Marrakesh is one of the oldest cities in Morocco’s four Imperial Cities. The city was founded in the 11th century by Abu Bakribn Umar. He goes down in history as the first of the Moroccan Almoravide dynasty. It is believed that Morocco, as a country, is named after the city. Till today, the city is still regarded as one of the great cities of the entire Muslim world.
As far back as the Neolithic era, what is now known as the city of Marrakesh was inhabited by Berber farmers. The Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa; somewhere located west of the Nile Valley. Long before the famous Almoravids, the region was ruled by the Maghrawa. It was not until the 11th century that the Almoravids brought their dominance over southern Morocco, after conquering the city of Aghmat – a place where the Maghrawa ruled the then Marrakesh from.
This defeat, no doubt, signified a new era for the inhabitants in 1058. With time, the city (Aghmat) became too overcrowded and considered unsuitable by the Almoravid Emir (Abu Bakribn Umar) to be the capital. The search for a new and befitting region began with led to consultations and peace treaties with other local tribes like the Masmuda. It was finally decided upon that for peace sake and easy blend of their customary lifestyles, a neutral region must be sought out. This new found region was located between the BaniHazmira tribe and BaniHaylana tribe. Moving from Aghmat, the Almoravids journeyed to the west bank of the small IssilRiver. This landmark would eventually become a boundary between them.
At that time, the region could be characterized as barren because there was no visible living thing except for the colocynths and lotus trees, as well as ostriches and gazelles. While it is believed that the region remained a desert-style military encampment for some years, the first stone building – the city’s first mosque – is said to have been constructed by Yusuf ibnTashfin; a cousin to Abu Bakribn Umar. Subsequently, Yusuf ibnTashfin would succeed his cousin to become the ruler. After the building of the first mosque, more buildings were eventually constructed. A region once famously known for its tent houses was soon replaced with mud-brick houses. These mud-brick houses, with a characteristic red colour, gave the city a distinctive layout. The city was soon afterwards, nicknamed Marrakech al-Hamra; which literally translates to “Marrakech the Red”.
Obviously not done with the development of the new capital, IbnTashfin is said to have constructed a bridge across the Tensift River. This bridge connects the city to the Northern parts of Morocco. A city that was once looked upon to function as an administrative and political capital for the Almoravids, because of its barrenness, was eventually looking to compete with Aghmat(the commercial hub centre – a distance of thirty kilometres away).
With markets (souks) been constructed in the new developing city, Marrakech soon began to attract merchants and the likes. This, just like in the establishment of major cities, led to Marrakech developing into a mega city at that time. One of the city’s famous industries soon sprung up. This was due mainly to the fact that tanners were the first to arrive at the Almoravids new capital city, Marrakech. Other types of merchants slowly found their way into the city and slowly began to build luxury homes.
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