Located on a fertile plain, Marrakesh is one of Morocco's four imperial cities. Founded in eleventh-century as the African capital of Almoravid dynasty; it was conquered by the Almohads in 1147, and then to Marinids, only to be taken by the French in 1912.
Marrakesh was founded in 1062 by Yusif Ben Tashfin, the first ruler of the Almoravid dynasty. His son, Ali, built the Ben Yussef Mosque and the city wall. The Almohads (1146-1268) made Marrakesh the capital of their empire and it was during this period that the Koutoubia was built.
The Marinids (1268-1520) neglected Marrakesh but they were succeeded by the Saadians (1520-1668) who endowed the city with the Badi' palace, the Ben-Yussef madrasa and the Saadian mausoleum.
From 1668 onwards, the Alawites, who resided in Marrakesh only occasionally, erected numerous buildings such as the palace of Bahia and Dar Si Saod at the end of the nineteenth-century. Later, the modern town was to develop three kilometres from the Medina, with its wide avenues bordered with palm-trees, orange-trees and jacarandas.
When first created in the 11th century, Marrakesh was a link on the caravan route that joins the south and the north of Morocco by way of the valleys up the Upper Atlas. Routes from the Tafilelt region and the Draa valley also converged on Marrakesh. Later, as the capital of the Almoravid and subsequently the Almohad empires (eleventh and thirteenth centuries), it became the seat of the unique authority ruling the entire Muslim West, including Andalusia.
At that time, Marrakesh was a large metropolis, housing probably up to 100,000 inhabitants.
Between the thirteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Marrakesh experienced a period of decline due to the displacement further east (in Algeria, Tunisia and particularly Egypt) of roads used to transport African gold, and the relocation of Morocco's capital to Fez. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, under the Saadians, Marrakesh was revived and flourished thanks to the gold trade, and the conquest of Tombouctou by the Saadians.
40B: "Hattan Ana Manarfou and Amrani" (Music of the Haouz)
1959 October 28; Video 2019
Performers: Maalem Taieb ben Mbarek and Ensemble
Recorded by Paul Bowles
At Marrakech, Morocco
October 28, 1959
Now and then, when it was possible, I consulted with the leader of a group and got him to reseat his musicians or change the microphone's position relative to them, so that the sonority might more nearly approximate the sound desired by him in his music. At the outset of this session I had not realized that the haouziya was primarily a percussive genre, and kept making attempts to get more voice. But each time the voices sang louder, the percussion increased its volume as well, so that the possibility for the balance I thought I wanted was automatically precluded. When the Maalem tried the headphones and listened to his men, he looked both personally satisfied and at the same time mystified by my objections to the sound. "It's good this way," he said. "It's always this way." "But you can't hear their voices," I objected. "You can hear them enough," he answered. "You can hear everything just enough." I desisted until the last number, when I got everybody out into the patio and gave specific instructions to the drummers not to do more than tap their tarijas. They looked doubtful, but did as I asked, and the result (41A) I still prefer to the other three pieces which were recorded as the Maalem desired them. In Amrani, the second selection on this tape, the Maalem decided to take up a kamenja, and it is his playing (as a solo instrument) which is heard here, the other kamenja remaining silent.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies.