Notes on the Geography of Morocco: Ali ben Youssef
Definitely on the short list of must-sees, this madrasa or Islamic college takes its name from the adjoining Mosque of Ali ben Youssef, named for an Almoravid sultan who ruled Marrakech from 1106 to 1142. His mosque, closed like all the others in Marrakech to non-Muslims, was the main mosque of the city until replaced by the Mouassin Mosque four centuries later. The madrasa itself, however, is later, built in the 14th Century by the Marinid Sultan Abu al-Hassan. It was rebuilt by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib, who ruled from 1557 to 1574. At one time the biggest madrasa in Morocco, the madrasa was closed in 1960 and reopened to tourists in 1982. Size aside, its ornamentation is spectacular.
The exterior gives no hint of what lies within.
The entrance is impressive, however, with a massive cedar lintel carved with Andalusian script and hardly spoiled by the new sign above.
The entrance hall is decorated with zillij, faience tile used on both floors and walls.
Above the entrance hall, light wells are walled with elaborately carved plaster and cedar.
The view to the upper floor, filled with the small rooms once used as living quarters by students.
The layout is a simple square around a courtyard, but if the architecture in the narrow sense is simple, the ornamentation of its surfaces is anything but. The dark room is the prayer hall.
Garmoud tile above, with zillij on the lower walls.
The view from cell to cell.
The view from a cell back toward the entrance.
Detail near the entrance to the prayer hall.
The prayer hall.
Mihrab, indicating the direction of prayer.
Interior of mihrab.
Watching the world go by.
Looking between upstairs cells.
Outside the madrasa is the only surviving relic of the Almoravid Dynasty, the fountain adjoining the Ali ben Youssef mosque.
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