This small, beautiful 16th-century burial ground is the permanent resting place of 166 Saadians, including its creator, Sultan Ahmed el Mansour, the Golden One. True to his name, he did it in style—even those not in the lavish mausoleum have their own colorful zellij graves, laid out for all to see, among the palm trees and flowers. Because the infamous Moulay Ismail chose not to destroy them (he was apparently superstitious about plundering the dead), these tombs are one of the few Saadian relics left. He simply sealed them up, leaving only a small section open for use. The complex was rediscovered only in 1917 by General Hubert Lyautey during the French protectorate. Passionate about every aspect of Morocco's history, the general undertook the restoration of the tombs.
The central mausoleum, the Hall of Twelve Columns, contains the tombs of Ahmed el Mansour and his family. It's dark, lavish, and ornate, with a huge vaulted roof, carved cedar doors and moucharabia (carved
wooden screens traditionally used to separate the sexes), and gray Italian marble columns. In a smaller inner mausoleum, on the site of an earlier structure containing the decapitated body of the Saadian dynasty's founder, Mohammed esh Sheikh, is the tomb of El Mansour's mother. Get here either early or late to avoid the crowds and to see the monuments swathed in soft golden sunlight. If you use one of the on-site guides (who are unpaid), you should tip 30 DH to 50 DH.