Ali ben Youssef Medersa

sights / Other

Ali ben Youssef Medersa information

Marrakesh , Morocco
Address
Street Place ben Youssef
Telephone
+212 524 44 18 93
Prices
adult/child Dh50/30, with Musee de Marrakesh Dh60
Opening hours
9am-6pm winter, to 7pm summer
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Lonely Planet review

‘You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded’ reads the inscription over the entryway to the Ali ben Youssef Medersa, and after almost six centuries, the blessing still works its charms on visitors. Founded in the 14th century under the Merenids, this Quranic learning centre was once the largest in North Africa, and remains among the most splendid.

Sight lines are lifted in the entry with carved Atlas cedar cupolas and mashrabiyya (wooden-lattice screen) balconies. The medersa’s courtyard is a mind-boggling profusion of Hispano-Moresque ornament: five-colour zellij (mosaic) walls; stucco archways; cedar windows with weather-worn carved vines; and a curved mihrab (eastern-facing niche) of prized, milky-white Italian Carrara marble.

The medersa (theological college)is affiliated with nearby Ali ben Youssef Mosque , and once 900 students in 132 dorms arranged around the courtyard studied religious and legal texts here. Despite upgrades with its 19th-century renovation, the Ali ben Youssef Medersa gradually lost students to its collegiate rival, the Medera Bou Inania in Fez, but the medersa still exudes magnificent, studious calm.