We had eaten a sumptuous eclectic lunch at the nearby wonderfully decorated Kozy Bar and the Saadian tombs were an ideal 30 minute foil before hitting the Souks, a short walk away.
Like most places in Marrakech, the entrance to the Saadian Tombs is difficult to locate. Situated just off Rue de la Kasbah, an unassuming doorway leads to a narrow passage alongside a mosque that does very little justice to what lies inside. After all, the Saadi dynasty buried here is no ordinary dynasty
The narrow approach to the Saadian Tombs
The dynasty ruled for 150 years starting in the first decade of the 16th century and claimed a direct lineage to Muhammad. They defeated the Portuguese in the Battle of Ksar El Kebir and protected their empire against the Ottomans attack while building important monuments like the El Badi palace and the Ben Youssef Medersa.
Saadian Tombs: The main mausoleum (Nikon D300s, Tokina 11-16mm: f2.8 1/100s ISO3200)
More than 60 members of the dynasty are buried here. The tombs of the more important figures like the Sultan Ahmed El Mansour and his princes lie under the great vaulted pavilions with typical zillig tile work, while others are laid in neat rows in the uncovered courtyard.
(Nikon D300s, Tokina 11-16mm: f2.8 1/30s ISO3200, EV –0.3)
The pavilions were built are contemporaneous with Ben Youssef Medersa and the likeliness in the design is apparent.
Though, the real story here is that the tombs were concealed and stayed lost for over two centuries!
Moulay Ismail – Chengiz Khan and Hitler rolled into one (fathered 867 children and killed north of 100,000 enemy soldiers personally) yet revered locally for his astute leadership and diplomacy - can claim fame for sealing the tombs. And it is hard to believe that in a crowded place like Marrakech, a site that covers more than one acre and is surrounded by walls over twenty feet high, nobody was curious to investigate what lay behind this cube with no entrance. The tombs were finally rediscovered in in 1917 by a French aerial survey. What can one say but thank Moulay Ismail for inadvertently preserving the tombs for eternity (hopefully).
Change of guard ((Nikon D300s, Nikkor 18-200mm: f11 1/30s ISO200)
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Weather in Marrakech right now: