THE QUARTER OF SIDI BEL ABBES

Sidi bel Abbes is a neighborhood in the north of the Medina of Marrakech. A bit out of the beaten tourist track, it is a nice, authentic area, tranquil and lively at the same time.

The more you walk towards the north of the Medina, the further you get from the tourists and towards the more laidback and authentic residential quarters of the medina.

The neighbourhood of Zawiya al Abbesia is simply one of the best spots, just a few minutes from the souks and other major monuments.

To the west of the medina, it is centered round the beautiful shrine of Sidi Bel Abbes, the patron saint of Marrakech, built just outside the original medina walls by the old gateway of Bab Targhzout.

The importance of this saint is such that even today, the King of Morocco pays his respects to the shrine when he visits Marrakech, and the complex is a major monument in its own right.


THE HISTORY OF THE QUARTER

Born in 1145, Sidi Bel Abbes prophesied with success and worked miracles. He was also a passionate exhorter of charity, particularly on behalf of the blind, so much so his ghost is believed to haunt the terrace of the minaret of the Koutoubia nightly until every blind person in the city has been fed.

In time, many wealthy merchants and notables began to follow a Sufic cult which grew up around Sidi Bel Abbes. They built their riads near the shrine, just outside the northern ramparts of the medina.

But the cult threatened to become a political force. When the Sultan Sidi Mohamed ascended to the throne in 1757 he decided the best way to control the movement the saint inspired was to enclose the shrine complex and the houses of its followers within the city walls.

Traditionally, wealthy Moroccan merchants, many of who came from Fes, and the private secretary of the Pasha of Marrakech lived in this small historic quarter, which had many large properties compared to the rest of the medina.

Today the riads are owned by famous names such as the Hermès family, and the area is much favoured by international designers, writers, artists, and record producers who divide their time between the West and exotic Marrakech.

One might think this has detracted from the authenticity of the quarter, part of the magic of Marrakech is the fact that for centuries, it’s been a melting-pot of different peoples, religions and cultures.

Photos of Sidi bel Abbes

Our riad
Derb al Maada or 'Stomach Lane',
at the entrance of Riad Porte Royale.


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