Everyone loves a little mystery, and that is exactly what you will get when you visit the enigmatic ruins of the Merenid Tombs (also known as Marinid Tombs). Located on a hill just above the bustling city of Fez, there is very little that is actually known about these tombs besides the fact that they were built in the 14th century. The time period suggests that these were built during the Merenid dynasty, but it is not certain who specifically was buried there and why. All of this mystery only entices us even more, and the tombs are one of the most visited sites in Fez. The spectacular panoramic views of the city and mountains may also have a little something to do with it.
The Merenid Dynasty
When the Merenid tribe arrived in Morocco, it originally established itself in the east of the country and submitted to the Almohads, the ruling dynasty at the time. However, after playing an instrumental role in the Battle of Alarcos in central Spain, the tribe began to assert itself as a political power. It was not until after 30 years of fighting the Almohads, though, that the Merenids captured Fez and established the capital of their kingdom there. With the conquest of Marrakesh in 1269, their power was consolidated and the Merenids became the rulers of Morocco.
The Merenid dynasty remained in power until the beginning of the 15th century and left a deep mark on Moroccan history. During these two centuries, a number of construction projects were taken up all over Morocco and especially in Fez. Indeed, several of the main buildings found in the medina of this city date from this time period. The Merenids also expanded the Moroccan territory into a Northern African empire, but this soon led to anarchy and the dynasty was overthrown by the Wattasids in 1415.
An Ancient Mystery
The tombs that loom above the city of Fez are one of the many structures built by the Merenids during their rule. Although little remains of their original decorations and not a lot is known about who exactly is buried there, this mystery only serves to entice more and more visitors each year. Time and the weather have taken their toll on these once sumptuous tombs, but today you can see some of the walls still standing with beautifully detailed carvings.
What the tombs lack in aesthetic beauty, however, they make up for with spectacular views. From the top of the hill, you can view most of the landmark historical and religious buildings of Fez. The rolling hills that surround the Merenid Tombs also provide a wonderful view for travelers looking to explore some of the region’s natural landscapes.
Explore the Ruins
The best time to head up to the ruins of the Merenid Tombs is at the end of the day so you can watch the sun set on the bustling medina of Fez. You will be able to enjoy a spectacular view of the city lights and if you arrive on time, you will even be able to be immersed in the echo of the prayer calls. You can choose to hike up the hill or take a taxi up to the tombs but you are advised to go with a group and even a tour guide just to make sure you keep safe outside of the city’s walls.
Exploring Fez and Beyond
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Title photo on flickr
This article was co-authored with Maria Inês Pinto, a young Portuguese freelancer born with a passion for writing and travel. She has spent her life hopping around different countries, having lived in Canada, the US, India and Ireland. Now residing in Portugal, she is planning to move to Mozambique soon to pursue her third passion: humanitarian work. In her free time, she travels and writes about her adventures.