Saadian Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour Ed Dahbi spared no expense on his tomb, importing Italian Carrara marble and gilding honeycomb muqarnas (decorative plasterwork) with pure gold to make the Chamber of 12 Pillars a suitably glorious mausoleum. Al Mansour died in splendour in 1603, but a few decades later, Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail walled up the Saadian Tombs to keep his predecessors out of sight and mind. It was the French who opened them up again in 1917.
Al Mansour played favourites even in death, keeping alpha princes handy in the Chamber of Three Niches and relegating to garden plots some 170 chancellors and members of the royal household. All tombs are overshadowed by his mother’s mausoleum in the courtyard, carved with poetic, weathered blessings and guarded by stray cats and tortoises.