A Pocket History of Marrakech

We had left the fertile Nfis valley a day ago, and have been riding ever since. The hot desert sun beats down on us, making us lethargic and sluggish. The ever durable camel below me is faltering in step, sliding in the sand, it carries the future of a city on its back.  Just as I think that it will collapse and our mission will be a failure, the sound of rushing water spurs the camel onwards. We came to a great barren plain along a river, as we reached our destination. We let the camels rest as we started to set up camp, this camp would become the red city, Marrakech.

Marrakech is a city in Morocco with a rich history, steeped in blood. 6 different empires have scaled and conquered the red clay walls, giving it a diverse architecture and history, the country of Morocco itself is named after Marrakech. Every empire that has controlled Marrakech has left its mark on the city, often through great architectural feats. It was originally founded by the Almoravids, and they were the first ones to build the great red clay walls around the city. The reason that old Marrakech has such twisted sprawling oasis-like streets is because the first buildings were built in place of tents in a camp, the same gravity-based watering system has been used in the gardens of Morocco since the 11th century thanks to Almoravid engineers. In the late 11th century, Almorhans captured the city and demolished many of the Almoravid mosques, because they thought “their orientation was a few degrees off of Mecca. They replaced them with many great feats of architecture, such as the Koutobia Mosque. In the 15th century, Saadian sultans captured and revamped the city and gave it new life. They created many great palaces and mosques, making Marrakech a city worthy of the sultans. The mark that the 19th century French invaders left on Marrakech is clear, almost all educated modern Moroccans speak French, as well as Arabic. There are many great imperial cities in Morocco, meaning that Marrakech had a competitive rivalry with other cities, especially one called Fez. This eventually resulted in the choice of the modern Moroccan capital, Rabat, a compromise so that neither Fez nor Marrakech gained primacy over the other.

Marrakech today is the fourth largest, and possibly the most important, city in Marrakech. Its Medina is the largest tourist destination in Morocco, a country with a very poor economy. Tourism not only brings income for corporations, but for small craftsmen and local people. Marrakech is where the COP22 is being held, meaning that it spurs the rest of Morocco into becoming more green. Morocco today has the worlds largest solar power plant, and has completely banned plastic bag production and distribution. Marrakech’s deep and intricate history provides a foundation to build a greener and cleaner city, one that not only has elements of ancient times but also of the future.

2 thoughts on “A Pocket History of Marrakech

  1. Pat McDonald says:

    What a wonderfully written history of Morocco and Marrakesh. I was there 3-4 years ago and didn’t learn this much. Love the place and would love to return.


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