The Saadian tombs: remnants of the royal dynasty

Located in the heart of the Kasbah district, the site of the Saadian tombs is sacred ground. This temple of eternal rest is the last vestige of the royal dynasty of Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansur Saadi. A cemetery like no other, set into the ochre-coloured wall and well worth a visit. The tombs were built in 1578 before being hidden and reopened to the public in 1917. They are a unique example of Hispano-Moorish art. The beauty of the place, authentic and pure, lies in the arabesques that overhang the marble tombs and offer the family buried here a dignity that cannot escape us. The site has 3 halls, including the main mausoleum where Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour and his family are laid to rest. A historic site not to be missed during a stay in Marrakech!

The mausoleum of the Saadian tombs in Marrakech, Morocco.

- © ali caliskan / Shutterstock

In the footsteps of the ancient Saadian dynasty

Originally from the Draa Valley, the Saadians formed a powerful Cherifian dynasty that ruled the entire country between the 16th and 17th centuries, corresponding to the golden age of Marrakech. These Berbers established themselves in Morocco thanks to the many battles they won, including Marrakesh in 1524. The history of the Saadian tombs began with the construction of the very first building used as a necropolis.

Site of the Saadian tombs, Marrakech, Morocco

- ©Evrenkalinbacak / 123RF

The Alawites came to power and were largely responsible for the end of the Saadian regime, leaving the tombs abandoned. The Sultan of the time, Moulay Ismaïl, had the ambition of wiping out all the glory of the Saadian dynasty, in order to erase them from the country's memory. But as the Red City is a land of faith, the Sultan did not go so far as to commit the sacrilege of wiping out the sacred tombs, preferring to hide them behind ramparts out of sight until 1917. This confidential necropolis was later rediscovered and made public. To visit it is to remember the privilege of being able to access this solemn place, long forgotten.

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Highlights of the necropolis

The room of the 12 columns

When visiting the funerary monument, the most prestigious room not to be missed is that of the 12 columns. This is where Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour and his family are laid to rest. The sarcophagi are made of Carrara marble, highly prized for its immaculate whiteness. It is now widely used in our interiors.

Hall of the 12 columns of the Saadian necropolis of Marrakech (Morocco)

- ©Francesco Dazzi / 123 RF

The room is dominated by an Atlas cedar dome and the walls are covered in sculpted stucco and zellige tiles. The rich, meticulous decorations are well worth a visit. All in the Hispano-Moorish style that dominated the 16th century.

In all, this mausoleum houses more than sixty tombs belonging to the Saadian dynasty. And although it is a religious building reserved for the remains of this great dynasty, the place remains radiant and is akin to a walk in technicolour. The shimmering mosaics on the walls and floors are a real eye-catcher, arousing the curiosity of even the most sceptical visitors.

The garden

At the end of the tour, head for the outdoor park. The various vaults are spread around a fairly minimalist green space, but are full of subterranean treasures. More than a hundred tombs decorated with mosaics are stored on the ground. These are the graves of former servants and warriors of the Saadian dynasty.

The tombs in the outer garden of the royal necropolis, Marrakech, Morocco.

- © ali caliskan / Shutterstock

The monument has one last surprise in store, this time in the air. You have to look up to catch a glimpse of one of Marrakech's magical animals. The stork, the local emblematic bird, has taken up residence among the ochre walls. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of one.

Editor's note :

It's one of the city's most popular activities. It's a fairly quick visit and can sometimes be very cramped due to the crowds, but it's a chance to discover a cemetery like no other. Guided tours are also available if you want to find out more about the site.

Practical information

📍Adresse : Rue de la Kasbah, Marrakech

👛Price: €6.30

Opening hours: open every day from 9am to 5pm (3pm in winter)

🚌 How to get there: 10-minute walk from Place Jemaa-el-Fna or by taxi from the Palmeraie

Lunch on the roof

The Kasbah café is located just opposite the Saadian tombs and welcomes you to its magnificent panoramic terrace. The menu offers typical Moroccan dishes and a selection of Western dishes to vary the pleasures. We recommend the assortment of Moroccan salads and the kefta kebabs, which are delicious!

Where to sleep nearby?

Riad des Lys Marrakech
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Riad des Lys

Close to Place Jemaa-el-Fna, this haven of peace welcomes visitors to an idyllic setting with a surprise on the roof!
9.4 Fabulous
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by Val HANCOCK
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