Photograph: Zishan SheikhPhotograph: Zishan Sheikh

Name of Monument:

Sa‘dian tombs


Marrakesh, Morocco

Date of Monument:

Hegira 10th century / AD 16th century

Period / Dynasty:



‘Abdallah al-Ghalib (AH 965–82 / AD 1557–74), Ahmad al-Mansur (AH 986–1012 / AD 1578–1603).


This funerary building, referred to in documentary sources as 'Qubur al-Ashraf' (tomb of the Sharifs), was originally an annex to the mosque of the kasbah where reigning Almohad and Marinid families buried members of their families. The current buildings are Sa'did.
The eastern qubba, which is the oldest, was erected by 'Abdallah al-Ghalib to bury his father, Mahammad al-Shaykh. It is a traditional building, with a square room that has muqarnas (honeycomb work) niches. The plaster reliefs are enhanced with polychrome gilding.
Ahmad al-Mansur expanded this tomb by surrounding it on three sides and by attaching a building made up of three rooms and two halls to the front of the original qubba. This building contains the tombs of Ahmad al-Mansur himself, his son Mulay Zaydan, his son and Lalla Mass'uda, the wife of Mahammad al-Shaykh. After the Sa'dids, several 'Alawids were entombed in the building. There are currently 56 stelae and around 100 tombs spread around the qubba and the enormous enclosure.
The building constructed by Almad al-Mansur includes, from south to north:
- An austerely decorated oratory divided into three naves of four columns, whose entire ceiling is covered with geometric wooden knotwork, with the exception of the part behind the mihrab which is decorated with muqarnas.
- A square room that contains the tomb of al-Mansur and his family. The centre is raised on 12 columns and each face has three pointed arches with muqarnas. A muqarnas cornice runs around the central wooden ceiling with its geometric decoration. The surrounding galleries are spanned by muqarnas transverse ribs, with square domes in the corners. This room, 10 m wide and 11.50 m high, is entirely panelled with ceramic or decoration carved in the plaster and wood. Enhanced by a suitable lighting, the combination of opulence and sophistication creates a fascinating effect.
- A third, much shallower room accessed through two muqarnas doors from central room. It is equally richly decorated. Three niches covered with muqarnas are cut into the back wall, while the wooden ceiling is decorated with knotwork.

View Short Description

This funerary building was an annex to the mosque of the kasbah. To the original qubba (dome) with its muqarnas (honeycomb) niches and multicoloured plaster carvings were added:
- a three-nave oratory beneath a ceiling covered with wooden knotwork
- a square room with ceramic, plaster and carved wood wainscoting and a ceiling bordered by a muqarnas cornice. The galleries are straddled by muqarnas arches with square corner cupolas
- a rectangular room decorated just as opulently with three muqarnas niches.
The complex includes 56 stelae and some 100 tombs from Sa'did and 'Alawid times.

Selected bibliography:

Deverdun, G., “L'âge des tombeaux saadiens”, Hespéris, 1953, pp.557–61.
Gabriel-Rousseau, Le mausolée des princes saadiens à Marrakech, Paris, 1925.
Marçais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954.

Citation of this web page:

Kamal Lakhdar "Sa‘dian tombs" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024.;ISL;ma;Mon01;14;en

Prepared by: Kamal LakhdarKamal Lakhdar

Linguiste et sociologue de formation, c'est en autodidacte que Kamal Lakhdar s'est adonné aux études d'histoire du Maroc et du monde arabo-musulman, en axant tout spécialement ses recherches sur l'histoire de Rabat.
Sa carrière de haut fonctionnaire l'a conduit à occuper des fonctions de premier plan auprès de différents ministères. Il a notamment été membre du cabinet du ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur, conseiller du ministre des Finances, conseiller du ministre du Commerce et de l'Industrie, directeur de cabinet du ministre du Tourisme, chargé de mission auprès du Premier ministre et directeur de cabinet du Premier ministre.
Parallèlement, Kamal Lakhdar mène des activités de journaliste et d'artiste peintre – il a d'ailleurs été membre du Conseil supérieur de la Culture.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: MO 19


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