What is a Medina?
Marrakesh Medina was founded in 1070 by the Almoravid dynasty. Its architecture is unique and special. For that, UNESCO declared it in 1995, as part of the world heritage. Like all old cities, Marrakech medina was built around a wall that had different strategic gates to protect it from any eventual intruders. The old city is called Medina. It means “a city” in Arabic. The old city is composed of several neighbourhoods that are connected throughout streets. In every neighbourhood, there are four important elements: Mosques large and small ones, public steam baths called Hammam and a public oven. They are all located in the centre of the quarter usually, next to a square where the main activities are.
Derbs & Riads
The neighbourhoods are connected via streets called Zanka which lead to alleys. People live in houses within alleys or ‘derbs’. There are two types of alleys: Passageway alley and dead-end alley. The passageway alleys lead to other alleys or to the main streets whereas a dead-end alley ends at a dark and tiny archway called ‘ Saba’. The most beautiful and spacious houses are usually in a dead-end alley.
There are three types of homes in Medina: The riad, the house or “dar” and “dwiriya“. The riad is a large house with a corridor that takes you to a patio with a garden and two opposite rooms called Qubba or the domes. It has a hammam, store-room, large living rooms, two kitchens and a separated room called ‘ Masriya’. The traditional Marrakeshi Riad has only one floor. The house or dar is smaller than a riad. It has a tiny patio and about 4 to 7 rooms. The dwiriya is very small and it is like an apartment. Historically the dwiriya was part of the riad and it used to be a separated place where guests stayed. Many riads and houses are now guest houses offering tourists a comfortable and authentic stay in the heart of the medina.
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