Marrakech is situated at the foot of the Atlas mountains and is a truly fascinating place, full of history and beauty. It is the cultural centre of Morocco and must be experienced. This magical city has been transformed into one of Africa’s swishiest destinations and boasts boutique hotels furnished in luxury, celebrity chef-run restaurants and deluxe hammams. Marrakech is known as the ‘Red City’ and is literally bursting with delights, things to do and places to visit. There is so much to see, it’s whether you have enough days to fit it all in?!
If you see only one thing when on holidays in Marrakech, it should be the famous Djemaa ed Fna. In the shadow of the Koutoubia Mosque, the square is the pulse of the medina by day and night. By day, it is a bus station and market place with stalls lining the square. Yet from evening, it is transformed into a festival of food and fun, with snake charmers, storytellers, medicine men, circus performers and musicians, but to name a few. Its cultural significance has merited a UNESCO designation as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. In the evenings, it morphs into the busiest square in all of Africa. Indulge all your senses into the sights, sounds, tastes and smells. This is where you’ll really discover and experience the bustling heart of Marrakech and it’s an experience you’ll never forget!
Djemaa El Fna translates as “The Assembly of the Dead” and this is where the heads of executed criminals and rebels were once displayed in times gone by. The historic square is surrounded by cafés and restaurants, why not watching the comings and goings and magic of the square from one of the rooftop cafés, whilst sipping on a relaxing herbal tea? On your visit there, make sure you take some loose change, as the performers do expect a bit of appreciation!
North of the square is the Labyrinth of Souks, the largest in Morocco. These bustling, labyrinths offer the city’s most fascinating sights. It’s a vast marketplace selling everything from carpets to spices. Explore them at your leisure and make sure to do some bargaining along the way, it is seen as an insult to the locals otherwise. Whether you’re there to shop or simply to explore, they are a must for any visitor. The key to exploring the maze is to accept that getting lost is part of the experience.
The alleyways cover over a square kilometre and are divided into distinct markets, each with their own specialities. Probably the most colourful are those selling the babouches (slippers). Also, the magic market, the Rahba Kédima, is the most unusual, with its grisly displays of lizards and snakeskins.
One of the most famous landmarks in Marrakech is the Koutoubia Mosque, which was built in the 12th century and is still the main place of worship in the area today. At around 70 metres high, this grand minaret is the city’s tallest building and it is visible for miles from any direction. The mosque and minaret are closed to non-Muslims, but you can wander around the surrounding buildings and through the gardens.
Another site well worth a visit is the Saadian Tombs, they are in excellent condition as were sealed up for centuries until their rediscovery in 1917. Occupying a quiet enclosure at the Kasbah, the tombs are decorated with colourful tiles, Arabic script and elaborate carvings.
Something also worth a visit is the sights and smells in the Marrakech Tanneries, with the leather dyeing workshops and giant pots of colourful dye. Historically, the dyes were made using everything, but now most are made using chemical pigments. The majority of work is crafted by local artisans then sold in the Marrakech souks.
Other things for you list of things to do and see could include taking a horse-drawn caliche tour around the city walls, or visiting the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden once owned by Yves Saint Laurent.
When planning your trip, please note it’s best to try and avoid the summer heat and crowds and visit Marrakech during the cooler months between September and May.
Although the tourist trade is a booming industry here, with more than one million Moroccans living here, the Marrakech experience remains true to its roots as an imperial city full of culture. Marrakech has a wealth of museums, historical sites and quiet gardens offering a change of pace from the hectic streets. There is plenty to see and do here, indulge yourself into the culture and history and you’ll have a completely memorable holiday!