Agdal Gardens
Marrakech, Morocco

The Agdal Gardens in Marrakech are the origin of a fundamental garden type, the Islamic agdal garden. The gardens were constructed in 1157 by Almohad Caliph 'Abd al-Mu'min bin 'Ali al-Kumi (reg. 1130-63) at the same time as the nearby Menara Gardens. 'Abd al-Mu'min was the founder of the Almohad capital in Marrakech, and he undertook many significant building projects in the city between 1147 and his death in 1163. The Agdal Gardens were established directly adjacent to the southern edge of the Médina, and they functioned both as productive orchards and private pleasure gardens for the caliph. Much larger than the nearby Menara Gardens, the Agdal Gardens and their reservoirs directly served the medina and its residents.


The word "agdal" is a Berber term that means "meadow enclosed by a stone wall." It is said that the Agdal Gardens in Marrakech were so named because visiting Berber Tribes from the Atlas mountains associated their native panoramas of green meadows framed by tall mountains with the walled landscape of the urban gardens.


The Agdal Gardens are essentially rectangular in shape, with a relatively small rectangular section removed at their northwest corner. The longitudinal axis of the site is its north-south axis, rotated counter-clockwise from the north-south meridian. The gardens are 3.1 kilometers long and between 1.2 and 1.4 kilometers wide. The rectangular area that is cut out from the northwest corner of the rectangular parcel measures 620 meters long and 450 meters wide. The vast majority of the land within the Agdal Gardens is given over to productive orchards. Various trees and bushes are planted in grids whose rows range between five and ten meters wide, depending on the type of tree or plant. The entire site is subdivided by a network of paths into a patchwork of smaller gardens, within which one species of plant is cultivated; this strict rationalism in organization is typical of the Hispano-Mauresque productive garden. All paths within the garden are lined by a single row of olive trees planted ten meters on center. Beyond this edge of olive trees are orchards of lemon, cypress, olive, and orange trees.


The Agdal Gardens are irrigated by two large reservoirs that sit approximately 820 meters to the north of the property's southern edge. The basins are filled via a network of underground channels, or khettara, built in the early twelfth century during the reign of Almoravid sovereign 'Ali bin Yusuf (1105-1143/499-537 AH). The larger of reservoir is the Basin al-Manzeh, which is 205 meters long and 180 meters wide. The architecture of the elevated basin and its perimeter terrace was designed by Abu Yaqub Yusuf, who later used this reservoir as a model for similar basins in Rabat (1171) and Seville (1171). Adjacent to the southern edge of the Basin al-Manzeh is a simple pavilion known as the Dar el-Hana. This open-air structure, measuring eighty meters wide and thirty meters long, was built as a loggia within which the king could entertain guests overlooking the impressive expanse of water in the neighboring basin. It was also used to observe the military training activities that were frequently conducted in the Basin al-Manzeh, including swimming and boating drills.


The second reservoir is the Basin Gharssya Agdal. This basin is slightly smaller than the Basin al-Manzeh, measuring 200 meters long and 150 meters wide. A small square island measuring sixteen meters to a side was constructed at the center of the artificial lake. At the center of the island is a square pavilion structure measuring twelve meters to a side. This pavilion was built for entertaining and could be reached by boating across the reservoir. Due to the elevation of the basin, the pavilion affords a spectacular view across the water to the crowns of the trees filling the surrounding orchards.


Another notable work of architecture within the Agdal Gardens is the Dar el-Beida. This palace is reserved for use by the 'Alawi royal family when they are in residence in Marrakech. The palace is relatively modest in scale but has been richly decorated and well-maintained due to its continuing use as a royal residence. The rectangular plan of the Dar el-Beida is 120 meters wide and 142 meters long. The west wall of the palace is located 330 meters east of the western edge of the gardens, and the north wall of the palace is located 870 meters south of the northern boundary of the gardens. This places the Dar el-Beida in the northwest quadrant of the garden grounds. The palace was built centuries later than the rest of the gardens by 'Alawi Sharif Moulay 'Abd al-Rahman bin Hisham (reg. 1822-1859). The palace and the other pavilions in the Agdal Garden were subsequently renovated by his successor Sidi Muhammad IV bin 'Abd al-Rahman (reg. 1859-1873).


The Agdal Gardens were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, as a part of the Médina of Marrakesh.



Sources:


Blair, Sheila S. and Jonathan M. Bloom. 1995. The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800. New Haven: Yale University Press, 123.


Bosworth, Clifford Edumund. 1996. The New Islamic Dynasties. New York: Columbia University Press, 41-42.


Cowan, George D. and R. L. N. Johnston. 1883. Moorish Lotus Leaves: Glimpses of Southern Morocco. London: Tinsley Bros., 89-92.


Deverdun, Gaston. 1959-66. Marrakech, des origines à 1912. Repr., Casablanca: Editions Frontispice, 2004, 527-529.


Dickie, James. 1968. The Hispano-Arab Garden: Its Philosophy and Function. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 31 (2): 237-248.


El Faiz, Mohammed. 2007. The Garden Strategy of the Almohad Sultans and Their Successors (1157-1900). Trans. Maryrica Ortiz Lottman. In Middle East garden traditions: unity and diversity questions, methods and resources in a multicultural perspective, ed. Michael Conan, 95-111. Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Spacemaker Press, and Harvard University Press.


El Faïz, Mohammed. Jardins de Marrakech. Paris and Arles: Actes Sud, 2000.


El Faïz, Mohammed. Les jardins historiques de Marrakech: mémoire écologique d’une ville impériale. Florence: EDIFIR, 1996.


Gallotti, Jean. Le Jardin et la maison arabes au Maroc, 2 vols. New York: William Helburn, 1925, esp. vol. 2.


Grube, Ernst J., James Dickie, Oleg Grabar, Eleanor Sims, Ronald Lewcock, Dalu Jones, and Guy T. Petherbridge, ed. George Michell. 1978. Architecture of the Islamic World. Repr., London: Thames and Hudson, 1996, 218.


Menjili-De Corny, Irène. Jardins du Maroc. Paris: Le Temps Apprivoisé, 1991.


Navarro, Julio, Fidel Garrido, and Iñigo Almela, “The Agdal of Marrakesh (Twelfth to Twentieth Centuries): An Agricultural Space for Caliphs and Sultans. Part 1: History,” Muqarnas 34 (2017): 23-42; and “Part IIHydraulics, Architecture, and Agriculture” Muqarnas 35 (2018): 1-64.


Ruggles, D. Fairchild. Islamic Gardens and Landscapes. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc., 2011. 

Location
South of the medina, Marrakech, Morocco
Images & Videos
Documents
Associated Names
Part of Site
Events
1157, 1828-44, 1859-73
Style Periods
1130-1269
1631
Variant Names
Agdal Gardens
Augdal Gardens
Variant
Building Usages
garden
landscape
palace
palatial
Keywords
gardens
World Heritage Sites