Marrakech, a city with the echoes of dynasties and the whispers of history, is a treasure trove of architectural gems and cultural landmarks. One such gem, standing as a testament to Morocco’s rich past and architectural prowess, is the Medersa Ben Youssef. Since its construction, empires that ruled over Morocco expanded this particular school. For more than four centuries, it was a major destination for students from all over the world. Today, it has become a distinctive tourist attraction, drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
The History of a Prestigious University
The establishment of the Ibn Yusef School (Medersa Ben Youssef) in Marrakech dates back to the Merinid dynasty. In 1364, Sultan Abu al-Hasan built this monumental institution. The Saadians later renovated the school, preserving its initial decoration and architecture. Medersa Ben Youssef is the first and largest Moroccan university in the era of the Marinids.
This building was a university campus for students, containing an astonishing 132 rooms. In its prime, the school could house more than 900 students. These students lived within its walls and pursued their studies in its hallowed halls, using the prayer hall for religious observances.
The students received their lessons inside the Medersa Ben Youssef Mosque right next door. The Ben Youssef Mosque significantly influenced the religious and political conditions of the time. Through its students, it played a pivotal role in shaping aspects of life in Morocco, Andalusia, and Africa.
For centuries, scholars migrated between Morocco and Andalusia, teaching and learning various disciplines, particularly religious jurisprudence. Ben Youssef was an essential center that contributed to the spread and development of this science.
The Luxurious Architecture of Medersa Ben Youssef
The Medersa Ben Youssef is an authentic architectural masterpiece, bearing witness to Moroccan art and a flourishing civilization steeped in history. Two elements stand out in defining this monument – its architecture’s symmetry and its decoration’s splendor.
The Main Building
The main building, with an impressive area of 1680 square meters, features an open central courtyard in the south portion. On the remaining sides, three balconies hold the students’ rooms.
The entrance to this school is a work of art, with a sculpted bronze door and a dome adorned with gypsum shapes illustrating colorful writings. This corridor leads to the center of the building, where a ceiling with symmetrical openings allows soft light to gently penetrate.
The Prayer Hall
The northern side of the building houses the prayer hall, consisting of three transverse rooms separated by rows of marble columns. Inside the prayer room, the mihrab is a semicircular niche in the wall, indicating the qibla. The mihrab is elegantly decorated with various materials and colors, including marble, wood, and gypsum. A small dome with gypsum decoration covers the top of this mihrab.
The Ablution Hall
The western side of the building contains the ablution hall, featuring a square-shaped basin for ablution. It is also covered by a gypsum dome and supported by four marble columns.
The Upper Floor
The upper floor mirrors the design of the lower level, with approximately 132 rooms for students.
Materials Used in Medersa Ben Youssef
Artisans used various materials to construct this architectural edifice, each contributing to its unique charm.
- Cedarwood: Artisans brought cedar from the Atlas Mountains surrounding the Red City, using it in the construction of luxurious domes in the vestibule, the prayer hall, and corridors.
- Gypsum: Gypsum is the most prominent material in the building. Even the facades of the courtyard and the prayer hall are adorned with gypsum, contributing to the intricate decorations.
- Mosaic (Moroccan Zellige): Moroccan Zellige features varied colors and astounding geometric patterns, covering the walls, columns, corridors, stairs, and halls.
- Marble: Italian marble graces the floors of the building, especially the prayer hall and student rooms.
Entrance Time and Fee to Medersa Ben Youssef
Medersa Ben Youssef is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in this architectural marvel. The entry fee is 70 Moroccan dirhams, granting access to a journey through time and culture.
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FAQ: Exploring the Rich Legacy of Medersa Ben Youssef
What is Medersa Ben Youssef?
Medersa Ben Youssef is a historic Moroccan university in Marrakech, known for its rich history and stunning architecture.
When was Medersa Ben Youssef established?
It was established during the Merinid dynasty in 1364 by Sultan Abu al-Hasan.
How did Medersa Ben Youssef influence Morocco and Andalusia?
Through its students, it played a pivotal role in shaping religious and political conditions in Morocco, Andalusia, and Africa.
What is the architecture of Medersa Ben Youssef like?
The architecture is characterized by its symmetry, splendid decoration, and extensive use of cedarwood, gypsum, mosaic, and marble.
What can visitors expect at Medersa Ben Youssef today?
Visitors can explore the stunning architecture, courtyards, and prayer halls and learn about its history. It’s now a popular tourist attraction.
When is Medersa Ben Youssef open to the public?
Medersa Ben Youssef is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm for visitors to enjoy its historical charm.
What is the entry fee for Medersa Ben Youssef?
The entry fee to Medersa Ben Youssef is 70 Moroccan dirhams, making it an affordable and enriching experience.
Is there a guided tour available for visitors?
Yes, guided tours are often available to provide a deeper understanding of the history and architecture of Medersa Ben Youssef.
How can I contact a trip organizer for more information about visiting Medersa Ben Youssef and Marrakech?
You can contact Marrakech GO, the trip organizer mentioned in the article, for additional information and suggestions to plan your trip.
Can I take photographs inside Medersa Ben Youssef?
While photography policies may vary, you should check with the staff regarding photography restrictions before your visit.