Ben Youssef Madrasa - Fez, Morocco

This theological college was founded in the 14th century and is an excellent example of Marinid architecture. As well as being an educational institute, it also functions as a mosque. It is one of the only religious sites in Morocco that is open to non-Islamic visitors. 


Muhammad XII of Granada

Abu `Abdallah Muhammad XII (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد الثاني عشر‎ Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad al-thānī ‘ashar) (c. 1460 – c. 1533), known to the Castilians as Boabdil (a Spanish rendering of the name Abu Abdullah), was the twenty-second and last Nasrid ruler of Granada in Iberia. 

Son of Abu l-Hasan Ali, sultan of the Emirate of Granada, he was proclaimed sultan in 1482 in place of his father. Muhammad XII soon after sought to gain prestige by invading Castile. He was taken prisoner at Lucena in 1483 and was held until 1487. Meanwhile, his father returned to power and then in 1485, his uncle Muhammed XIII, also known as Abdullah ez Zagal. He only obtained his freedom and support to recover his throne in 1487 by consenting to hold Granada as a tributary kingdom under the Catholic monarchs and not to intervene in the Siege of Málaga (1487), in which Málaga was taken by the Christians. 1487 saw the fall of Baza and Málaga. 1489 saw the fall of Almuñécar, Salobreña and Almería. By the beginning of 1491, Granada was the only Muslim-governed city in Spain.

Legend has it that as he went to exile, he reached a rocky prominence which gave a last view of the city. Muhammad XII reined in his horse and, viewing for the last time the Alhambra and the green valley that spread below. The place where this allegedly took place is today known as the Suspiro del Moro, the Moor’s sigh. He grieved his loss and continued his journey to exile with his mother. Muhammad XII was given an estate in Laujar de Andarax, Las Alpujarras, a mountainous area between the Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean Sea, but he soon crossed the Mediterranean to Fes, Morocco.

Shortly after his surrender, Muhammad Boabdil sent a long letter to the Marinid rulers of Morocco asking for refuge. The letter is long, extremely well written and begins with a long poem praising the Marinids, followed by a prose where he laments his defeat and asks forgiveness for past wrongdoings of his forefathers against the Marinids. The entire text was reported by al-Maqqari:

“…The lord of Castile has proposed for us a respectable residence and has given us assurances of safety to which he pledged by his own handwriting, enough to convince the souls. But we, as descendants of Banu al-Ahmar, didn’t settle for this and our faith in God does not permit us to reside under the protection of disbelief.
We also received from the east many letters full of goodwill, inviting us to come to their lands and offering the best of advantages. But we cannot choose other than our home and the home of our forefathers, we can only accept the protection of our relatives, not because of opportunism but to confirm the brotherhood relationship between us and to fulfill the testament of our forefathers, that tells us not to seek any help other that of the Marinids and not to let anything obstruct us from going to you. So we traversed the vast lands and sailed the tumultuous sea and we hope that we would not be returned and that our eyes will be satisfied and our hurt and grievous souls will be healed from this great pain..”

October 30th, 1340 | The Battle of Río Salado

Have you heard of the Marinids? No? They ruled Morocco from the 13th to 15th Century’s … still no? Okay, you probably should have, because their administrative and military center was Fes Jdid, and Fes was the LARGEST CITY IN THE WORLD at the time.

So who the heck were these guys, and what makes them so special?

Picture North Africa, particularly the area around Tunisia, Tripolitania and Constantinois. There was a tribe bumbling around this desert known as the  Zenata Berber, but because their parties were always tame as hell, a splinter group known as the Marinids formed and they poddled off westward and into the north-eastern Morocco area.

Now Morocco was already owned by a local gang known as the Almohads, so when the Marinids arrived they were all “yo, yo, whatchudoin’here?” The Marinids responds “it’s cool, bro, chill. We’re just gonna sleep under this palm tree here, we’re not crashing for long. Listen, if you need to tumble, count us in, ‘cos we’ve got sick MMA moves and we’re useful in a scrap, right? Call us.”

They did something right, because the Almohads not only let them stay, but they did take them on various little sorties, one of which was deep into Spain against King Alfonso VIII of Castile at the Battle of Alarcos, where the Muslim forces drop kicked the Christians into a bloody submission.

And because the Marinids really strutted their stuff there, when they got back home they had kind of an inflated ego and figured that they were owed a little more than a palm tree to sleep under. So they started taxing the local farmers and acting all like a proper little government, which really – to put it mildly – pissed off the Almohads. I mean, they were meant to be doing the taxing around here, what the heck were the new guys doing?

Things got strained and the Marinids got themselves thrown out on their ear; a little like that couch guest who not only overstays his welcome, but he uses the last of the coffee and doesn’t offer to replace it. Yeah, he’s gotta go.

But in their 30-year exile in the mountains, the Almohads started to get shanked by the forces of Spain and bit by bit territory was being lost. Feeling bad for their former mates, the Marinids rode down from the mountains in a glorious demonstration of friendship and support.

Pfft! Of course they didn’t, they rode down from the mountains and started rabbit punching the Almohads in the kidneys, stealing every bit of land they could! They took Taza, Rabat, Salé, Meknes and Fes, made Fes their capital (‘cos: swanky place, yo!), hired a bunch of Christian mercenaries, and took Marrakech. From starting off as a small group of dissatisfied nomads, they were suddenly in charge of a small kingdom. Time to party.

But there was a problem, because around this time the Kingdom of Castile is being a right royal pain in the arse. After recovering from their defeat at Alarcos, the Spanish Christians were all over the place, tipping over plant-pots, tagging walls, turning over trashcans. It was a right mess.

Their ruler - Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali – decided to do something about it. A large kick-ass army was pulled together: 40,000 cavalry, a whole slew of Andalusian archers, and a personal bodyguard of 7,000 men. And you know that you’re doing something right in the world if your personal escort is of the 7k range.

Of course, if you have close to 50,000 men at your disposal you may as well do something with them, and during the years around 1340 various little kingdoms and cities were throat-punched into submission, which gave the Marinids a huge territory, spanning from southern Morocco to Tripoli.

Time to deal with the damn Spanish Christians and the Kingdom of Castille.

al-Hasan gathered up his fleet, threw his massive army on it, and sailed over the short distance to Gibraltar. The Christians – somewhat alarmed, because they hadn’t invited anyone for a sleep-over – were face-smashed and their entire fleet was reduced to matchsticks. Out of almost 40 Christian ships, only 5 managed to escape to Cartagena.

Muslim troops started to flood across the Straits and into the Peninsula and they started besieging anything that couldn’t move out of the way. But the sultan screwed up: the cost of maintain his fleet was pretty high, so thinking that Castille would take a long time to rebuild, he laid up his ships, returned borrowed ones, and left himself with just 12.

What he didn’t know is that Alfonso XI was running a Kickstarter campaign to raise a new fleet, and his biggest backers - King of Aragón and of his father-in-law, Alfonso IV the King of Portugal – threw in 27 ships. Which promptly turned up in the Straits and cut off all supply lines from Morocco.

Meanwhile old Al and his buddy King Po’ gathered together 20,000 of their best Marinid stomping men and they started marching on the Sultan’s position.

“Well … bugger.” Said Hasan.

He had to act quickly, but an all-out assault against the besieged Tarifa failed and lost a whole slew of guys on both sides, forcing Hasan to break the siege and seek the safety of two hills nearby. They had barely got there when the Christians arrived, promptly placing themselves between the Muslims and the beach. Between the two was a valley crisscrossed by streams and a river, which – in hindsight – probably wasn’t the smoothest of places on which to wage a battle.

That night Alfonso sent 1,000 horse and 4,000 foot to Tarifa hoping to catch the sultan’s men there from behind and give them a rude surprise. But the troops encountered very light resistance and entered the town without a problem. Now the Muslim commander in charge of ensuring that didn’t happen reported to Hasan that “not a single Christian has entered Tarifa.” So either he was covering his ass and didn’t want to get into trouble, or he was completely oblivious to 5,000 men marching through his position. In either instance, the following day this erroneous report would have serious consequences.

October 30th … ‘twas a fine morning and the sort of weather that invigorates the soul and has you reaching for your halberd looking for a body to skewer.

The Christian war council decided to split up into two main forces and hit each of the Muslim hills simultaneously. And then they met the river and had to do some serious assed fighting, failing to cross in the center, but capturing a bridge on one flank. The fighting was tough, but the Christian forces were able to cross and start heading up the hill towards Abu Hasan’s camp.

Hasan was all “pffft, we’ve got this shit,” and had good reason to defend the hill extra hard, because he just happened to have his many wives there. As you do. When in battle. Take the family, nice day out and all. Maybe a picnic. Picnics and battles just go together so well.

And it’s at this point that the reinforced garrison from Tarifa appeared and smashed up the backside of the Sultan’s position. I’m guessing at this point that Hasan probably looked towards his commander from the night before and said “you lying little fucker,” but it’s somewhat by-the-by, because the entire camp was utterly smashed beyond recognition.

The Sultan was forced to withdraw off the hill, but in so doing saw that some distance away, isolated from the main army. The two locked eyes, started mad-dogging each other, and Hasan ordered an all-out attack on the king. Alfonso was all “Bitch, I will freaking pwn you!” and started to ride into melee while sticking out his arms and wiggling his body. No one knew what he was doing, but the trend would catch on about 700 years later.

Archbishop of Toledo, Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz, grabbed Alfonso’s reins and muttered “Sire, you’re a king, what the fuck are you doing?” and promptly led him away from the fight. Somewhere distant Hasan’s cries of “Yeeeaaaahhh bitch, mommy is protecting you!” haunted Alfonso’s ears.

The fight raged on until Christian forces sacking the rich Sultan camp looked up and thought “oo’eer, we probably should get back down there!” and it was with their arrival that the Muslims finally broke.

And the pursuit was RUTHLESS.

I’m talking almost 4 miles of you running for your life and tens of thousands of men pursuing you. FOUR MILES. No mercy was shown by the Christians and they butchered their way from the battlefield to the Guadamecí river. The Sultan’s wives were killed, kinfolk were captured (including his sister and son), and various Muslim celebs. It was carnage.

Hasan got away and that night sailed for Ceuta in a galley.

This was a disastrous defeat for the Marinids, forcing them to withdraw from Andalusia. And just as they had pounced on the Almohads years before, so too did an eastern faction of Arabian tribes rise up in southern Tunisia, thus losing them their eastern territories.

The decline of the Marinids had started.


Morocco.Fez.An employee stands inside Madrasa Bou Inania ( a koranic school in Fez ,Founded in 1351 this is widely acknowledged as an excellent example of Marinid architecture ).2015