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A Gentleman Explores Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakech

The Ben Youssef Madrasa is the largest Medrasa in Morocco.  It was an Islamic college in Marrakesh, Morocco, named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably.  

The carvings contain no representation of humans or animals as required by Islam, and consist entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns such as star and petal designs in zellige tilework.

ornate interior wall of ben youssef madrasa in marrakech morocco

Arriving at Ben Youssef Madrasa, you might feel slight disappointment as the entrance is dark and narrow.  The big production awaits as you turn the corner into the main part of the building.  An explosion of intricate tile patterns in blue, aqua, amber, white, black and burnt orange combined with complex wood carvings titillate the senses.  A rectangle shallow pool of aqua water unexpectedly softens the geometric patterns.  The aesthetics are exquisite.

I never tire of visiting Ben Youssef Madrasa and must admit to paying closer attention to detail when exploring this wonder with film photography.  Instead of capturing digital images in an instant, I took time to scrutinize the lines, patterns, textures and angles with a film camera.  

Take your time and take it all in.  There is no rush in Marrakech just as there is no scramble when using analogue.

The medersa centres around a large courtyard with a central pool for ablutions. The buildings are covered in an abundance of decoration: carved cedarwood, exquisite stuccowork, and colourful zellij tiles. Some elements of the medersa are remarkably similar to the Alhambra palace in Granada, indicating that Andalusian artists were likely brought from Spain for the project.

At the back of the courtyard is a sizable prayer hall, which contains the most elaborate decoration. The interior is covered in an abundance of pine cone and palm motifs, which are used around the mihrab to create a three-dimensional appearance.

Throughout the medersa are many Arabic inscriptions in stucco and zellij tile, the most common of which is the bismillah invocation: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” 

Above the central courtyard are the small windows of the tiny student dormitories. The rooms are arranged around smaller inner courtyards, rimmed with fine wood railings. Nearly 900 students were once housed here, and it’s difficult to imagine how they all squeezed in. Via stairs in the entry vestibule, visitors can explore all the rooms and enjoy good views over the courtyard.

 Exquisite Tile Work and Carvings at Ben Youssef Madrasa

Where is Ben Youssef Madrasa?  How Do I Get To Ben Youssef Madrasa? Ben Youssef Madrasa GPS Coordinates :: 31.6320° N, 7.9865° W

Map Showing the Location of Ben Youssef Madrasa


#Africa #Marrakech #Morocco #TravelDestinations

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