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.
The client wished to re-create the spaces and atmosphere of a 19th century Moroccan Palace and avoid at all costs the lack of character found in most contemporary hotels. The architect, in conjunction with the interior designer, were briefed to adapt local craftsmanship to a contemporary building design. The hotel comprises: 146 rooms and 8 suites, a conference hall, landscaped garden and swimming pools, a restaurant, a bar and ancillary services.
The main axis of the L-shaped hotel runs southwest to northeast, diagonally across the rectangular site. The entrance hall, hotel lobby, public reception areas as well as the garden and the swimming pool are symmetrically planned along this axis. The architectural treatment is based on a series of carefully defined medium-scaled spaces that each bear a unique character from the elaborate and colourful interior decoration they display. The building is spatially and visually broken down by calm patios, riyadhs (gardens), shaded retreats and narrow passageways alternating with high-ceiling, larger spaces. The entrance hall, a four-storey high octagon covered by a pyramidal roof, provides vertical circulation and gives access to both wings. The hotel is isolated from the street by two shopping arcades, and its gardens with fountains, pools, trellises and kiosks are reminiscent of those found in traditional residences.