Ben Youssef Madrasa
Ben Youssef Medrassa © China Crisis
The Ben Youssef Madrassa was once an Islamic college in Marrakech named after Sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (who reigned from 1106 to 1142), who expanded the city considerably. This madrassa was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students. After being closed down in 1960, this historical site was refurbished and reopened in 1982, an interesting attraction for the value of its educational influence, but mostly thrilling for tourists because of the stunning architecture and mosaics. The courtyards and patios are richly carved in marble, cedar and stucco, with intricate geometric patterns and Islamic inscriptions. The Ben Youssef Madrassa is often ranked as one of the best attractions of Marrakech by tourists. Visitors can explore the student study rooms and dormitories and photography is permitted - which is a good thing because it is one of the most photogenic buildings in Morocco. Although centrally located the madrassa can be difficult to find, partly because various touts sometimes mislead tourists for reasons of their own, often trying to redirect them to family-owned stores and the like. It is better to rely on a good map and take directions from locals with a pinch of salt.
The Shrob ou shouf (Chrob ou chouf) fountain is not far from the Ben Youssef Madrassa, built during Saadian sultan Ahmad al-Mansur's reign (1578-1603). Its wooden crown is carved to look like honeycomb and a green tiled roof shelters the structure. One of the fountain's inscriptions invites passers-by to drink and look (shrob ou shouf). In 1985, UNESCO recognised this Saadian fountain as a cultural heritage site. It is worth a visit for those in the area.
Address: Just off Rue Souk el Khemis, Marrakech