of the known world.

The elevation of Marrakech is of 560 meters (1680 feet) over sea level. The province extends over an area of 14,755 Km2. Its relief varies and the step extends all over. Not far from Marrakech the High Atlas Mountains rise with its high picks covered most of the year with snow. The Houze of Marrakech is crossed from east to west by Oued Tensift and from north to south by Oued N'fiss. Large palm groves of about 150,000 palm trees surround the city and extend over an area of some 1,214 hectares. According to legend, the palm groves grew unexpectedly in the area where the Lamtuna troops fixed their camps on the 11th century. The people of the camp consumed a lot of dates, which they had carried with them from the oases of the desert, throwing the stones in the soil. The dates’ stones took root, afterwards, to blossom years later in a huge palm-tree forest, and where hundreds of ghettara wells, an underground water conduits dug by Ali Ibn Tachfin, are still visible in the mid of this plantation

The province of Marrakech is populated by around 1,355,000 inhabitants, 844,000 urban and 511,000 rural. The ethnic diversity of the province of Marrakech was due to its former flourishing economic activities. The zone of el-Haouz is populated by the Arab Hilaliens. Its southern vicinity is populated by an Arab pastoral people of the tribes of M'touga, Mejjata, Sektana and Messouifa. The Chlouh's (Berbers) territory begins, on the foothills of the High Atlas, with Guedmioua, which occupies the dock of Assif el Mehl and Anougal. Goundafa's settlement extends along the valley of Oued N'fiss. Ourika inhabits the Oued Ourika valley. Glaoua occupies the dock of R'bat, to the south of the H. Atlas, and Seksaoua on the northeast of Imi-n-Tanoute.

The economic Assets of Marrakech

Since its foundation on the mid of the 11th century, the aspect of Marrakech was transformed by princes and kings of the succeeding dynasties, and by the rich aristocracy. The Red City was a favorite residence for many princes and Sultans, who preferred its palaces and its climate for those of Fes, embellishing a little further the city with the finest architecture of their epoch. Since its foundation, Marrakech became an important clearinghouse for caravans of dromedaries which carried loads of every kind of merchandise from the confines of the Sahara and the neighboring oases to its markets. Its strategic position made of it the largest trade center, not only for the Haouz, but also for the entire Atlas and the Sahara districts. Merchandise was drawn to its markets from Sudan, the Middle East and from Europe. The city was also the largest slave market of Morocco. Today, the city’s economic activity is dominated by the agro pastoral sector. Dry farming of wheat and barley is dominant in the Haouz. Almond and fig trees share the orchards of the low foothills, while the walnut trees grow in the high elevations of the area. Farming involves about 62.3% of the province’s population, and the cultivated area is that of el Haouz; with an extension of about 90,000 hectares, of which 45,000 hectares are artificially irrigated through the waters of Lalla Takerkoust's dam (Oued N'fiss). Industry is that of food transformation and handicraft. Its olive oil presses produce around 28% of Morocco's oil. Another economic resource of the province of Marrakech is mining. The soil of the province conceals minerals of lead, zinc, copper, silver and barium. But the real gold mine of the city is, without any doubt, the sector of tourism. Marrakech had the honor of holding the Ministerial International Convention for the signing of the General Agreement for Tax and Trade (GATT). Hundred and seventeen countries participated in this meeting and signed the agreement charter on Friday May 15, 1994. This date saw the foundation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Koutoubia: (1147-1199)

         The original Koutoubia Mosque was built in 1147, after the conquest of Marrakech by the Almowahid’s Emir, Abdelmoumen. The Mosque was demolished later because it was discovered to be incorrectly aligned with relation to Mecca. The first foundations are still visible to the right of the actual mosque. The building of the second well-proportioned Koutoubia began on the eves of the Emir, Abdelmoumen, and was finished, with the Giralda of Seville and Hassan Mosque, during the ruling of Yaâcoub Al-Manssour. The three mosques were designed by the architect, Ahmed Ben Hassan Al Koudaï.
Because the zone of Marrakech lacked of hard stone, bricks were used for the building of the Koutoubia. The mosque measures 90 meters by 60 meters. The minaret, whose pink stone walls are decorated with festooned arches, mosaic painted floral motives, and carved tracery, rises 75 meters to the sky. Three proportionally sized balls surmount the lantern of the minaret, and, according to a legend, one of the balls was re-made of gold, offered by Lalla Messaouda, mother of the Sultan, Ahmed Al- Manssour Essaâdi, as a redeeming for her having broken the fast of one day of Ramadan. The mosque, with its oratory of 17 naves was built over the ruins of the Almorabid's palace of "Dar el H'jar". The mosque was built according to the Almowahid’s architectonic style, adapted from that of the Tinmal's mosque, which was used as a model for the building of all the Almowahid’s mosques. The mosque was named al Koutoubia after the book-selling activity, which manifested in the area.

Mosque Al Manssour: (1160)

         Founded by the Khaliff, Abdelmoumen in 1160 (adjacent to the Saadian tombs), the khaliff made build an amazing Maqsoura, (Royal Pavilion) inside the Mosque. The architect el-Hadj Yaïche Al-Malaqi shaped a vaulted passage, which joined the Mosque with the khaliff’s palace. The Maqsura was assembled over a moving network, which made it emerge with the entrance of the khaliff to the mosque, and vanish with his retreat. In 1574, the mosque was mined by a group of Portuguese captives during a Friday mid-day praying. The mosque was restored in 1582 by the Saâdien Sultan, Ahmed Al-Manssour Eddahbi.

The Bahiya Palace: (1882)

This palace was the official residence of Ba Ahmed Ben Moussa, Chamberlain of the Alaouite Sultan, Moulay El Hassan Ibn Mohammed, and Grand Vizier and regent to his son the Sultan, Moulay Abdelaziz Ibn El Hassan. Offspring of the black Boikhra, Ba Ahmed died in 1900 after a long ailment. In 1894, when, early in his regency, Ba Ahmed moved the Court to Marrakech, so that the young Sultan, Moulay Abdelaziz might be recognized as the legitimate sultan by the population of this province. He settled in the southern capital, where he began immediately to build for himself, at public expense, the magnificent palace, in the construction of which every skilled craftsman in the city was engaged for six years. The residence was built by the architect, El-Hadj Mohammed Al-Malki, and bears the Almowahid name of Kassr Al-Bahja, or the Merriment’s Palace.
The palace’s luxurious apartments, which open to inner courtyards, wear the traces of the Arabo-Moorish art. Plaster sculptured kufiq and cursive epigraphs of Koranic verses stand out in profile along the walls of the palace. The terraced and vaulted cedar wood ceilings of its many rooms are doubled with a finely decoration of a painted tracery which combines a rigid geometric design to a delicate floral motifs.
When Moulay H'fid was invested Sultan in Fes, his ally, the Grand Vizier, Madani Glaoui installed himself at the Bahiya Palace, where, for a few months, he lived in pomp as great as any Sultan had achieved. During the protectorate period, the palace became in 1912 the official residence to the French General Lyautey. In 1953, the French Resident, Granval, installed his Residency in the Bahiya Palace
        

The Menara:  (1180)

         The Menara Park measures 1200 meters of length by 800 meters of width. The basin, which was built by Yaâcoub Al-Manssour in 1180, measures 200 meters by 160 meters and 3 meters of depth, and is fed in water by a network of channels. The pavilion at one side of the basin was erected by the Sultan, Ahmed Al-Manssour Eddahbi around 1598. The olive groves were planted in 1752 by the then Alaouite prince, Moulay Mohammed Ben Abdellah, when he was governor of Marrakech.

 The Saadian Tombs: (1582-1792)

         In 1579, Ahmed Al Manssour Eddahbi built a Kouba or mausoleum, to house the rests of his brother the Sultan, Abou Marwan Abdelmalik Al-Moatassim. Thirteen Saadian monarchs were buried in this Koubba or room. Other mausoleums were built in the spot to house the tombs of other eminent persons. The tombs were discovered in 1916 by a French pilot who was flying his plane over the city. The Necropolis was walled in 1677 by the Sultan, Moulay Ismaïl, to protect the tombs, and was left without access, except through a door inside the adjacent Mosque of Al Manssour.
The first mausoleum of the four columns house Alaouite tombs, among them that of the Sultan, Moulay el-Yazid Ibn Mohammed Ibn Abdellah, buried in 1792. His tomb lays to the right of the entrance, and is the only wood-hedged tomb.
         The Royal Mausoleum, located next, is delicately decorated with a sculptured plaster, which covers the surface of its walls, forming cornices and vaults with regular lines of stylized flowers and geometrical designs. Large friezes run over the polychrome mosaic panels. A beautiful plastered-niche of a pending stalactite form joins ingeniously to the cedar wood copula, covered with a multicolored shift of geometrical lines and floral motives and supported by twelve white Carara marble columns. This relaxing chamber houses the tombs of the Saadian Sultans, Abdelmalek Al Moatassim, Ahmed Ibn Abdellah Ashaïkh Al-Manssour, and his sons Zaïdan, Al-Mâamoun, Abou Fares, and the last Saadian Sultan, Moulay Al-Abbass. Facing this Mausoleum is that of Lalla Messaouda Al-Wazgity, mother of Ahmed Al-Manssour, which was buried there in 1591. This mausoleum withholds the tombs of the Saadian daughters and ladies. The other tombs aligned in the courtyard, are those of the dynasty's loyal army officers and domestics, among them that of Judar, the Spanish reconverted officer, who led the Sudan's expedition and conquered the sources of gold in 1791.

The Mamounia: (1746)

Among the different works executed in Marrakech by the prince, Moulay Mohammed Ben Abdellah, when he was governor of Marrakech, were the restoration of the mausoleums of Sidi Abou El Abbas Sebti and Sidi El Ghzaoui Moul Lakssour. The prince created the gardens and the pavilion of Al Mamounia, which was named in honor of his son the prince Al-Ma'amoun. Its 12 hectares gardens are planted with olive and orange trees, and other variety of exotic plants. Winston Churchill, Delano Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Ronal Reagan, Nelson Mandela and Nancy Clinton are but few of the many famous guests of the today hotel la Mamounia, considered among the most luxurious palaces in the world. The Mamounia was a private residence of Driss Menou, Pasha of Marrakech till 1912, and it was confiscated from him by the French that very year. The residence was converted into a hotel in 1923.

Aghmat

         Aghmat, capital of an old civilization prior to that of Fes, was founded in the rich valley of Ourika by Masmouda people. Earlier, this region teemed with wild life, and antelopes, ostriches and other animals used to roam on its steppe. Rich in vegetation, its soil grew all kind of fruits, which abounded on its large gardens. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water made the region grow into a rich farming community. Its population grew rich, trading their goods with the people of the black kingdoms of Sudan (Ghana), and build up important fortunes.
Legend says that the inhabitants of Aghmat boasted of their wealth by engraving distinctive marks in the doors of their houses to advertise the importance of their fortune. Their caravans transited through Sijilmassa for Ghana with loads of every kind of merchandise, which included weaving, salt, arms, copper and glassware. The merchandise was bartered with the Akan people of Ghana for gold, slaves and spices. Aghmat was ruled by the Emir, Lacqout Leghmari, when it was invested in 1054 by the Almorabid army. Lacqout fled leaving behind his young wife, Zaineb Is'haq Ennafzawiya, which became the wife of the Almorabid's Emir, Abou Bakr Ibn Amer, after the death of her husband Lacqout. Aghmat became lieu of exile to the former Emir and poet of Seville, El Qassim Mohammed Al Motamid Ibn Abbad, who was deported from Seville in 1091 by the Almorabid Emir, Youssef Ibn Tachfin. Al Motamid spent the last years of his life in Aghmat, in company of his wife I'timad Arroumaïkiyah, his daughters and his domestic Abderrahman. One day the fallen monarch noticed a procession going to the mosque of Aghmat to accomplish a rain rogatory prayer, and the old poet in him, still alive, improvised these pathetic verses:

         And forth they went imploring God for rain;
         "My tears," I said, "could serve you for a flood."
         "In truth," they cried, "your tears might well contain
         Sufficiently; but they are dyed with blood.
"

Al-Motamid died in 1095 and was buried in Aghmat, where a Mausoleum was built to house his tomb and that of his beloved and devoted wife I'timad.