CULTURE The city of Marrakesh holds in its corners a lavish history, a long lasting heritage, the touch of hundreds of years of different dynasties. Amongst the different rulings, it was the Saadians that has helped Marrakesh grow in beauty, they paid more attention to it, and they renovated, built and embellished it. Making it the capital of Morocco, it was their home base where they planned to die, but more importantly where they intended to live. To date, the few left monuments of the Saadian era was the Saadian Tombs. It is where you will find more than 200 tombs of Saadian royalty and those who were close to the royal family. In fact, there happens to be a few graves dedicated to Jewish men, which had a ranking higher than the royal wives of the sultan. This leaves much to the imagination, wondering what more stories this place has held within its walls. Keep reading if you would like to find out more.
The birth of the tombs
The Saadian tombs are located near the Mosque of the Kasbah; it was a former area of burial. As they have given their respect and made their prayer in the Kasbah Mosque, they ended with the burial in the area where now the Saadian tombs occupy. The graveyard had same lifespan as the Saadian dynasty, from the 1550s to the mid 17th century.
It was by the hand of the last ruler of the Saadian royal family Sultan Ahmed El Mansour that made the tombs a unique place. He made sure to beautify the already existing tombs; he added different constructions to the entire complex. The sultan was using only the most sophisticated and luxurious material; from gold, Cedar wood carved beautifully by the best artisans, Italian marble, to zellige and the list goes on. The most baffling tomb was that of the sultan himself, it took place in the Hall of Twelve Columns; it was also the most prestigious part of the tombs.
The sultan had a lot of love and respect to his parents, as the Saadian tombs were constructed to house the body of his late father Mohammed ash-Sheikh. As for the tomb of his mother, it was the center of the courtyard garden, with an attention to detail that is almost poetic.
The rise and fall
As all things in life, whenever there is a rise, there is a fall. After the Alaouit took over Morocco, their ruler Sultan Moulay Ismail did not want any reminders of the old dynasties that took place before his ruling. Many palaces were stripped of their gold, marble and zellige. However, without a clear reason why, the Sultan Moulay Ismail decided to leave the Saadian Tombs as they are, it could be out of respect for the dead, or it could be out of a superstitious reason. Nonetheless, we are glad that the only change that the sultan made was closing off all entrances to the tombs; but it seems there was always a hidden entrance from the side of the Kasbah Mosque.
Hundreds of years have passed, and only in 1917 that the tombs were discovered by chance. It was an aerial photography by a French group that brought light to the forgotten graveyard. Since then, it was restored, cleaned and refurbished. As of now you can visit the tombs and witness their history yourself.
Tip: a 30 minutes visit with an accredited guide would be the way to go (Negotiate the price for the short period)
Open all week from 9 am to 5 pm
Price: Entry 60 Dh