The Almoravids founded Marrakech in 1062. The city became a religious center with mosques and Koranic schools and a commercial center for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Ramparts, palaces, and especially the irrigation system coming down from the mountains is created.
Culturally and architecturally, the Andalusian influence of Cordoba and Seville mixes with the designs of the desert peoples, nomads, and people from the southern Sahara.
Marrakech, capital of the Almoravids, reigns from the banks of the Senegal River in central Spain and from the Atlantic coast to Algiers.
Marrakech and Almohades:
The Almohads took the city in 1147. At the end of a siege the Almoravids are massacred, the survivors flee to the Balearic Islands. The monuments are destroyed.
Descending from the High Atlas Mountains, the Almohads practice orthodox Islam. They build the emblematic Mosque of the city: The Koutoubia (1199). Its twin from the imagination of the same architect as the Giralda in Seville. The irrigation system is perfected.
Then the death of a sultan opens to an uncertain succession and a sure bazaar. Marrakech declines and Fez becomes the capital of the kingdom.
The Golden Age of Marrakech:
At the beginning of the 16th century, under the Saadian dynasty, Marrakech experienced a new golden age.
The capital of sumptuous palaces are built: The El Badi Palace (1578) is a replica of the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Monuments are renovated such as the Medersa Ben Youssef.
Under the Saadian dynasty, Marrakech regained its position as a crossroads between the caravan routes of the Maghreb, the Mediterranean, and sub-Saharan Africa.
In the 20th century:
At the beginning of 1900, Marrakech experienced a troubled period between tribal revolts and European intrigues.
In 1912, France imposes its protectorate on Morocco. The colonial period will see the construction of the western district of Guéliz in the northwest of the Medina of Marrakech.
In 1956, on Morocco’s eastern borders, the Algerian War of Independence broke out. Morocco obtains its independence. Moroccan Jews are worried about France’s disengagement from Morocco and decide to join Israel, France or the United States.
At the end of the 6-day war in 1967, the movement accelerates encouraged by the monarchy and the Israeli government. From 270 000 Jews, only 3000 remain today.
As in Eastern Europe after the Second World War, the face of Morocco is profoundly changed. It is the end of cohabitation that goes back more than 500 years.
Majorelle in the 1920s, Yves Saint Laurent almost 60 years later… Many French and foreign artists settled in Marrakech in the 20th century. Others followed, bought and renovated the riads and gardens (see the Secret Garden) and helped revitalize cultural life.