Name of Monument:

Mulay Isma‘il Mausoleum


Meknès, Morocco

Date of Monument:

Hegira 11th–12th centuries / AD 17th–18th centuries

Period / Dynasty:



Sultan Mulay Isma‘il (AH 1083–1140 / AD 1672–1727).


Built near to the tomb of the saint Sidi 'Abd Al-Rahman al-Majdub, a famous AH 10th / AD 16th century poet and mystic, the mausoleum houses the tomb of Mulay Isma'il. This royal funerary complex, located away from the palace, attracts visitors with its majesty and rich decoration, and is divided into three main sections.
The first section, which includes the entrance to the mausoleum, consists of a vast entrance hall and annexes.
The hall is square plan with sides measuring 9.88 m. The walls are covered with zellij (small tile) decoration to a height of 1.60 m, on top of which there is an anepigraphic sculpted plasterwork band. In the middle of the hall, a fountain overflows into an octagonal basin. A door gives access to latrines located around a pool.
The second section is made up of three very large trapezoid courtyards. The very high walls (9 m) of the first courtyard are decorated with zellij up to a height of 0.56 m. The floor of the second, plain courtyard is tiled with monotone zellij that extend up the walls to what height of 0.56 m. The third courtyard is noteworthy for its two porticoes that face one another on the east and west sides. The centre of the courtyard is embellished with a deep round pool. A mihrab has been built into the wall of the east portico and a minaret stands in the south-west corner of the courtyard.
The third section consists of the funerary halls and a courtyard. The large open-air trapezoid hall located on the south side contains two qubba. To the northeast of the complex there is a square courtyard surrounded on all four sides by porticoes 1.87 m deep and groups of three marble columns crowned with various types of capitals. The capitals that have a cylindrical part with a double row of leaves next to a heavy prismatic part extensively decorated with palms and palmettes, engraved rather than sculpted, can be classified as Hispano-Maghrebian.
A marble pool occupies the centre of the courtyard, which leads to three funerary rooms of different sizes: a sort of oblong antechamber, richly decorated with bronze lustre, and main square room containing the tomb of the Sultan Mulay Isma'il and finally an oblong room containing the book cabinets.
Its majesty makes the mausoleum a continuous reminder of the era of Sultan Mulay Isma'il.

View Short Description

The mausoleum, a veritable royal funerary complex to the south of Mulay Isma'il's palace, was built near to the burial site of the saint Sidi 'Abd al-Rahman al-Majdub, a mystic of the AH 10th / AD 16th century.
Restored by Sultan Mulay Isma'il's successors, the building has a complex layout of Hispano-Maghrebi influence, complete with zellij (small tile) and stucco decoration, in which the structural elements are arranged in a row, similar to three rooms of the Rauda at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
The sultan's tomb is at the centre of the complex. A mihrab linked to the courtyard and burial rooms was constructed for prayers.

How Monument was dated:

Ibn Zaydan gives the date of inauguration in al-Ithaf.

Selected bibliography:

Barrucand, M., Urbanisme princier en Islam: Meknès et les villes royales islamiques post-médiévales, Paris, 1985.
Champion, P., Les villes d'art célèbre: Tanger, Fès, Meknès, Paris, 1924.
Guide to Isma'il's Kasbah in Meknès (in Arabic), Rabat, undated.
Mennouni, M., Four Ages of Urban Planning in the Town of Meknès (in Arabic), Rabat, undated.
Périgny, M., Casablanca, Rabat, Meknès, 1918.
Plantet, Moulay Ismaïl, empereur du Maroc, et la princesse de Conti, Paris, undated.
Terrasse, H., Villes impériales du Maroc, Grenoble, 1937.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.76–8.

Citation of this web page:

Kamal Lakhdar "Mulay Isma‘il Mausoleum" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024.;ISL;ma;Mon01;35;en

Prepared by: Kamal Lakhdar
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: MO 44