Marrakech - Zaouia Cherradi is home to a hauntingly exquisite mosque and marabout located in the village of the same name.
Marrakech – Zaouia Cherradi is home to a hauntingly exquisite mosque and marabout located in the village of the same name.
It is close to the nearby town of Oudayia, some 30 kilometers outside of Marrakech on the road to Essaouira. It was built during the reign of the Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail who built Meknes as his imperial city during his reign in the early eighteenth century. He had to wage war against opposing forces in Fez and Marrakech and raise a standing army.
Among those he recruited were the Cherrada tribe who originated from the Al Hilal, an Arab tribe who traveled to Morocco in the fifth century in the Sahara from the Hamra Seguia area. They and the Chbanates Ouled Dlim, Ait Oussa, and Tekna went through several migrations, finally ending in the Souss in the seventh century. They were installed by the Saadians around Marrakech.
Sultan Moulay Ismail based his army, including the Cherrada, in Oudayia. When they liberated Marrakech for him from his rival Ahmed Ben Mehrez, they were rewarded with special consideration and plots of land. The beautiful mosque and white-domed mausoleum at Zaouia Cherradi were built during Moulay Ismail’s reign and locals tell age-old tales of his visit to a hammam there. Sadly, this building was recently demolished due to its old age.
The Zaouia of Sidi Ali Bouatel, a few hundred yards from Zaouia Cherradi, reflects the great history of the Sahrawi tribes in the Haouz region of Marrakech and was restored and repainted by the Ministry of Habous in 2010. Sidi Ali Bouatel is the patron saint of the Cherada tribe.
During the nineteenth century, the region experienced a revolt by the Cherrada tribe against Sultan Moulay Abderahmane, leading to the destruction of the town by Sultan Moulay Abderrahmane’s army. Locals point to a nearby hillside where the Sultan is said to have fired his cannon against Zaouia Cherradi. The little village still holds the remains of the walls and buildings of a much larger town that used to stand in its place. Down the road from the mosque are the remains of an unusually built large brick archway and inside the graveyard is an imposing marabout built in brick instead of pisé.
In 1870, following the revolt, all the tribes migrated from the region and relocated to the Gharb where they remain to this day. The area of Zouia Cherradi also succumbed to desertification and water loss. It was originally a very fertile area that once held a river. The old river may have stretched as far as Safi perhaps, allowing the town to play an important role as a stop along one of the main trading routes.
During the 1920s, French media owner, Pierre Antoine Maas, was said to have expropriated Cherrada land, which had been granted to them by the Sultan’s dahir with the aid of the French Protectorate Authorities.
The large imposing mosque has a remarkable decorated minaret, red walls and green-slated rooftops. The inside of the mosque is well preserved and has a large courtyard. The adjoining white-domed mausoleum has exquisite stucco at its entrance but the insides remain deteriorated. The zellij tiles on the floor have been badly damaged and some of the walls have been defaced with graffiti. Restoration work on this historic mosque, which is at least 500 years old, is said to begin shortly. The historic mosque could bring in money for the local community from cultural groups interested in visiting the mosque to see Morocco’s unparalleled history and architecture.
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