Inside the impressive Museum of Marrakech, Morocco
Passing through the splendid city of Marrakech, Morocco? If you want to learn more about the local culture and history, head to the fascinating Museum of Marrakech!
Located in a splendid building, alternately a palace and a college for young girls, the Marrakech Museum has been established there since 1995, and is one of the most interesting places to discover within the narrow streets of the city of Marrakech! In fact, you can admire splendid collections: ceramics, weapons, typical tapestries and traditional Moroccan objects are on display there. But many other exciting surprises await the visitors.
If you wish to visit the Marrakech Museum during your stay in Morocco, we have put together a short, concise and practical travel guide listing all the practical information you need: a brief history of the place and the major attractions and the collections to discover within this unique cultural space.
History of the Marrakech Museum
The palace housing the Marrakech Museum today was built by Mehdi Mnebhi at the end of the 19th century. The latter was Sultan Moulay Abdelaziz’s minister of defense, and was even promoted to the post of ambassador to Germany and England. This dignitary yielded, shortly before his death, his riad (Traditional Moroccan house including an interior courtyard) to his son-in-law Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech.
Then, when Morocco became independent in 1956, the palace, which became state property, sheltered the first school for girls in Marrakech, while its state of conservation gradually deteriorated. It was finally closed for several years.
Subsequently, it was restored and transformed into a museum by Omar Benjelloun, a great Moroccan art collector and patron, who gave his name to the foundation that today governs the Museum of Marrakech. Since 1995, it has organized temporary exhibitions around contemporary art or Moroccan artistic heritage, and offers various very interesting collections which we will present to you below.
What to see and do at the Marrakech Museum?
In fact, the establishment of the Museum of Marrakech within the riad deeply affected the layout of the place: among the two main entrances, the first was condemned in order to let the second serve as the main entrance for the many tourists wishing to visit the Museum. The patio, which served .. as a stable at the very beginning of the existence of the place, now houses the ticket office, the cafeteria where you will be able to immerse yourself in one of the many books sold in the bookshop adjoining the palace around a delicious mint tea, as well as the administration offices. The central patio is also intended to host many artistic events, such as conferences, shows, concerts, etc.
The salons, directly accessible from the patio, are used to present exhibitions and collection. There are many archaeological treasures there, such as splendid Islamic coins present in Morocco between the 8th and 20th centuries.
The most astonishing and interesting part of the Marrakesh Museum is that of the various ethnographic pieces: the ceramics - including the famous ceramics of Fez, constituting the main part of the collection with more than two hundred pieces, and those of Safi , revealing the know-how of the great master ceramicists of the city, then the pottery -a superb set of terracotta objects, mainly from the Rif mountains to those of the Anti-Atlas-, the splendid jewels -which are an integral part of local folklore and are essential elements of traditional ornaments, mostly made of silver and set with precious and / or semi-precious stones, and whose differences can be admired according to their region of origin-, the magnificent costumes - citadins, or rural, whose collection is divided respectively into cafes of Fez and burnous -, the traditional weapons - scary daggers curved blade, the kumiya, and sboula appointed straight blade; then sabers with a blade of slight curvature with a silver scabbard, and rifles coming from the north of the country as evidenced by their thick stock.
A very interesting collection presents incredible historical documents, including splendid calligraphy and original engravings, not necessarily made by local artists, and attesting to exchanges between artists from around the world and some of the best local engravers.
You will be surprised to discover many objects from the Judaic cult: pairs of ornaments used for Torah scrolls, vases and dishes typical of the Judeo-Moroccan community, sprinklers .. Yes! Morocco remains an example of a successful mixture between various communities, so different and yet so close to each other. All fitting perfectly into typically Moroccan architectural furniture, whose culture transpires through wooden doors and beams from various regions of the Atlas.
The old palace kitchens, the douiria, are more modest in size and offer a more minimalist style: here, when you come to visit the Museum of Marrakech, you will find exhibitions dedicated to contemporary Moroccan art, bringing together numerous works orientalists demonstrating the skill of local artists - Benallal, Bennani, Belkahia, Chaibia, Lakhdar ... and so many others.
The hammam was also reconverted into a space presenting exhibitions, often oriented towards this type of space and revealing the certain attachment of Moroccans to these places of gathering, cheerfulness and picturesque good humor. You access the latter, and its superb cupolas raising it to the rank of an architectural work, through the main living room because women, at the time of the design of the palace, rarely went out of their apartments!
Finally, a living room, present on the first floor, is imbued with the pure Hispano-Moorish style with its superb raw cedar furniture and also presents various temporary collections that the visitor will be delighted to admire when coming to visit the Museum of Marrakech!