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Marrakech History, Morocco

After Casablanca and Rabat Marrakech is the third largest, but it’s certainly the country’s most emblematic place. Marrakech has a fascinating history that seems more the stuff of adventure novels than reality. Marrakech is not even by far among the oldest cities in Northern Africa, but it makes up for this with its colorful past. The city is a meeting point of Berber, Arab and European cultures and timelines. Discover more about the origins and development with the help of this Marrakech History Guide.

Marrakech History Guide - Foundation and early history

Marrakech was founded by the Almoravids, one of the most famous Berber dynasties in history. The city came into being when the Almoravids decided that they needed a new and better capital. Thus, they founded Marra Kouch, meaning the Land of the Kouch, fierce warriors from Mauritania.

In the mid-twelfth century, Marrakech was captured by the Almohads, another Berber dynasty, and they were the ones who brought on the golden era of Marrakech. The Almohads built the Koutoubia Mosque and Menara Garden, the main tourist attractions of present-day Marrakech. At the time, Marrakech was already at the crossroads of several caravan routes and was a flourishing merchant city, and at the same time it was a city of culture thanks to the poets and learned men at the court of Yacoub el Mansour, the third sultan of the dynasty. The 13th trough the 16th century were the dark ages of Marrakech, because caravan routes had moved. However, at the end of the 16th century, the city regained its former glory.

Marrakech History Guide - Modern History

Marrakech was an on and off capital of Morocco in the following years, depending on the whims of each ruling sultan. It acquired the name of ‘City of Seven Saints’ and it became an important pilgrimage spot. The tombs of several major religious figures were moved to Marrakech, and thanks to the money brought in by the throngs of pilgrims, the city became the economic, cultural and even political centre of Morocco.

The 18th century was an auspicious one for the city, and Marrakech thrived under the rule of sultans until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1912, Morocco became a French protectorate, and a European style neighborhood was built outside the medina of Marrakech. Morocco regained its independence in 1956, but its capital was no longer Marrakech, but Rabat. Losing some of its political status did not affect Marrakech.

Even today, it continues to be a city full of color and culture, a fascinating meeting point of two continents, and a delightful tourist destination.

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