Ancient Glory of Aghmat

The archaeological site known as “Joumaa Aghmat” in southern Morocco contains the remains of a Berber town that was prominent in the Sous region during medieval times. Situated on the Ourika road, about 30 kilometers east of Marrakech, Aghmat (or Ghmat) is an interesting tourist attraction to visit to gain insight into an aspect of the history of Morocco.

Following the death of Idris II in the year 828, Aghmat became the capital of the Sous region under the leadership of the Idrisid prince, Abd Allah. In 1058, Aghmat was gallantly defended by the leader of the Maghrawa tribe, Laqut al-Maghrawi, when the town was attacked by Almoravids – a Berber dynasty from the Sahara. The battle ended in defeat for Laqut and the Almoravid army took the city on 27 June 1058.

At the time of its occupation by the Almoravid army, one of Aghmat’s wealthiest citizens happened to be Laqut’s widow, Zaynab an-Nafzawiyyat. She later married Abu-Bakr Ibn Umar, the Almoravid leader, placing her substantial wealth at his disposal. Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar returned to the Sahara Desert in 1071 in response to a call for help to suppress a revolt. Discerning that his wife would not manage the rigors of desert living, he divorced her, and his successor, Yusuf Ibn Tashfin, took Zaynab as his wife. She went on to become a woman of some influence in the early Almoravid movement which, in time, gained control of Algeria, Morocco and parts of Spain. It is said that the city of Marrakech was built in her honor.

By 1068, the population of the town of Aghmat had grown a great deal and it was then that the construction of Marrakech was undertaken. This resulted in the decline of Aghmat, until the town was reduced to being used as a place to exile people. Exiles included Abbad III, at one time the king of Seville and a widely respected poet.

The archaeological ruins of Aghmat today consist of parts of the city walls, hammam (Turkish bath), sections of the city’s houses and the remains of the qanats – canals used to transport water to the city. There is also about a hundred meters of the city ramparts. In 1970 a modern mausoleum with a cupola in the Almoravid style was erected to mark the tomb of Abbad III. His tomb remains a pilgrimage site to this day.