Together with the tomb of Mohammed V in Rabat, and the Medersa Bou Inania in Fez, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is the only active Moroccan shrine that non-Muslims may visit. The mausoleum has been a point of reverence since Ismail’s death (it was constructed in his own lifetime) and is still held in high esteem. Given tales of the ruler’s excesses, this might seem puzzling to Westerners, but Ismail is remembered in his homeland for his achievements: bringing peace and prosperity after a period of anarchy, and driving out the Spanish from Larache and the British from Tangier. His extreme observance of orthodox Islamic form and ritual also conferred a kind of magic on him, as, of course, does his part in establishing the ruling Alaouite dynasty – although, technically, the dynasty began with his brother, Moulay Rachid, Ismail is generally honoured as the founder.

You are allowed to approach the sanctuary in which the sultan is buried, but cannot go beyond the annexe, though this still gives you a good idea of the reverence with which the shrine is treated – you will almost invariably see villagers here, especially women seeking baraka (charismatic blessing) and intercession from the saintly sultan’s remains.

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