About 4 km southwest of the Kutubiya, Marrakesh, Morocco
Hegira 5th / AD 11th century (first lake); Hegira 10th / AD 16th century (first pavillion); Hegira 11th / AD 17th century (final monument)
Almohad; Sa'did; Alawid
Almohad: ‘Abd al-Mu’min (r. AH 524–58 / AD 1130–63); ‘Alawid: Sidi Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Al-Rahman (r. AH 1276–90 / AD 1859–73).
The first Almohad king 'Abd al-Mu'min had two large lakes dug in Marrakesh: one outside the town, sahrij al-bgar (the lake of the cattle) for use by the stock breeders of the area, and one within his private orchard, sahrij al-menara (the lake of the lighthouse, or the lake of the minaret, which may be a reference to the Kutubiya, the town's principal monument). It is worth noting that Al-Nasiri calls the Kutubiya minaret sawmaat al-manar (the minaret of the lighthouse) in al-Istiqsa. However, the lake was only formally known as the Menara under the Marinids (AH 10th / AD 16th century).
The Sa'did sovereigns occasionally visited the pied-a-terre they constructed on the shore of the lake, but it was the 'Alawid Sidi Muhammad, son of Sultan Mulay 'Abd Al-Rahman (r. AH 1238–76 / AD 1822–59) and the caliphal sultan (viceroy) to Marrakesh who restored the great Almohad lake and the large royal residence.
He repaired the enclosure wall that protected the 96 ha of orchard (1,200 m by 800 m), improved its water supply and built a royal pavilion, a guardroom and a mare farm by the large central lake, which measured 200 m by 150 m. The royal pavilion is a sober building of modest size. The stone walls are thick, with brick-built corners, and the square pyramid roof is covered with glazed green tiles.
The pavilion extends over two storeys:
- the ground floor, consisting of a rectangular room that opens onto the lake through three arches and extends to the rear into an antechamber;
- the first floor (menzeh), consisting of a square room, set back, and a large balcony with balusters looking out over the lake, also extending to the rear into an antechamber with three windows that look out upon the mountain.
The balcony has a particularly low square door, probably designed to prevent people around the lake from seeing into the menzeh, and to stop the sun overheating it.
The door is set in a deep blind arch decorated with a stone motif within a frame whose upper band bears the foundation inscription.
The inside of the menzeh is adorned with delicate coloured geometric decoration that gives a feeling of gaiety and freshness. It is bordered by two brightly coloured painted lines that run over the groins of the vaults and around the windows.
The small stairway that leads to the first floor continues on to a small terrace on top of the antechamber of the menzeh, offering an unobstructed view of the great royal orchard, surrounding area and the Atlas mountains.
Despite, or because of, its simplicity, the pavilion of the Menara has become one of the emblems of Marrakesh.
The Almohad king 'Abd al-Mu'min planted this orchard, complete with a large lake measuring 200 m by 150 m, on the outskirts of Marrakesh as a holiday destination for Marinid and Sassanid sovereigns. The Alawids were responsible for the repairs to the outer wall, the improvement of the water supply and the construction of a royal pavilion, a sober building with thick brick walls, a pyramid-shaped green-tiled roof and a balcony overlooking the lake. The interior is decorated with faint, coloured geometric designs, creating a cool, bright atmosphere.
The top of the frame of the balcony door archway contains an inscription proclaiming the glory of the Prophet and the date of foundation: AH 1286 / AD 1869–70.
Deverdun, G., Inscriptions arabes de Marrakech, Rabat, 1956, pp.210–1.
Deverdun, G., Marrakech, des origines à 1912, Rabat, 1959, pp.196–8, 531–2.
Kamal Lakhdar "Menara" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;23;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 32
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