About The Saadian Tombs
The Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh are the final resting places of the around sixty of the rulers and members of the Saadi Dynasty including Sultan Ahmed El Mansour (the sixth sultan of the dynasty) and his family.
History of the Saadian Tombs
The Saadian dynasty ruled Morocco from 1549 to 1659: it’s thought this mausoleum was built in the 14th century. From the reign of Ahmed el-Mansour in 1578, the tombs were significantly extended, renovated and lavishly decorated – probably because his father was buried here in 1557. No expense was spared importing Italian marble and using the best artisans to decorate the tombs.
Over 166 of the most prominent members of Saadi society were buried here: everyone from el-Mansour and his immediate family, to assorted other royal princes, chancellors, and councillors. The more important they were, the closer these people were buried to the sultan himself.
The good state of preservation of the Saadian Tombs may be attributable to the fact that they were sealed off by the Sultan Moulay Ismail. At the time, Ismail was destroying architectural gems such as the Badi Palace in an attempt to eradicate all traces of the Saadi dynasty, but some speculate that, when it came to their tombs, his superstition got the better of him and he decided to hide rather than demolish them.
Moulay Ismail built a high wall around the tombs, leaving them accessible only via a small passage. As a result, they were largely forgotten about until 1917, when a French aerial survey of the area rediscovered them. From this point onwards, the tombs were carefully restored and eventually opened up to the public. .
The Saadian Tombs today
Visitors to the Saadian Tombs can view the tombs amidst the colourful backdrop of the two mausoleums which house them. One of the most interesting rooms is the beautifully decorated Hall of the Twelve Columns.
A visit to the Saadian Tombs can be quite a clinical experience, but only because the large number of tourists overwhelm this small site and mean that a visit might seem rushed, usually lasting around twenty minutes or so. Go for opening or closing time if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds or take good photos. Remember to dress respectfully: this is a burial place after all.
Getting to the Saadian Tombs
The Saadian Tombs are located along Rue de la Kasbah near the Kasbah Mosque and not far from the ruins of the El Badi Palace. It’s a 15 minute walk from Jemaa el-Fna, or a short taxi ride. Walking is normally easier and faster – Marrakech’s traffic is somewhat unpredictable.
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.