Religious Walking Tour in Marrakech (Self Guided), Marrakech

Morocco's official religion is Islam. Therefore the most numerous religious structures in Marrakech are the mosques. This tour will introduce you to the most famous of them, as well as to some historic cemeteries, koubbas, and mausoleums. Prepare yourself to learn about the history of Islam and enjoy the architecture of Marrakech's religious attractions by taking the tour below.
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Religious Walking Tour in Marrakech Map

Guide Name: Religious Walking Tour in Marrakech
Guide Location: Morocco » Marrakech (See other walking tours in Marrakech)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Saadian Tombs
  • Mansouria Mosque
  • Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret
  • Mausoleum of Sidi Abd El Aziz
  • Almoravid Koubba
  • Ben Youssef Madrasa
Saadian Tombs

1) Saadian Tombs (must see)

If you want to understand the incredible beauty of ancient Marrakech, you should visit the Saadian Tombs in the medina district.

The Saadian Dynasty ruled in Morocco from 1554 until 1659 and almost nothing remains intact from their reign, except the tombs which were commissioned by Sultan Ahmed al-Mansur in 1554 for himself and his family.

When the dynasty fell to the Alaouite Dynasty, the new Sultan Moulay Ismail wanted everything built by the Saadians destroyed but drew the line at touching the tombs. Instead, he had them partially sealed off, although important people were buried there until as late as 1792.

The tombs remained hidden until 1917 when they were discovered and restored by the Beaux Arts Service. The entrance is guarded by Daturas and Cypresses and in the surrounding gardens are the graves of soldiers and imperial household staff.

The mausoleum is made up of three beautiful rooms, each with domed ceilings, stalactites made of plaster and intricately carved marble pillars. 60 members of the Saadian family are entombed in the Hall of the Twelve Columns – which sounds, and looks, like something out of Lord of The Rings! The walls are covered in mosaics forming geometrical patterns, the high roof is domed and the pillars are of grey marble.

Because they were sealed and protected from external conditions the tombs were remarkably well preserved and the Beaux Arts have done a wonderful restoration job and those who rest here, rest in peace.

Why You Should Visit:
The stunning architecture of where the tombs are held will keep you in awe of the great design works back in those days.

When exiting, go and have a drink at the terrace of the Kasbah Café and overlook the square where the men will enter the mosk.
Also, on the corner is an argan cooperation with some of the best organic argan oil in Marrakesh. Buy some amlou there and you'll never eat Nutella again!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-4pm
Mansouria Mosque

2) Mansouria Mosque

Mansouria Mosque was built by Yakub al-Mansur, the Victorious. It is also known as the Kasbah Mosque and is located in the vicinity of Bab Agnaou. Mansouria Mosque is one of the city's most popular mosques. There is no access for non-Muslims, but you can admire the impressive architecture from the outside.
Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret

3) Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret (must see)

The Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret isn’t open to non-Muslims, but there is nothing to stop you from taking photos and admiring this magnificent building, especially at night when it is dramatically lit-up.

When the Almoravides founded the city in the 11th century, they built a mosque, smaller than the present one, but when they were defeated by the Almohades in 1147, the new rulers considered the mosque “unclean” and had it pulled down.

They then built their own “pure” mosque, but due to a planning error, the qiblah wall, which is supposed to be set perpendicular to a line leading to the Mecca, was badly orientated and the Mihrab was off course. Instead of simply adjusting their praying position to be facing the Mecca, the Almohades built a second, larger building alongside and the other eventually fell into ruins.

The Minaret is the oldest of the surviving Almohades towers; it is 13 meters wide and 69 meters high, with six rooms set one on top of the other. Each level is reached by ramps around the rooms.

On the minaret’s roof you will see four golden globes: according to legend, at first there were only three globes, but the wife of a Sultan broke her fast before sunset during the Ramadan and had to give up her jewels as penitence. These were melted down and became the 4th globe. The present globes are made of copper.

Why You Should Visit:
You can't miss one of Morocco's biggest mosques!

The building should be viewed both day and night as it takes on different personalities dependant on the time of day.
Make sure that you walk around the entire mosque, as there are picturesque views all around it.
Probably wiser to avoid Friday until after 3pm-ish as there are special prayers on Friday.
Don't miss the gardens behind – perfect place for a good glass of mint tea and to watch the world go by.
Mausoleum of Sidi Abd El Aziz

4) Mausoleum of Sidi Abd El Aziz

The Mausoleum of Sidi Abd el Aziz is not open to non-Muslims, but don’t let that put you off going to admire it from the exterior.

This small mausoleum was built in 1508 on the orders of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdellah. The building is white with a pointed roof tiled in green. It has wooden, carved eaves and a horseshoe shaped entrance.

Sidi Abd el Aziz was born Abou Faress Abdelaziz and he was a silk merchant in Fès. Apparently he underwent some kind of religious conversion and gave up his business to become a fervent follower and principle disciple of Sidi ben Slimane, the founder of Moroccan Sufism.

He moved to Marrakech were he preached Sufism ethics to craftsmen and corporations in the Ben Youssef Mosque. Sufism is the belief in the inner mystical dimension of Islam and its aim is to turn the heart away from everything except God. It was and still is a popular movement and gains adherents during times of conflict and “social decadence”.

There are no saints in Islam, but Sidi Abd el Aziz, Sidi ben Slimane and five others are considered the “Seven Men” – equivalent to Christian saints – because they are all buried in the same city. Sidi Abd el Aziz is honored on Saturdays.
Almoravid Koubba

5) Almoravid Koubba

There aren’t many buildings that have survived the centuries in good condition, so visiting the Almoravid Koubba is a real treat for amateur archeologists.

It was built in the 12th century and is the sole surviving Almoravid building intact in Morocco. It had been renovated and rebuilt in the 16th century, before being buried under an outbuilding attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque when the mosque was renovated and enlarged.

Like so many cities, Marrakech today is much higher than it was when it was founded. This comes from the custom of importing earth to cover the rubble of buildings that had been destroyed or pulled down.

The Koubba remained hidden until excavation work around the mosque began in 1948. It was finally excavated in 1957. Once it stood on ground level, but now you will reach it down a flight of steps.

The small building has a ribbed dome and windows cut into ornate shapes. Inside it has motifs of acanthus leaves, palms and pine cones. It has a unique support system for the roof, being octagonal overlaid by a square.

There is quite a lot of calligraphy representing passages from the Koran. The foundation inscription is the most ancient example of cursive Maghrebi script in North Africa. The Koubba was used for ablutions before entering the mosque.
Ben Youssef Madrasa

6) Ben Youssef Madrasa (must see)

Editor's note: The building is currently being refurbished and will probably reopen to the public in 2019/2020 (no date has been announced yet); however, the museum attached to the Madrasa is open.

You will find the Ali ben Youssef Madrasa in the medina district of Marrakech and you shouldn’t miss a trip to visit this important building. Madrasa means “centre of learning” and can be ascribed to a school, a college or a university – in this case the building served as an Islamic college where students came to learn and study the Koran.

The Ali ben Youssef Madrasa was named after the Almoravid Sultan who reigned between 1106 and 1142. It was founded in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 16th century during the Saadian Dynasty. The college closed in 1960; it was restored and opened as a historical site in 1982.

One of the biggest theological colleges in North Africa, it housed up to 900 students in very cramped conditions, as there were only 130 tiny bedrooms. In these basic “cells” there was little room to lay a sleeping mat and use an area for studying and for cooking – so take plenty of photos to show your kids the next time they moan about not having enough space!

The large central courtyard is beautifully decorated in carved cedar and marble with lovely stuccowork. The tiles are laid out in geometrical patterns and bear inscriptions – mostly phrases from the Koran – as, of course, no human or animal representations are allowed. There is a big pool that served for ablutions before entering the prayer room that backs onto the courtyard.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm

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