Desert caravans passed through this outpost long before Berber leader Youssef and his savvy wife Zeinab recognized Marrakech's strategic potential and built ramparts around it in 1062. The city's irrigation system and its signature pink mudbrick architecture were introduced by the Almoravids. Then Almohad el-Mansour rebuilt Marrakech with a fortified kasbah, glorious gardens, mosques and a triumphal gate. But soon, this showpiece city was abandoned, as the royal attention turned to Meknes and Fez. Life returned again in the 16th century, when the Saadians placed Marrakech in the center of lucrative sugar trade routes. With the proceeds, Sultan Moulay Abdullah rebuilt the mosques, established schools as well as a trading center for Christians and a protected Jewish quarter. Ahmed Victorious and Golden, paved the Badi Palace with gold and took opulence to the grave in the gilded Saadian Tombs. His successors looted the palace and moved to Meknes, while Marrakech entered its Wild West period.
In 1912, the French protectorate granted Pasha Glaoui the south of Morocco, while French colonists built themselves a ville nouvelle near the Old Marrakech. After Morocco regained its independence, Rabat became the political capital, Fez the spiritual center, and Casablanca the business capital. Meanwhile, Marrakech’s mystique reputation was built by hippies and spiritual seekers, especially in the 1960s and 70s. Visits by the Rolling Stones, Beatles and Led Zeppelin gave the city its star power, and the arrival of Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vogue editors and supermodels defined Marrakech as a chic African city.