Marrakesh - MOROCCO

Marrakesh has always had a mystique about it.A city of immense beauty – low, red and tentlike below the dramatic peaks of the High Atlas mountains – it is immediately exciting and immediately fascinating. The city is arguably the last outpost of the Mediterranean before the Sahara, yet nomadic and West African influences still seem quite distinct in the crowds and performers of the Jemaa el Fna, the main square at the heart of the old town. It’s a reminder that Marrakesh was once the entrepot for goods (gold, ivory and slaves) brought by caravan across the desert.

History

Founding of Marrakech

The Almoravids, the most powerful Berber tribe, founded the military outpost of Marra Kouch in 1062, giving them control of the Saharan trade routes.

The Almohads take Marrakech

The Almohads lay siege to Marrakech in 1147 and the city changed hands. Their impressive monuments, including the Koutoubia Mosque, dominate Marrakech to this day.

Decline under the Merenids

The Merenids took the city in 1269 from the Almohads, emerging from the Tafilelt Oasis, which is near presentday Algeria. During their rule, Marrakech was sidelined and reduced to a provincial outpost after they chose the northerly city of Fès as their power base.

The Saadians return the throne to Marrakech

Prosperity returned to Marrakech under the Saadians who overthrew the Merenids in 1549. This Arabian dynasty expanded their territory across the Sahara to Mali and Mauritania.

Mad Moulay Ismail

The Saadians were swept aside by the Alouites in 1668. Their second ruler, Moulay Ismail reigned for 55 years, personally killing 30,000 people. Alouite descendants are still in power.

The Sultan of Spliff

Moulay Hassan, the last Moroccan sultan with any real power, ruled from 1873–94 and legalised cannabis cultivation. The Rif region is probably the world’s largest cannabis cultivator today.

Imposition of French rule

The lynching of Europeans in Casablanca gave France an excuse to act on their territoria ambitions. The consequent March 1912 Treaty of Fès made Morocco France’s protectorate. In this period, a whole nouvelle ville (new city) was constructed outside the walls of the medina.

The Lord of the Atlas

The French enlisted tribal warlord, Thami El Glaoui to rule southern Morocco from 1918–55. The self-styled “Lord of the Atlas”, known for his cruel ways, ruled the city with an iron fist. After the French withdrawal in 1955, the citizens took to the streets against his regime.

The crowning of the king

1955 marked the return of exiled Sultan Mohammed V who was crowned king, with Morocco gaining independence a year later. The present monarch, Mohammed VI, is his grandson.

Marrakech goes global

It is claimed that a French television programme in the 1990s, stating that a palace in Marrakech could be purchased for the price of a flat in Paris, was the catalyst for the city’s new-found global popularity. Five-star hotels and budget airlines soon followed suit.

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