Jemaa El Fna and the Kasbah : Morocco

The spiritual and historical heart of Marrakech, the Jemaa El Fna (pronounced as a rushed “j’maf na”) was laid out as a parade ground by the city’s founders (see pp8–11). After the new rulers of Marrakech constructed a walled royal domain to the south – known as the kasbah – the open ground passed into the public domain. Sultans have come and gone and royal palaces have risen and fallen, but the Jemaa El Fna remains eternally vital. Used earlier to display the heads of executed criminals, it is still home to some extraordinary sights, like snake charmers and monkey trainers. By night, it transforms into a busy eating area.

1 Koutoubia Mosque
2 Rue de Bab Agnaou
3 Saadian Tombs
4 Badii Palace
5 Rue Riad Zitoun El Kedim
6 Mellah
7 Bahia Palace
8 Rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid
9 Dar Si Said Museum
0 Maison Tiskiwine
Jamaa Al Fna

Kasbah Mosque, which itself is just inside the beautiful and equally historic Bab Agnaou (see p18). The small garden site is the final resting place for some 66 royals who belonged to the Saadian dynasty, whose reign marked a golden era in the history of the city

Koutoubia Mosque

Although it’s a mosque, to most visitors, denied entry by virtue of not being Muslim, the Koutoubia is identified mostly by its minaret or tower. And what a beautiful tower it is; at a towering height of 77 metres (252 ft), its rose pink colour makes for an eye-catching contrast, silhouetted against the cobalt blue sky by daylight and in the fiery orange twilight of the evenings

Rue de Bab Agnaou

Running south off Jemaa El Fna, this is the medina’s pedestrianised “modern” main street. Though not a particularly picturesque street, it is a very servicable one with postcard sellers, cash-dispensing ATMs, telephone offices, pharmacies and internet cafés. Its narrow side alleys are home to hotels that are easy on the wallet. While in the city, you will definitely find yourself making a trip here to make use of its many facilities. Map J4

Saadian Tombs

The historic Saadian tombs are located down a narrow passageway that runs beside the Kasbah Mosque, which itself is just inside the beautiful and equally historic Bab Agnaou . The small garden site is the final resting place for some 66 royals who belonged to the Saadian dynasty, whose reign marked a golden era in the history of the city

Badii Palace

Badii Palace
It is difficult to reconcile these ruins with a palace once reputed to be among the world’s finest. An expanse of dusty ground within half-eroded walls, it retains some of its old elements, including sunken gardens and a dazzling piece of Moorish craftsmanship

Rue Riad Zitoun El Kedim

This “Street of the Old Olive Garden” connects Jemaa El Fna with the palace quarter. At its north end a narrow lane squeezed between the blank walls of mosques and town houses, it widens southwards where it’s lined with workshops. Map K4


The old Jewish quarter lies immediately east of the kasbah. You can enter via the Souk El Bab Salaam, a busy, covered market street across from a rose-planted square. This street leads to Place Souweka and just to the north you’ll find one of the city’s last working synagogues. Most of the Jewish population of Marrakech left for Israel after the Second World War, in the 1940s and 1950s, but the number of graves in the nearby Miâara Jewish cemetery is testament to how many there once were. Map L5

Bahia Palace

Built in the 1890s by a powerful grand vizier (high official), the Bahia (“Brilliant”) is a minor palace complex approached by a long garden driveway. Inside, arrows direct visitors through a succession of courtyards and private rooms that were used by the vizier and his four wives. All the rooms are lavishly decorated with zellij tiling (see p36), sculpted stucco and carved cedarwood. The ruling sultan, Abdel Aziz, was so jealous of the riches of the Bahia that on the vizier’s death he had the palace stripped and looted. Map K5 • Rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid • 0524 38 91 79 •

Rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid

A long arcing alley which translates as the “Street of the New Olive Garden”, this is another main route through the southern part of the medina. It connects several major sights with Jemaa El Fna, including the Bahia Palace and Dar Si Said Museum. You will also come across the small derb (alley) that leads to Riad Tamsna, a restaurant, gallery and boutique, housed in a beautiful old courtyard building that has upper galleries and a roof terrace. Map K4 • Riad Tamsna: 23 derb Zanka Daika • 024 38 52 72 •

Dar Si Said Museum

Built by the brother of Ba Ahmed, builder of the Bahia Palace, this is an altogether more modest dwelling. However, what it sacrifices in scale, it makes up for in its impressive detailing the house has some beautiful painted ceilings. It also serves as a museum for decorative arts; the exhibits on display include fine examples of carved wooden panels and painted Berber doors. The museum also includes some interestingly designed jewellery, carpets and metalwork. Map K4 • Rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid •

Maison Tiskiwine

Located en route to the Dar Si Said Museum, this is a private house belonging to the Dutch anthropologist Bert Flint. An avid documenter of tribal arts and crafts, particularly carpets, Flint had amassed a fascinating and vast collection. Presented in his home for public viewing, the exhibition has been organized geographically as a journey that traces the old desert trade routes from Marrakech to Timbuktu. Unfortunately, you’ll find the labelling of the exhibits in French only. Map K4 • 8 derb El Bahia, off rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid • 024 38 91 92 •

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