Timeline: Almoravid {1053-1150}

The Almoravids, or al-Murabitun, were a dynasty that sprang from a from power base among the confederation of Sanhajah Berber tribes in what is now Niger and Mali. At its height, their empire spanned most of the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of North African from what is today Mauritania to Western Tunisia, as well as the Southern half of the Iberian Peninsula.

They were a dynasty of religious zealots originally led by the Moroccan theologian Abdallah Ibn Yassin who had been invited by Yahya Ibn Ibrahim, leader of the Banu Gudala tribe, to preach among his people. He proved to be a reformist zealot, and he quickly rose to prominence. This led to his invitation by Abu-Bakr Lamtuni to preach among the Lamtuna, where he found a more enthusiastic reception. Upon his death, Yusef Ibn Tashfin succeeded him. In the latter part of the 11th century this religious fervor, matched by the military prowess of the Lamtuna led to the conquest of Morocco, the Ghana Empire, much of Algeria, and part of Muslim Spain. Marrakesh was established as the capital in 1062/454 AH and Ibn Tashfin assumed the title of amir al-muslimin (“commander of the Muslims”) in the territories he governed.

During the reign of ‘Ali Ibn Yusef (1106-1142/499-536 AH) the rest of Muslim Spain came under Almoravid rule, with the exception of Valencia, which retained its independence. The administrative union between the Spanish and North Africa was consolidated, which allowed a greater flow of artistic and intellectual commerce between the two Mediterranean shores. The architecture of this period attempted to reign in much of what they saw as the excesses of the Umayyad period. The Almoravids were less prone to build on a grand scale, or to indulge in elaborate ornamentation. Perhaps the Qubbahal-Barudiyyin in Marrakesh is one of the best extant examples of early Almoravid architectural style and its emphasis on simple, austere designs with great inherent aesthetic elegance.

Christian forces wanting to retake territory, as well as Muslim rivals for power soon challenged the Almoravids dominance and kept chipping away at their vast and weakened empire. Saragossa fell to Christian forces in 1118/512 AH, and by 1125/519 AH the Almohads were already showing their strength in armed rebellions. The fall of Marrakech and Lisbon in 1147/541 AH, effectively marked the end of Almoravid power, though some resistance continued in Spain, the Balearic Islands, and in the province of Ifriqiyya, in today's Tunisia.

Michael A. Toler

Parent Collections
architectural history
history of architecture