From 1509 to 1549, they had ruled only in the south of Morocco. Although still recognizing the Wattasids as Sultans until 1528, Saadian’s growing power led the Wattasids to attack them and, after an indecisive battle, to recognize their rule over southern Morocco through the Treaty of Tadla.
Their reign over Morocco began with the reign of Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh in 1554, when he vanquished the last Wattasids at the Battle of Tadla. The Saadian rule ended in 1659 with the end of the reign of Sultan Ahmad el Abbas.
The Banu Zaydan claimed descent from the prophet Muhammad through the line of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatima Zahra (Muhammad’s daughter). They came from Tagmadert in the valley of the Draa River. The family’s village of origin in the Draa was Tidzi (a qsar, some 10 km north of Zagora). They claimed Sharifian origins through an ancestor from Yanbu and rendered Sufism respectable in Morocco. The name Saadi or Saadian derives from “sa’ada” meaning happiness or salvation. Others think it derives from the name Bani Zaydan or that it was given to the Bani Zaydan (shurafa of Tagmadert) by later generations and rivals for power, who tried to deny their Hassanid descent by claiming that they came from the family of HalimahSaadiyya, Muhammad’s wet nurse. Their ancestor is Zaydan Ibn Ahmed a Sharif from Yanbu. The most famous sultan of the Saadi was Ahmad al-Mansur (1578–1603), builder of the El Badi Palace in Marrakech and contemporary of Elizabeth I. One of their most important achievements was defeating the Portuguese at the Battle of Ksar El Kebir, and defending the country against the Ottomans. Before they conquered Marrakech, they had Taroudannt as their capital city.
- 1509: establishment of the Saadian Principality in Tagmadert;
- 1511: the Saadians receive the support of the Souss;
- 1524: the Saadians receive the support of the Hintata tribes, who control Marrakech;
- 1527: the Wattasids recognize the Saadian rule of southern Morocco through the Treaty of Tadla;
- 1541: the Saadian army expels the Portuguese from Agadir, Azamor, Azafi and Arzila;
- 1554: Mohammed ash-Sheikh overthrows Ahmad el Abbas, the last wattasid Sultan;
- 1561–67: annexation of the principalities of Tetouan, Chefchaouen and Debdou;
- 1578: Battle of Alcácer Quibir: Moroccan victory over the Portuguese army;
- 1581: the conquest of the Touat;
- 1591: battle of Tondibi, the conquest of the Songhai Empire;
- 1603–27: civil war after the death of Ahmad al-Mansur, opposing three pretenders: Abou Fares Abdallah, Zidan al-Nasir and Mohammed esh Sheikh el Mamun; the beginning of the decline of the Saadi Empire;
- 1628: reunification of Fes and Marrakech, but Saadians failed to regain control over many territories, including: Rabat, Salé and Tetouan (ruled by Andalusis), Tafilalet (alternately ruled by the Alaouites and emir of Tazeroualt), Oujda (ruled by the Ottomans) and many other territories lost to warlords, Zaouias leaders and refractory tribes; they lost gradually the control over the territories that remained under their rule until 1659, when they disappeared from the Moroccan political and military scenes.
1509–54: Saadian princes of Tagmadert
1554–1659: Saadian sultans of Morocco
- Mohammed ash-Sheikh (1554–57)
- Abdallah al-Ghalib (1557–74)
- Abu Abdallah Mohammed II (1574–76)
- Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik I (1576–78)
- Ahmad al-Mansur (1578–1603)