About Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknes is the final resting place of one of Morocco’s most notorious sultans.
History of the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
Moulay Ismail was a member of the Alaouite Dynasty and the ruler of the country from 1672 to 1727. In a break with tradition, he made the city of Meknes his capital, and embarked on several massive building projects.
In his time as sultan, Moulay Ismail gained a reputation for ruthlessness, earned due to his purges of anybody unwilling to support him and for megalomania, particularly when it came to creating monuments and palaces at the expense of destroying those built by others. One famous casualty of Moulay Ismail is the El Badi Palace in Marrakesh, demolished for its materials.
Nevertheless, Moulay Ismail was also known as a very effective leader, and his accomplishments included taking areas such as Tangiers and al-Mamurah from the British and the Spanish respectively. He ended attempts by the Ottomans to get a foothold in Morocco and established a firmer diplomatic relationship with Europe through the ransom of Christian captives at his court.
Created by masses of slaves and criminal prisoners, the sultan oversaw the initial construction of his tomb. The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is a good example of the opulence of the sultan’s building style. Built around grand courtyards and fountains are rooms with intricate tiling and stucco walls adorned with fine objects such as clocks gifted to the sultan by his friend, the French king, Louis XIV.
Moulay Ismail was laid to rest in the mausoleum together with one of his (five hundred) wives and two of his (eight hundred) children. The mausoleum was restored and opened to the public by Sultan Mohammed V in the 20th century.
Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail today
The mausoleum complex is arguably the highlight of Meknes, and is well worth a visit. Non-Muslims cannot enter the actual tomb, but can explore the entry hall and front courtyards. You’ll need to dress modestly, and women are recommended to cover their heads.
The complex was undergoing major restoration work from 2016 onwards: it’s best to check before visiting what’s actually open and available to visit.
Getting to the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
The mausoleum is on Avenue Bab Marrah, in the Cite Imperiale district of Meknes, about a 20 minute walk from the main madrassa. Depending on where in the city you’re coming from, a taxi can be quite convenient.
A country with traditions from sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the wider Middle East woven into its cultural fabric, Morocco is host to a number of historic sites which make for a fantastic visit.