Visit the royal Saadian Tombs

Marrakech is one of Morocco’s former imperial capital cities, and it’s home to an incredible array of historic attractions and fascinating museums. Also known as The Red City, this place is often referred to as the country’s cultural heart. One of the most popular sights to see here are the Saadian Tombs.

Located just outside of the ancient city of Marrakech, you’ll discover the amazing Saadian Tombs; they date back to 1557 and are the former resting place of Moroccan royalty. If you’re staying in the area, or even if you’re not, its well worth setting aside some time to see this place for yourself; they’re not far away from the Kasbah Mosque, so you can fit both into one day if you like.

A magnificent burial ground

Back in the 16th century, Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi was the most important person in Morocco. He was responsible for the construction of many of the main buildings within the Saadian Tombs complex, and was dedicated to building glorious memorials to honouring those closest to him. The result is a sprawling complex with a wealth of magnificent buildings. And of course, he also wanted to create an impressive place for himself to rest when the time came!

The Sultan built lavish mausoleums in equally opulent structures. Materials included imported Italian marble and gold, with eye-catching tilework, known as zellige, plasterwork and woodwork. The entire complex is stop-you-in-your-tracks stunning! People who the sultan held in greater esteem were buried closer to the heart of the complex, with others buried throughout the extensive gardens.

That explains why his own burial chamber in the Saadian Tombs is the most exquisite of them all. No expense was spared; he imported the finest Italian Carrara marble to create his mausoleum, where you’ll also discover the Chamber of 12 Pillars featuring a cedar wood roof, honeycomb muqarnas (decorative plasterwork), and pure gold.

Out in the manicured gardens is where you’ll find the graves of his many servants. Don’t forget to look for the mausoleum of Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi’s mother out in the courtyard, complete with intricately carved-out poetic blessings.

Lost and rediscovered

Al-Mansour, the fifth and final Saadian Sultan, died in 1603. Within a matter of just a few decades, after the Saadian dynasty had come to an end, Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismail decided to wall up the Saadian Tombs. Keen to keep the attention firmly focused on him and his family line, he wanted to keep his ancestors out of sight and mind. This meant that they were only accessible via a tiny passage in the Kasbah Mosque, and so they were left neglected, until they were rediscovered via aerial photography in 1917 and restored to their former glory.

There are more than 100 tombs located within the extravagant mausoleums and lush gardens of royals and Saadian princes. And they’re all decorated with beautiful tiled mosaics. There’s lots to see here, including vaulted chambers and dramatic architecture, so it’s well worth taking the explore every inch of this unique place.