Marrakech: intriguing, lively and overwhelming
If you tell me Marrakech… what do I think about? Straight away I say: intriguing, lively and overwhelming!
In this article, I’ll explain why I immediately thought of these three adjectives. Let’s begin to understand what Marrakech is and where it is, then slowly I’ll explain why you absolutely must visit it.
Marrakech is also known as the red city of Morocco and is a highly regarded and popular tourist destination mainly due to its vibrant colours, fascinating history and unique culture. Marrakech, together with Fes, Rabat and Meknes forms the four imperial cities of Morocco.
A city full of life and contrasts, tradition meets modernity and each experience becomes unique thanks to a blend of culture, history and art that remain imprinted in the minds and hearts of those who visit it.
An advice? Openminded! If you want to live this journey intensely, you have to do it.
Don’t be annoyed by the calls of the vendors of the medina, or by the strong smells that pervade the air!
Where is Marrakesh
It is located in the hinterland of Central Morocco.
This imperial city conquers everyone and is famous for its Medina enclosed within the ancient medieval walls, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unmissable stops are the traditional markets such as Suq Semmarine and Suq des Tapis: magical places, perfect for buying spices, fabrics, ceramics and leather goods but also for being hypnotized by snake charmers. The Medina of Marrakech offers you the opportunity to live authentic and unique experiences thanks to its urban and architectural uniqueness. Know that it is the core of the old city.
The attractions of Marrakesh
The Jamaa el Fna square, also known as the “Place” is the most important place in the Medina where all the social life of Marrakech takes place 24 hours a day. During the day, you will be amazed by the numerous attractions: from monkey trainers who will climb on your shoulders, to snakes and even dentists who display their freshly extracted “pieces”. It is a mix between the funny and the surreal in a piazza-stage impregnated with the grotesque.
You will also find many stalls selling spices, fruit, snails and much more.
At night, the scenery changes. At sunset the Jamaa el Fna square changes. The stalls will sell food, in fact it is very characteristic to dine there surrounded by street artists who perform various shows and music.
With just a few dirhams (the local mount) for just one drink, you can go up to a terrace of one of the bars around the square and enjoy the view… not to be missed!
The geography of Marrakesh
The square borders to the north with the Suq district and to the east with the Qasba, while from the south-west it is dominated by the Kutubiyya Mosque: the main religious building of the city. Built starting from 670, it is the oldest in Islam.
The medina is the beating heart of the city, there are the main monuments and attractions of the imperial city: shops of local artisans, ceramics, carpet manufacturers and much more. In fact, Moroccan craftsmanship is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage.
Tips and tricks
There are 2 rules to follow in the medina: don’t get lost and bargain.
The city is known for its labyrinth of Souks (markets). Warning: the risk of getting lost is real, but don’t worry. Getting lost here is an experience to do, perhaps the best way to understand the atmosphere and the varied humanity that crowds these alleys and shops.
The real Marrakesh
However, the city also lives in overlaps: from colour, liveliness and chaos one travels towards tranquil places such as gardens in the desert, museums and moments of relaxation in the hammams, a unique cultural experience.
The hammam (the traditional Turkish bath) is part of the culture of Marrakech and today there are two types: public and spa (spas have been around for a few years). In public hammams we continue to wash and massage the floor, this massage is done using a rough glove and black soap. This practice is done as a “purification rite”.
Now let’s take a leap out of the medina (which you will return to many times anyway), and let’s go visit the Majorelle gardens and the Menara gardens.
The gardens and the architecture
The most famous is Majorelle, designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle (link) hence the name, in the 1920s. The Lorraine artist, madly in love with Morocco, decided to create a botanical garden respecting the Arab-Andalusian tradition, but with a cosmopolitan edge. The garden is precisely an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of the bustle of this city and houses a collection of exotic plants and an art museum.
Marrakech is an ideal city for lovers of architecture and design.
Arab-Andalusian architecture is everywhere, but I would pay particular attention to La Medersa by Ali ben Yousef, a place where you immediately enter into harmony with Hispano-Moorish art among marbles, ceramics and geometric decorations that leave their mark.
Our journey is by no means over, on the contrary, we still continue to discover traditional Moroccan architecture with the Bahia Palace, built in the 19th century. It is an example of traditional Moroccan architecture with its courtyards, gardens and fountains.
The building is located on the border of the old Jewish quarter (Mellah) and there is no square meter of its 150 rooms undecorated, inlaid or engraved. The building can be visited and is still used by King Mohammed VI for international meetings and state visits.
There are also numerous galleries and museums to visit in Marrakech, such as the Palmeraie Museum which is an excellent choice to learn about the culture and history of Morocco through art objects and artifacts. Or, the Contemporary Art Gallery where you can admire the works of Moroccan and international artists.
Marrakech offers a wide range of accommodation options, from traditional case d’hôtes (guest houses) to luxurious kasbahs (fortresses) that we can recommend based on the type of experience you want to have.
There are many restaurants and cafés where you can taste traditional Moroccan dishes such as lamb tajine and couscous, a journey through typical spices and flavors that will be unforgettable.
Its unique combination of tradition and modernity, between day and night makes Marrakech a truly amazing tourist destination.
Attention to detail
However, I want to close this journey to discover Marrakech, reminding you to always respect the culture of the place, in fact there are few tips and “rules” to follow.
Your religion (Islam) does not allow you to:
- Drink alcohol in public places. Of course you drink alcohol, God forbid, but it is not possible to do it in public and near sacred places.
- Do not take pictures without asking permission in the souks or Jemaa el Fna square. You will certainly be allowed to do this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Use suitable clothing. This especially when visiting a mosque or a holy place.
- Beware of bicycles and scooters. Chaos is at home especially in the square or in the souks. Having a keener eye is better.
Well, now I’m done.
Otherwise, enjoy Marrakech!