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Shirij Madrasa, Fez, Morocco, about 1350 AD

Shirij Madrasa, Fez, Morocco, about 1350 AD – built by the Marinids

When did the Marinids get power?

By 1217 AD, the Almohad dynasty in North Africa and Spain was collapsing. One of the generals, Abu Yusuf, took over control of Morocco and made himself Sultan. That started the Marinid dynasty. All the Marinid rulers were army men like Abu Yusef,. They were mostly cavalry riders.

More about the Almohads
What is cavalry?
Islamic North Africa
All our Islamic Empire articles

What did the Marinids do?

The Marinids made their capital city at Fez, and tried over and over to reunite the old Almohad empire by conquering their neighbors, the ‘Abd al-Wazids and the Hafsids. But they couldn’t do it. When the Marinids tried to attack Spain, they failed there too. But they did manage to keep control of Morocco and the trade through the Straits of Gibraltar. Another important city of the Marinid kingdom was Tangier, which was the home of the geographer and traveler Ibn Battuta.

Who was Ibn Battuta?
Who were the Hafsids?
The Christians in Spain

A tour of Fez

Marinid trade to West Africa

The Marinids got rich by sending camel caravans with thousands of camels south across the Sahara Desert to the West African kingdoms of Mali and Ghana: to the city of Timbuktu. On the way there, these caravans stopped at huge salt mines in the Sahara and picked up loads of salt. In West Africa, Marinid traders sold salt and also many other things the camels carried from further north and east: silk and cotton cloth, glass beads, sugar, steel knives and sewing needles, and the new knitted socks.

History of salt
Where does cotton cloth come from?
Sugar in the Islamic Empire
Early history of steel
When was knitting invented?

A salt caravan across the Sahara Desert

A salt caravan across the Sahara Desert

What did the Marinids bring back?

In West Africa, the Marinid camel caravans bought gold. The growing economy of the Islamic Empire needed a lot of gold to make coins. By the 1300s, West Africa was also making and exporting cotton clothing, which the Marinids probably also transported. Not long after, in 1349, the Black Death reached the Marinid kingdom, where it killed many thousands of people, including Ibn Battuta’s parents.

History of gold
The Islamic economy
What is the Black Death?

What happened to the Marinids?

The Marinids ruled Morocco for almost three centuries, until 1465 AD, when the Ottomans conquered them. So the first Portuguese explorations down the coast of West Africa to kidnap people and enslave them stopped to visit the Marinid kingdom. But after 1465, Morocco was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Medieval ships and sailing
Medieval West Africa
History of slavery

Learn by doing: eat couscous at a Moroccan restaurant
More about the Ottoman Empire

Bibliography and further reading:

To the north: Spain
To the south: West Africa
And to the east: Hafsids and Mamluks
More about the Islamic Empire

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