After our arrival at Marrakech, we had hired a tour guide who would take us around the town and highlight us some of the history of the place as well as the important sites around. One such place he took us to was Ben Youssef Madrasa, one of the largest and most important one in North Africa. Founded in the 14th century and housed around 900 students at one point of time.
While walking by the streets you might miss out on the wooden door which has the inscriptions as “You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded.” An inspiring entry for the students going to live and study there. Inside lies a cool central courtyard with the marble patio and water basin, the walls and columns decorated with Moorish zellige tiles forming geometrically-patterned mosaics, and sculptures, stuccoes, and cedar windows with carved vines.
A prayer hall sits off the main courtyard and back out in the courtyard you will see tiny windows of the students dormitories looking down from the first floor. You can explore the 130 or so cells of the madrasa, some so small you have to crouch down to enter, while we were entering those rooms it felt more like prison cells.
The madrasa ceased to function as a college in 1960 but was renovated and opened to the public in 1982. The architecture can be compared to the Alhambra, Spain probably inspired from them.