The Ben Youssef Madrasa is one of the "must see" highlights of any visit to Marrakech.
The building is named after Sultan Ali ibn Yousuf who is generally regarded as one of the most significant rulers in the history of Marrakech and he ruled in the 12th century. This was a great time for Marrakech and the city saw the erection of the outer walls of the city, various mosques and the Menara gardens.
However, the construction of the Ben Youssef Madrasa was a little later than this great period and it was built in the 14th century. Attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque the building was one of the greatest theological colleges in the whole of North Africa.
At its height it would hold up to 900 students of the Qur'an. However, the school that you see today was reconstructed during 1557-1574 by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib and was expanded as a symbolic rival to the Madrasa's of Fez.
The entrance leads you to the main courtyard where a green tiled pool keeps the area appearing cool and calm. Surrounding the pool is beautiful carved cedar wood, plaster and geometric tiles. On a sunny day the sun cascades down the inner walls illuminating the detail in the carved art work. The courtyard leads to a prayer hall with yet more intricate carvings. The carvings are always either geometric in design or contain Qur'anic inscriptions. In this charming prayer room the detailed walls are also joined by beautiful ceilings.
Around the outer walls of the courtyard as a series of courtyards and rising above these courtyards and 130 dormitories where the students would stay and study. Surprisingly these study areas also contain artistic detail, not so much in the individual rooms but in the walkways and entrances giving a sense of elegance and importance.
The building is truly stunning and is one of the finest Moorish architecture buildings in the world and it is specifically identified within the UNESCO listing for the Medina of Marrakech.
The school closed in 1960 and was eventually opened as a historic building in 1982. It is possible to buy a visitor ticket for just the Madrasa or an excellent value ticket for the Madrasa and the neighboring museum.
The Madrasa is approximately a 10 minute walk from Riad Al-Bushra.
Riad Al-Bushra Home Page www.riadalbushra.com