What is worth coming to Marrakech for? Top 10 things to do
Marrakech is the legendary “red city” of Morocco. Mystical (it’s home to marabouts), artful (pick your pocket when you enter the bazaar!), brash, noisy, luxurious and hot… Marrakech has no access to the Atlantic or the Mediterranean, but every year crowds of tourists flock here like ants to a sugar cube. The local hotels are like paradise oases of comfort and beauty, gardens filled with fragrant flowers, refreshing swimming pools, relaxing spas and golf courses. The nightlife in Marrakech is endless. As well as gourmet restaurants with terraces, where it is so pleasant to relax, art galleries, literary cafes, museums, palaces. It is in Marrakech where many celebrities have bought their villas and luxurious riads: Brad Pitt, Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Jean Paul Gaultier, Leonardo di Caprio, Alain Delon. This magical city spread out against the backdrop of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains has inspired and beckoned artists, fashion designers, and filmmakers. What are the must-see leisure activities in the cultural capital of Morocco? I’ve made a list of 10 must-dos
When darkness falls, let’s go to Jemaa el-Fna.
Coming to Marrakech and not going to the famous Djemaa el-Fna is like ignoring Red Square in Moscow and Times Square in New York. In the daytime, it’s quiet and almost deserted. But as dusk falls, tents and pavilions are erected, cauldrons and braziers are brought out, and incredible delicacies are cooked and, of course, orange juice is squeezed. The aromas and smoke envelops the entire neighborhood. It’s the best street fast food that makes your mouth water. Also entertaining those who flock to the lights, sounds and smells are fortune tellers, henna drawers, henchmen, gnahua musicians, acrobats, cobra charmer and storytellers, dentists and just the local merrymakers. A seething cauldron of impressions, a buzzing, entertaining buffoonery that will never be erased from your memory. If you plan to snap your camera, prepare some change. Otherwise, you’ll get cursed. Tip: You can climb on the terrace of a nearby cafe and take nice pictures from above.
Buying rhinoceros horn and dried chameleon potions
Of course, you know that in Marrakech you must buy real saffron and other spices in all shades of the rainbow, plus argan oil to add to salads or use in cosmetics. But after a glance at the Berber pharmacy in the spice market, you will find something more interesting: magic potions for all ills – for insomnia, loss of potency, migraines … You will be offered elixirs, powders, plant extracts, minerals, snakeskin, iguana feet, dried chameleon, rhinoceros horn. Just name your ailment and they will tell you how to exorcise it. Leave it for three nights under the stars and then rub it on your forehead, or just take it inside in the morning. With especially severe cases or with such requests as to win a trial, to return a love that has gone, you can turn to local witches and miracle workers. You will not do without magic spells and rituals with hypnotic dances. Are not afraid? Let’s go!
Wandering through the labyrinth of the bazaar in search of wondrous treasures
The twilight web of the main street bazaar, stretches from the northern part of Jemaa el Fna Square to Ben Youssef Madrasah, the grandiose Islamic university. Each shop is like a cave from an Aladdin fairy tale. Inside there are mountains of all sorts of stuff, leather, ceramic, silver, copper. Bags, plates, slippers, vases, jewelry, exotic doorknobs, openwork lamps, colorful scarves, purses, carpets … Allah, help me not to go bankrupt! Hovering over souvenirs, getting out of the bazaar is no easy task. You also have to dodge mopeds, donkey carts, cyclists, and pickpockets and backpacks as thieves tend to come and go. Getting lost enough, you’ll get to those distant corners, where artisans in front of rare passers-by are making their goods – beating with hammers, bending, cutting, shaving all sorts of materials to then display in their stores. Colorful and informative! If you are invited for tea and chat, say yes.
Relaxing in the colorful Jardine Majorelle like Yves Saint Laurent
The delightful Jardine Majorelle botanical garden was once owned by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. He moved to Marrakech at the beginning of the 20th century to improve his health. As a result, he brought here from different parts of the world amazing plants – all kinds of cacti, lotuses, yuccas, bamboos, jasmine, palms… To be in the garden on a hot summer day is a cool pleasure for the mind, eyes and ears. Under the singing of birds, the lush vegetation, you can relax near a gurgling fountain or meditate in a gazebo. Connoisseurs of high fashion will be pleased to know that after the death of the artist the garden was acquired and restored by Yves Saint Laurent himself. He spent many inspired days here, creating his clothing collections and drinking tea with sweets. In the central part of the garden is a memorial to the couturier. And in the blue building – a museum of Berber art, whose exhibits were collected by the fashion designer himself.
Cooking Moroccan cuisine at the culinary course
If you’re crazy about Moroccan cuisine (and no wonder, it makes your tongue swallow), Marrakech invites you to learn how to cook it. As if you were born here. You will understand spices and spices and unimaginable combinations of flavors. Amaze your family and friends with crumbly couscous, tagine, pastilles and almond sweets. Culinary courses in Marrakech are many and there are plenty to choose from. For example, Riad Enija, La Maison Arabe. First you will go to the market and learn how to choose the freshest products, and then you will visit the owner of the maison, where they will show you all the tricks of cooking national dishes. The price is about 50 euros per day. It includes your lunch, drinks and a few hours of unforgettable cooking class. If you choose the weekly course, you could open a Moroccan restaurant at home
Admiring the diamond “Beauty Palace” – Bahia
From the outside, the Bahia Palace does not look much like a palace. But it is an example of Eastern philosophy, when all personal wealth should be hidden from the eyes of others. When it was built, attention was paid to the interior decoration so as not to cause unnecessary envy. The Palais de la Bahía has 150 rooms – halls, bedrooms and other rooms, shining with gilding, carved ornaments made of expensive wood, wonderful Moorish mosaics and inlaid ceilings. The rooms, which are one after the other, are like a fancy box. In them the Grand Vizier of Marrakech planned to settle his four wives and twenty-four concubines. The central square is lined with marble and decorated with a fountain. The palace has elegant courtyards, shady alleys, and several beautiful gardens with banana, orange, and jasmine trees. You can have a great time on a hot day here.
Making wishes at the Qutubiyah Mosque on a full moon
The old Al Koutoubia Mosque, which is so beautifully illuminated at night, is a shrine not only to Marrakech, but to Morocco as a whole. While in many mosques the call to prayer is recorded, here the azan is sung by a live muezzin five times a day. The minaret tower stands 77 meters high and is decorated with four gilded orbs. Did you see them? That means Jemaa el-Fna is nearby. The truest landmark. There is a legend that one of the Sultan’s wives during Ramadan ate four grapes. As a sign of remorse, she gave all her jewelry to be melted down so that golden orbs could be cast from them and placed on the top of the minaret. If you stand under the minaret facing east at the full moon, you can make a wish that will surely come true.
Rolling the dice in the casino of the legendary hotel La Mamounia
“La Mamounia is the golden age of Marrakech. A living legend in the Moorish Art Deco style, with three hundred year old gardens on 17 hectares. When they bloom – words can not describe! Winston Churchill loved to rest here. One of the rooms and the Piano Bar are named after him. Presidents, sheikhs, heirs to the throne and movie stars have left notes in the hotel guest book. Nowadays this chic hotel decorated with works of art is often visited by the royal family. To visit La Mamunia, you do not have to book a suite with a view of the Coutoubia. The bars and restaurants are open to the public. Not to mention Le Grand Casino de Mamounia, which has seen the best players from all over the world. If you like to play poker, roll the dice or spin the reel of the one-armed bandit, you should definitely do so here. Bets are accepted in local currency – dirhams.
Let yourself go to the hammam – forget everything and be born again.
If you go to the spa, even in the most luxurious hotel – the real Moroccan hammam you will not know. The European gentle version, adapted for tourists. Every quarter of the old medina has a mosque, a fountain and a real, authentic hammam, which men and women visit at different times. Want something truly extraordinary? This is where you come in, to Purgatory. It seems here, along with all the dirt, dust and tan, and wash your skin, and scalp, and all of your past life, smeared with something heretofore unseen, but the final feeling, I swear, incredible! Asking for mercy in English is useless, only French will be understood. Once you step out into the white light, you will be surprised by a brand new, pure Marrakech experience.
Let’s rock out at the biggest nightclub in Africa – Le Pacha!
The nightlife of Marrakech is as vibrant and restless as the daytime! The city never sleeps. That’s why many party-goers love it. Themed parties, fancy dancers and singers, famous DJs – every night there is a new reason for excitement for the guests of entertainment venues. Among the best clubs in Marrakech is, of course, Le Pacha. Yes, yes, the famous Ibiza club is open in Morocco. It has stunning interiors, great sound, and the wildest parties. Although Theatro seems to be just as good. It is located in a former theater building, with original decorations. Nikki Beach is a complex of restaurant, club and bar. By day, guests relax at the cocktail bar floating in the pool. At night, wealthy young Moroccans go on a break. Where I invite you too
P . S . Oops! No room left at all – to tell about other exciting activities in Marrakech Go skiing or trekking on hiking trails in the Atlas Mountains. Check out art galleries and cultural centers, boutiques, and museums. Take a hundred colorful pictures in the tanneries on the outskirts of Medina. The Ali bin Youssef Madrasah, a philosophical and religious educational institution, is one of the rare religious sites for non-Muslims to visit. It’s very beautiful! You can also go from Marrakech to Agadir or Essaouira…
The 20 main attractions of Marrakech
During its more than thousand years of history Marrakech has had the status of the capital of Morocco, has had its heyday, oblivion and again became one of the main cities of the country. There have been frequent changes of power, and each new dynasty has brought its own vision to the architecture. However, a number of sites, such as the Medina or the Kutubiya Mosque, have survived to this day.
In the last century, Marrakech began to attract Europeans. They were impressed by the local culture and relaxed way of life, and the guests were in debt to the city. Artist Jacques Majorelle created a beautiful garden, and the Dutch anthropologist Bert Flint presented the Moroccans with the Tiskivin Museum, a collection of rarities from all over North Africa. Even the famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent was honored by the museum for his contribution to the development of Marrakech.
What to see and where to go in Marrakech?
The most interesting and beautiful places to walk. Photos and a brief description.
The old part of Marrakech. Because of the color of the walls is called the “red city”. Their height – about 10 meters, and the length – about 16 km. The total number of towers is more than 200. The streets are narrow, the houses and other buildings are traditional for this area. Within the medina is also the Jamaa el-Fna Square, the busiest part of the former Moroccan capital. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Jamaa el-Fna Square.
The main square in the city. It serves many purposes. First of all, it is a huge “souk” – that’s the Arabic word for market. Here you can buy everything from spices to antiques. It is also a place where circus performances are held and animals are exhibited. There’s a stage and entertainment for all kinds of events. Locals say that a day in Jamaa El Fna is the best way to learn all about Marrakech.
A picturesque park surrounds the house of the artist Jacques Majorelle. The master settled in Marrakech in 1919. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the local climate was suitable for treatment. In his spare time, Majorelle began to create a garden. The hobby turned into a real passion. The artist communicated with botanists from different countries and bought exotic plants from all over the world. Even during his lifetime, the owner began to let tourists come here.
Have existed since the 13th century. Later in the center of the man-made lake was dug out. In 1870 they built a pavilion. Originally on this site was a small farm. The number of olive trees exceeded the mark of 30 thousand. Fish were launched into the lake. Some species jump over the water, which adds to the already picturesque landscape. Picnics are allowed in the surrounding area. In the evening is the best time for photo shoots.
Built since the middle of the century before last for many years. Vizier Sidi Moussa commissioned the project for one of his wives. He periodically bought land around it, so the architect had to make changes to the plan. The palace has only one floor. The reason was Moussa’s overweight, who did not want to climb the stairs. Tourists are attracted to this labyrinth building because of its unusual appearance and interior decoration.
It was built during the life of Ahmad al-Mansur. He gave a lot of money to build the palace so the best materials and expensive decorations were used. Supposedly there were about 360 rooms inside. Moulay Ismail ordered the demolition of Qasr al-Badi when Marrakech was no longer the capital. Demolition lasted a total of 10 years. Only the orange orchard and fragments of the walls remain.
Largest mosque in the city. It was built in the 12th century. It is known primarily because of its minaret, which rises to 69 meters. It later served as a prototype for a number of buildings, including the Rabat Tower of Hasan. The minaret is illuminated at night. The name translates as “the mosque of the booksellers.” It is known as the Mosque of the Book-Traders and was once the site of a book trade and religious library.
The Saadite Tomb
Sultan Ahmed al-Mansur created this tomb primarily for himself. He was buried here in 1603. Around the tomb are the graves of his companions, wives and later other members of the royal house. When the government changed, the Alawites did not dare to destroy the cemetery, but walled it off. About the tomb nothing was known until 1917. It was then discovered by a French expedition.
Ben Youssef Madrasah
The Islamic school was built in the 14th century. It has not only preserved its external appearance, but the religious life of the city is still based around it. The madrasah got its name from the nearby mosque. The complex covers an area of 1.7 thousand square meters. In the courtyard there is a big pool for ablutions. The path leads to the main prayer hall through it. The paths and the floors are covered with marble or mosaic.
The Markets of Marrakech
Markets are part of the national culture of Morocco. Marrakech has been famous for them since ancient times. There are highly specialized, such as grocery, but most are universal. So Bab-Doukkala Street is filled with the smells of spices and shops with the products of local craftsmen. The biggest “bough” is Jema el-Fna Square. It is divided into several parts, where they sell carpets, baboushas, and antiques.
It occupies the palace of Dar Menebhi. The collection is devoted to the culture and history of the city, as well as all of Morocco and nearby regions. Ancient books, relics, cult items, ceramics, jewelry are the basis of the collection. Unique exhibits are Koran of XII century and Sufi prayer book. In recent years, the exposition has been supplemented with modern items by local masters. There are temporary exhibitions of artists, photographers and sculptors.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
Opened in 2018. A special building was built for the museum. French architects drew on the fashion designer’s archives and tried to combine straight and curved lines in the design. Yves Saint Laurent first visited Marrakech in 1966. He was involved in saving the Majorelle Garden. The exhibition is dedicated to the fashion designer, but there are also temporary exhibitions. The café next door is reminiscent of Saint Laurent’s studio.
House of Photography
Opened in the old town in 2009. The exhibition consists of photographs spanning the period from the 1870s to the 1950s. The building housing the collection was formerly an inn for merchants and travellers. It has been restored and more than 4,500 photos have been placed there. They capture the history of Morocco. Photographers have tried to capture both the traditional nuances of the country and unusual things.
Dar Said Museum.
Opened to the public in 1934. Originally built as a residence of the brother of the Vizier Ba Ahmed. The walls of the palace are thick and high, typical of the local architecture. It is surrounded by an Andalusian garden and has a fountain in the center. The museum collection is the cultural wealth of Morocco: pottery, old clothes, Berber jewelry, devices from the past, furniture made of precious wood.
Occupies an old building located between the palaces of Dar Said and Bahia. It was put together by the Dutch anthropologist Bert Flint. He settled in Marrakech in 1957 and began to systematize the artifacts collected throughout the region. The exhibits are handmade carpets, jewelry, Berber clothing, and art objects. They tell the story of the city, but also of all of North Africa.
Jewish cemetery of Miaara.
Dating back to the 17th century. Refers to the Jewish quarter. The streets are narrow and the buildings are side by side. The cemetery itself is remote from the tourist routes. It is easy not to notice it: the territory is separated from the road by a high wall. The caretakers have no problem letting those interested in the cemetery, but you must comply with some standards of behavior when examining old tombstones.
The first station was built on this site in 1923. In 2008 a new building was opened nearby, just opposite the Royal Palace. In the architectural plan of the station respects the national traditions, the design abounds in details. In the area there are not only areas for recreation, but also cafes and stores. At the moment this station is the southern terminus in the railway network of the whole country.
One of the oldest parks in the city was laid out in the 18th century. In our time it was decided to remake it and add more technical innovations. There are multimedia terminals all over the territory. Wi-Fi covers the entire park. If you want, you can use a specially designed virtual guide to the park. Moreover, there is a function of remote sightseeing.
Oasiria Water Park
Extensive entertainment area for the whole family. The water park offers guests to visit restaurants for all tastes or take fitness classes. Eight pools are available to visitors all year round. Some of them have amusement rides. For nature lovers about 10 hectares of gardens are planted. Exotic plants can be found in them. There are special night show programs. On big holidays there are theatrical performances.
The waterfall of Uzud.
Located about 150 km from the city in the High Atlas Mountains. The translation of the name is “olive trees. This type of vegetation covers the slopes. It is 110 meters high. The waterfall has three cascades. You can come up close to it, and the peculiarity of its location allows you to look down on the falling water. At sunset, the monkeys who are used to the abundance of tourists come to the waterfall to drink.
Complete the article by describing your impression of the city (country) or a particular attraction.
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