Menara Garden

Jardin de la Ménara, المنارة

Details

Catalogue: 
North African Gardens
Author: 
Abbey Stockstill
Country: 
Morocco
City: 
Marrakesh
Dates: 
1147

Sources

  • Travel Account, 12th c. (the anonymous “Kitāb al-Istibṣār fī ʿajāʾib al-amṣār”)
  • Archaeological Analysis, 2012 archaeological excavation (CSIC and LAAC)

Garden Description

Key dates: 1147 (Almohad foundation), 1545–55 (construction of Saadian pavilion), 1869 (Alaouite renovation of Saadian pavilion)

 

The Menara garden, located to the west of the Marrakesh medina, was built in 1147 by the Almohad caliph ʿAbd al-Muʾmin upon his conquest of the city. It was part of an extensive building program in the early days of his reign, which also saw the laying out of the larger Agdal Garden to the south of the city, as well as the irrigation systems that fed them both (see Hydraulics). Though no references to this complex are found in contemporary sources, the present name of the garden likely comes from its proximity to the Almohad dynasty’s Kutubiyya mosque, which boasted a monumental minaret (mināra in Arabic) that could be seen from within the garden precinct. A road leading from the center of the garden toward the city creates a direct axis with the Kutubiyya, further emphasizing this connection.

The complex measures 720 m wide, east to west, by 1250 m long, north to south, and originally lay about 2 km outside the medieval city walls. The road connecting the garden to the city arrived at the Bāb al-Makhzen, the gate leading to the Almohad palace, which suggests that the garden primarily served as a private garden for the ruler. Though built along a similar plan as the Agdal, following a gridded pattern of olive, cypress, and fruit groves, the Menara garden also had a smaller enclosure for flowering shrubs and plants. This garden within a garden, measuring 38 m by 52 m, was located along the southern edge of the garden’s reservoir.

The chief feature of the garden, the reservoir (ṣahrīj) measures 158 m by 195 m and holds approximately 61,620 m3 of water. It is aligned within the grid of the garden plan. The large pool is engineered to water the surrounding plants, having been built entirely above ground to take advantage of gravitational flow and avoid the need for a pumping mechanism. The pool is surrounded by a 5 m wide walkway that runs along the perimeter and is reached by a number of stairwells that provide access from the garden.

Under the Saadian dynasty in the mid-sixteenth century, the Menara garden was renovated with a new pavilion built within the smaller garden enclosure. Measuring 12 m by 12 m, the two-story building features a rectangular loggia on the northern façade, overlooking the reservoir, and was built out of local pisé (mud brick) with a green ceramic-tiled roof. Additionally, archaeological excavation has found evidence of numerous villas surrounding the garden dating to the Saadian period. The pavilion was renovated in the nineteenth century under the Alaouite dynasty, but under the French Protectorate in the twentieth century, the garden lost roughly one-sixth of its area to make room for the new airport and landing fields.