Saadian Tombs

Top choice historic site in Riads Zitoun & Kasbah

Image by Jon Chica Shutterstock

Anyone who says you can’t take it with you hasn’t seen the Saadian Tombs, near the Kasbah Mosque. 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 the 12 Pillars a suitably glorious mausoleum.

Al Mansour played favourites even in death, keeping alpha-male princes handy in the Chamber of the Three Niches, and relegating to garden plots some 170 chancellors and wives – though some trusted Jewish advisors earned pride of place, literally closer to the king’s heart than his wives or sons. All tombs are overshadowed by his mother’s mausoleum in the courtyard, carved with poetic, weathered blessings and vigilantly guarded by stray cats.

Al Mansour died in splendour in 1603, but a few decades later Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismail walled up the Saadian Tombs to keep his predecessors out of sight and mind. Accessible only through a small passage in the Kasbah Mosque, the tombs were neglected by all except the storks, until aerial photography exposed them in 1917.


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