The Famous Marrakech city
Marrakech (in Arabic: مُرَاكُش, murrākuš; in Berber: ⵎⵕⵕⴰⴽⵛ, Meṛṛakc), is a city located in central Morocco at the foot of the Atlas Mountains4. Marrakech is nicknamed “the red city” N 1 or the “ocher city” in reference to the red color of a large part of its buildings and houses5.
Marrakech and its urban area have in 2020 a little more than one million inhabitants 2. By its population, the city is the third agglomeration of the country, on a par with its historical rival, Fez, and behind Casablanca. Imperial city, like Fez, Rabat and Meknes, Marrakech was the capital of Morocco for nearly 350 years, under the Almoravid (11th – 12th centuries), Almohad (12th – 13th centuries), Saadian (16th – 17th centuries) dynasties ), as well as during the reign of Mohammed ben Abdallah of the current Alawite dynasty (reigning from 1757 to 1790).
Marrakech is home to a vast medina of 600 hectares, the most populous in North Africa, and classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Thanks to the vitality of its 900-year-old medina, its world-class hotel infrastructures, and its sunny climate, Marrakech has established itself as the undisputed capital of tourism in Morocco. Served by the country’s second airport in terms of traffic, Marrakech – Menara airport, the city welcomed nearly 3 million visitors in 2019.
Origin of the Marrakech
Several hypotheses coexist as to the origin of the name of the city. The most widespread among historians considers that the name of Marrakech is a contraction of the Berber Amur n’Akush. Amur means “country” and Akouch, or Yakouch means “God”, which gives “the land of God” 6. A less widespread alternative etymology proposes the interpretation of “land of the course” .
Medieval Arabic-speaking sources have been numerous to offer fanciful Arabic origins in the name of Marrakech. Some of these etymologies have been taken up in contemporary works. For Louis Deroy and Marianne Mulon, for example, authors of the Dictionary of place names, the name comes from the Arabic Marruquch “la bien parée” 8 from رقش “to ornament, embellish”.
Origin of the name
Several hypotheses coexist as to the origin of the name of the city. The most widespread among historians considers that the name of Marrakech is a contraction of the Berber Amur n’Akush. Amur means “country” and Akouch, or Yakouch means “God”, which gives “the land of God” 6. A less widespread alternative etymology proposes the interpretation of “land of the course”.
Medieval Arabic-speaking sources have been numerous to offer fanciful Arabic origins in the name of Marrakech. Some of these etymologies have been taken up in contemporary works. For Louis Deroy and Marianne Mulon, for example, authors of the Dictionary of place names, the name comes from the Arabic Marruquch “the well adorned” from رقش “to ornament, embellish”.
The word “Morocco” and its equivalents in various European languages are directly derived from the word “Marrakech”. From the 1130s, sixty years after the founding of the city, the name appears in Latin sources to designate the capital of the Almoravid empire6. In the fourteenth century, we identify the forms “Marroch” in Catalan (from which the French name derives), “Marruecos” in Castilian, “Morrocco” in Tuscan, and “Marrocos” in Portuguese, undoubtedly the oldest form, the ” ‘s final being hissed in Portuguese.
In the fifteenth century, Portugal exerted strong military pressure on Morocco. The country is split in two, the Wattassids having Fez as their capital and reigning over the north of Morocco and the Hintata then the Saadian sheriffs reigning over Marrakech and the south of the country. European geographic literature then endorses the idea that the Maghreb al-Aqsa is made up of the kingdoms of Fez and Morocco. It is finally the name of the capital of the south ends up imposing itself on the whole country. In addition, until the twentieth century, Morocco was known in the East under the name of Marrakech (a name still relevant in Iran).
During the Almohad period, Marrakech was famous for its leather craftsmanship. The tanning of the skins was already carried out there in the tanneries of Bab Debbagh in the east of the city. The leather accessories made in Marrakech were so famous that we began to speak in Castile of marroquinería to designate them. This term ended up spreading in other languages such as French, the “leather goods” being used to designate the activity as well as the articles using as main material the leather.
Capitale des empires almoravide et almohade
Marrakech (Mourrakouch) was founded in the year 1071 (year 463 of the Hegira) by the Berber sovereign Sanhadjiens Almoravid Youssef ben Tachfine11 and his queen Zaynab Nefzaouia, also of Berber origin. Very quickly, in Marrakech, under the leadership of the Almoravids, pious warriors and austere scholars from the current Mauritanian desert, many mosques and madrasahs (Koranic theological schools) were built, as well as a shopping center draining traffic between the Western Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Marrakech grew rapidly and established itself as an influential cultural and religious metropolis, supplanting Aghmat and Sijilmassa. Palaces were also built and decorated with the help of Andalusian craftsmen from Cordoba and Seville, who brought the Umayyad style characterized by chiseled cupolas and multi-lobed arches. This Andalusian influence merged with Saharan and West African elements and was synthesized in an original architecture totally adapted to the specific environment of Marrakech.
The city became the capital of the Almoravid Emirate, a Eurafrican empire that stretched from the banks of the Senegal River to the center of the Iberian Peninsula and from the Moroccan Atlantic coast to Algiers. The city was then fortified by the son of Youssef Ibn Tachfin, Ali Ben Youssef, who built around 1122-1123 ramparts that are still visible. While Youssef Ben Tachfine led victorious campaigns in Al-Andalus, subduing the kinglets of the taifas and repelling the offensives of Castile and Aragon, his wife Zaynab Nefzaouia exercised in Marrakech an important power, with all the prerogatives of a real queen.
In 1147, the Almohads supporters of Ibn Toumert who proclaimed himself Mahdi and wanted to impose an orthodox interpretation of Islam seized the city. The last Almoravids were exterminated, except those who went into exile in the Balearic Islands where a branch of this dynasty, the Beni Ghania family, survived. As a result, almost all of the monuments were destroyed. The Almohads, from the Masmouda tribes of the High Atlas, built many palaces and religious buildings marked by grandiose and monumental sobriety, such as the famous Koutoubia mosque built on the ruins of an Almoravid palace, and the twin sister of the Giralda in Seville and the Hassan Tower (unfinished) in Rabat.
The Kasbah housed the caliphal residence (since the reign of Abd al-Mumin the Almohad sovereign carried the title of caliph, thus competing with the distant eastern caliphate of the Abbasids of Baghdad), embellished with a hospital in which the Andalusian doctor Ibn practiced. Tufayl. Of the majestic ensemble of the Mansourian Kasbah, named after the caliph Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, the superb Bab Agnaw gate still remains. Marrakech was thus worthy of sheltering the capital of the major power of the medieval Moslem West, the Almohad Empire which included all the region between Cordoba and Tripoli, from Andalusia to Libya.
In order to supply the palm grove and the large gardens, an irrigation system was built and improved, using canals called hectares. Marrakech, by its cultural influence, attracted many writers, intellectuals, and artists from Al-Andalus, including Mutazilites like the famous Averroes, known for having extensively commented on and reinterpreted the Logos of the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
From the Merinid decline to the Saadian renaissance
From 1269, Marrakech was administered by the Hintata who took their independence from the last Almohad caliphs. The latter then ruled the city on behalf of the Marinid sultans, who erected its great rival Fez to the rank of imperial capital. The city then fell into a certain lethargy. From the fifteenth century, Marrakech gained its autonomy vis-à-vis the Wattassids whose authority extended further beyond the Oum Errabiâ while in the Atlantic plains, Portugal extended its influence and even besieged Marrakech. in 1515.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Marrakech became the capital of the Saadian Empire. It quickly returned to its peak, in particular under the reign of the sultans Mohammed al-Qaim and especially that of Ahmed al-Mansur Saadi, very influenced by the Ottoman civilization after his years of exile in Constantinople14. Thanks to the fortune amassed following the conquest of Timbuktu and the Songhaï empire, Marrakech was embellished, monuments restored and sumptuous palaces built. The El Badi Palace, built by Ahmed al-Mansur, was a replica of the Alhambra in Granada, made with the most precious materials from the three continents of the Old World (marble from Italy, granite from Ireland, gold from ‘West Africa, Indian porphyry, Chinese jade, etc.), with 360 pieces and 100 fountains15. El Badi also struck contemporaries with its Kubbat al Jujjaj, its “glass dome” made of translucent crystal, and other technical singularities that evoke the Golden House of Nero in Rome16. But all the decorative elements will subsequently disappear, dismantled by order of Sultan Moulay Ismail around 1695 to be reused in the great imperial palaces of Meknes. El Badi was above all intended for the sumptuous receptions offered to the embassies of the Habsburgs17 Spain, Elizabethan England18, the France of Henri IV19, and the Serene Venetian Republic, which recognized the Saadian Caliphate as an inescapable power that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of Fezzan and Chad20, including present-day Mali and its rich gold deposits. Under the reign of the Saadian dynasty, Marrakech thus regained its role of great caravan terminus thanks to the tracks coming from Moroccan Sudan and which were not controlled by the Turks of Algiers.
Destiny of the city under the Alaouite dynasty and in contemporary times
At the end of the 17th century, the Alaouite dynasty succeeded the Saadians. The throne was successively transferred to Fez then to Meknes, the new capital of the Sherifian Empire with Moulay Ismail. Sultan Mohammed III (1757-1790) chose the city as his main place of residence, because of the proximity of the port of Mogador (current city of Essaouira) which he had built on the plans of the French architect Théodore Cornut. It was also in Marrakech that the first friendship treaty between Morocco and the newly independent United States was concluded in 1787. In 1792, Marrakech became the capital of a son of Mohammed III, Moulay Hicham, who was recognized as sultan by this part of the country, while his brother Moulay Sulayman was recognized as legitimate sultan in Fez by the ulemas and by the provinces in north of the Oum Errabiaa river. A war ensued between the two rival sultans, which ended in the defeat of Hicham in 1796, despite the Spanish support of Charles IV who interfered in Moroccan internal affairs. Marrakech was reconquered by Sulayman in 1797 and the city returned to the territory of the Makhzen of Fez.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Marrakech experienced several years of turmoil. After the death of the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed in 1900, true regent of the Sherifian Empire during the minority of the young Sultan Abd al-Aziz, the country was plagued by anomie, tribal revolts, the plots of the great feudal lords, without count the European intrigues. In 1907, Moulay Abd al-Hafid, khalifa (representative of the makhzen) in Marrakech was proclaimed sultan by the powerful tribes of the High Atlas and by certain ulemas who denied the legitimacy of his brother Abd al-Aziz. It was also in 1907 that a French doctor installed in Marrakech, Doctor Émile Mauchamp, was assassinated, suspected of spying for the benefit of his country. France seizes this affair to make penetrate its troops in Morocco, from Oujda in the east and Casablanca in the west.
The French colonial army nevertheless encountered strong resistance led by Ahmed al-Hiba, a son of the great Sheikh Ma El Aïnin who had come from the Sahara with his nomadic warriors from the Reguibat tribes. After the battle of Sidi Bou Othmane, which saw the victory of the Mangin column over the forces of al-Hiba (September 1912), the French seized Marrakech which thus entered the French protectorate of Morocco established in 1912. La The conquest had been facilitated by the rallying of the Imzwarn tribes and their chiefs belonging to the powerful family of the Glaouis, considered as one of the great aristocratic lines of the region.
One of them, Thami El Glaoui, became famous by acceding to the post of Pasha of Marrakech, appointed by Sultan Moulay Youssef with the approval of Marshal Lyautey, resident general of France in Morocco. El Glaoui will occupy this function throughout the duration of the protectorate (forty-four years). The Pasha distinguished himself by his collaboration with the French authorities, which found its culmination with the plot to dethrone Sidi Mohammed Ben Youssef (Mohammed V) to replace him by the cousin of the legitimate Sultan, Mohammed ben Arafa nicknamed the ” puppet sultan “and designated by the resident general Augustin Guillaume. Thami El Glaoui, already renowned for his prestigious associates (in particular the friendship of Winston Churchill) and his sumptuous lifestyle, worthy of a true monarch, thus became a striking symbol of the colonial order in Morocco22. He could not, however, oppose the rise of nationalist sentiment, or the hostility of a growing part of the population. He could not oppose pressure from France either, which agreed to get rid of its Moroccan protectorate because of the disaster of the Indochina war and the start of the Algerian war. After two successive exiles (in Corsica then in Madagascar), Sidi Mohammed Ben Youssef was authorized to return to Morocco in November 1955, and this return marked the end of the despotic reign of Glaoui on his stronghold of Marrakech, thus recording the country’s accession. to independence.
From the 1960s and 1970s, Marrakech became a destination for the Western jet-set, notably under the leadership of several personalities such as Yves Saint Laurent23 Since the beginning of the millennium, Marrakech has established itself as the undisputed capital of tourism in Morocco, the red city welcoming nearly 3 million visitors in 2019 for a total of 8.3 million overnight stays24. In 2020, the city is nevertheless paying a heavy price during the Covid-19 epidemic. From an economic point of view, the pandemic put a stop to the tourist industry, the economic engine of the city. Then, from a health point of view, Marrakech is with Casablanca one of the cities most heavily affected by the spread of the virus and the city is regularly the target of quarantine measures and targeted blockades of neighborhoods.
Marrakech is located in south-central Morocco. It is the capital of the Haouz plain, and by far its main town. The medina was built on the left bank of Wadi Issil, five kilometers south of its point of confluence with Wadi Tensift. Built at an average altitude of 450 meters above sea level, Marrakech is a city with essentially flat relief. Only Jbel Gueliz, a sandstone hill at an altitude of 55 meters, and its aftermath to the north (Koudiat El Abid), break the monotony of the plain. Beyond the Tensift, the Jbilet form arid gray hills. They mark the limit between the Haouz plain and the Rehamna country. But it is above all to the High Atlas, whose snow-capped peaks in winter are clearly visible from the ocher city, that Marrakech and its hinterland owe their wealth. Without this mountain barrier, the first foothills of which are only 25 kilometers from the city limits and whose highest point, Jebel Toubkal (4,167 m) about sixty kilometers away, the Haouz plain would be only one sterile meseta.
Until the 2000s, the northern limit of the agglomeration of Marrakech was the course of the Tensift, along which stretch palm groves and horticultural food gardens nourishing important peri-urban douars such as El Azzouzia and Ouahat Sidi Brahim. With the construction of the Grand Stade de Marrakech and especially that of Tamansourt, a new city located beyond the river, the agglomeration of Marrakech is also