Located on a fertile plain, Marrakesh is one of Morocco's four imperial cities. Founded in eleventh-century as the African capital of Almoravid dynasty; it was conquered by the Almohads in 1147, and then to Marinids, only to be taken by the French in 1912.
Marrakesh was founded in 1062 by Yusif Ben Tashfin, the first ruler of the Almoravid dynasty. His son, Ali, built the Ben Yussef Mosque and the city wall. The Almohads (1146-1268) made Marrakesh the capital of their empire and it was during this period that the Koutoubia was built.
The Marinids (1268-1520) neglected Marrakesh but they were succeeded by the Saadians (1520-1668) who endowed the city with the Badi' palace, the Ben-Yussef madrasa and the Saadian mausoleum.
From 1668 onwards, the Alawites, who resided in Marrakesh only occasionally, erected numerous buildings such as the palace of Bahia and Dar Si Saod at the end of the nineteenth-century. Later, the modern town was to develop three kilometres from the Medina, with its wide avenues bordered with palm-trees, orange-trees and jacarandas.
When first created in the 11th century, Marrakesh was a link on the caravan route that joins the south and the north of Morocco by way of the valleys up the Upper Atlas. Routes from the Tafilelt region and the Draa valley also converged on Marrakesh. Later, as the capital of the Almoravid and subsequently the Almohad empires (eleventh and thirteenth centuries), it became the seat of the unique authority ruling the entire Muslim West, including Andalusia.
At that time, Marrakesh was a large metropolis, housing probably up to 100,000 inhabitants.
Between the thirteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Marrakesh experienced a period of decline due to the displacement further east (in Algeria, Tunisia and particularly Egypt) of roads used to transport African gold, and the relocation of Morocco's capital to Fez. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, under the Saadians, Marrakesh was revived and flourished thanks to the gold trade, and the conquest of Tombouctou by the Saadians.
43A: "Maalem Taieb ben Mbarek" (Music of the Haouz)
1959 November 1; Video
Performers: Maalem Taieb ben Mbarek and Cheikhats
Recorded by Paul Bowles
At Marrakech, Morocco
November 1, 1959
A day or so after making the first recordings of Haouziya music with the Maalem Taieb ben Mbarek, I met him in the Djemaa el Fna, and he suggested making some tapes of Haouziya music using cheikhats.(Cheikhats are professional female entertainers; their status is something akin to that of the erstwhile geishas in Japan. They sing dance, play, converse, serve tea, and in general act the part of hostesses whose sole concern is that of entertaining the male client. Since the abolition of brothels in Morocco, their civil status has become equivocal and their prices have gone considerably higher, since now they are the only prostitutes allowed to entertain in their own establishments in the former tradition, all the rest having been forced into the streets to earn their living... The Maalem Taieb was fearful of police interference, but since I had originally had him convoked by a mokhazni sent by the Khalifa of the Pacha, he finally agreed to bring three women to the U.S.I.S. in Marrakech, where I had made his earlier recordings, without my having to go through the official formalities again. The women were immobile throughout the session, standing in a corner of the patio tapping their tarijas while they sang.)The Maalem sat at some distance playing his violin, while the man who had been described by him as having the best male voice, (because it was the voice most like a woman's ) stood with the women and led them with his own high-pitched singing. Two of the women played tarijas; one had a set of three tiny brass finger cymbals; the male singer played tarija; the Maalem played kamenja.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies.