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Sunday, 21 May 2017 12:00 AM

Holiday Attractions in Morocco - Ben Youssef Madrasa and Museum of Marrakech

Morocco is a country overflowing with culture and life, a place to spend time exploring a medina or souk and relaxing in a local cafe with a cup of mint tea watching the world go by. But Morocco also a number of interesting sites to visit.

In our previous article we wrote about the Saadian Tombs and El Badi Palace, both in the Kasbah region of Marrakech medina a short walk to the south of the main square, and we have written before on the Roman ruins of the Chellah (in Rabat) and Volubilis (north of Meknes).

Here we cover more interesting sites around Marrakech - the Ben Youssefl Madrasa and the Museum of Marrakech.

The Ben Youssef Madrasa

The Madrasa is located to the north of the main souk of the medina (north of the main square, Djemma el Fna) near to the Museum of Marrakech and a short walk from La Maison Arab restaurant. Open daily from 9am – 6.00pm (7pm in summer), a combined ticket entrance fee is approximately 60 MHD (less than £5), which includes entrance to the Museum of Marrakech.

A madrasa is an Islamic theological school, with student living and learning and studying the Qur’an in the building. The Ben Youssef Madrasa (named after the Almoravid Sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (1106-1142)) is the largest in Morocco and was founded by the Marinid Sultan Abu al-Hassan in the 14th century. It was completely rebuilt and expanded by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib by 1565, to overtake the madrasas of Fez.

The madrasa is a wonderful example of Moorish architecture, with 130 student dormitory cells upstairs – although up to 900 students may have attended at any one time - set around a central courtyard. The cells are dusty and most have low doors, but are a fascinating place to wander slowly around and peak into the courtyard below.

The courtyard has a jade green rectangular pool and interesting carvings of inscriptions and patterns in stucco and cedar wood with marble colonades. The domed prayed hall is decorated with Qur’anic inscriptions and intricate stucco work on the ceilings

The madrasa was closed in 1960 and was reopened to the public in 1982 after some refurbishment. It can be busy so is best visited shortly after opening time.

The Museum of Marrakech

The Museum of Marrakech (for Photography and Visual Arts) is located on the Ben Youssef square, very close to the Ben Youssef Madrasa. Open daily from 9am – 6.30pm (7pm in summer), a combined ticket the entrance fee is approximately 60 MHD (less than £5), which includes entrance to the Ben Youssef Madrasa.

The museum is housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace, dating from the end of the 19th century, and converted into a museum in 1997 following significant restoration.

The palace building is the main reason for visiting the museum. It is an excellent example of Andalusian architecture with spectacular tile work, carvings and other decoration. The central large courtyard with fountains is now covered and has mosaics and traditional seating areas.

The museum holds exhibits of both modern and traditional Moroccan art together with fine examples of historical books, coins and pottery of Moroccan Jewish, Berber and Arab cultures.