Marrakech, also spelled Marrakesh, chief city of central Morocco. The first of Morocco’s four imperial cities,
it lies in the centre of the fertile, irrigated Haouz Plain, south of the Tennsift River. The ancient section of
the city, known as the medina, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
Marrakech gave its name to the kingdom of which it was long the capital. It was founded in the mid-11th century
by Yūsuf ibn Tāshufīn of the dynasty of the Almoravids, and it served as the Almoravid capital until it fell
to the Almohads in 1147. In 1269 Marrakech passed to the control of the Marīnids, whose preferred capital was
the northern city of Fès. Although Marrakech flourished while serving as the capital under the Saʿdīs in the 16th
century, the succeeding ʿAlawite rulers resided more often at Fès or Meknès; however, the ʿAlawites continued
to use Marrakech as a military post. In 1912 Marrakech was captured by the religious leader Aḥmad al-Ḥībah,
who was defeated and driven out by French forces commanded by Col. Charles M.E. Mangin. Under the French
protectorate (1912–56), Marrakech was for many years administered by the Glaoui family, the last of whom,
Thami al-Glaoui, was the chief instigator of the deposition of Muḥammad V in 1953.
Surrounded by a vast palm grove, the medina in Marrakech is called the “red city” because of its buildings
and ramparts of beaten clay, which were built during the residence of the Almohads. The heart of the medina
is Jamaa el-Fna square, a vibrant marketplace. Nearby is the 12th-century Kutubiyyah (Koutoubia) Mosque with
its 253-foot (77-metre) minaret, built by Spanish captives. The 16th-century Saʿdī Mausoleum, the 18th-century
Dar el-Beïda Palace (now a hospital), and the 19th-century Bahia royal residence reflect the city’s historical
growth. Much of the medina is still surrounded by 12th-century walls; among the surviving gates to the medina,
the stone Bab Agnaou is particularly notable. The modern quarter, called Gueliz, to the west of the medina
developed under the French protectorate.
Although Marrakech is lively, it can also be romantic. The city is oriental and packed with history, yet also
flaunts its modern side. The tales of Arabian Nights come to life in every corner of the city. And in the evening,
there is no better place to enjoy the unique atmosphere than on the Djemaa el Fna square. Jugglers and acrobats
put on their artistic shows, snake charmers flaunt their skills among all the noise, while all around, the air
is filled with the delicious aroma of meat, fish, couscous and all sorts of different spices.
It comes as no surprise that the city is becoming a top destination, and that several stars have even made it
their home. And quite rightly so, because Marrakech leaves visitors with the feeling that they need to return