Marrakech, known as the Red City, is a hive of frenetic activity. The sights, sounds, smells, and energy of the former capital and imperial city cannot help but captivate and enthrall all who explore. And while any visitor will discover that the city is a treasure trove of unique experiences, here are some of the top things to see and do here:
Explore the Souks
Marrakech is known for its mazes of souks, with a vast array of items spilling over in the narrow passageways and vendors who can be quite persistent. Haggling is commonplace, and you should never accept the first price that is quoted. Items range from opulent and ornate lamps that remind you of scenes from Aladdin, traditional items of clothing and hats, and aromatic spices, through to beautifully carved wood, leather items like bags, shoes, and belts, and shimmering mirrors. A typical Moroccan product, look out for items made from Argan oil, said to be great for the skin, nails, and hair.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Djemaa el-Fna is the largest square in Marrakech, During the daytimes, it is filled with market stalls, vendors of freshly squeezed orange juice, snake charmers, and people with monkeys. You can also get a decorative henna tattoo. The square really comes to life in the evenings though, somewhat like an open-air theatre with many fabulous shows happening all at the same time. Animal heads roast on BBQs, there are many eateries serving local and national delights, people parade through the square wearing traditional clothes, groups sing, dance, and play musical instruments, the rhythmic sounds of drums beating reverberates through the already noise-filled air, and there may be acrobats, jugglers, magicians, tarot card readers, and more. Do rest for a while in one of the cafes and take a seat on the high terraces for a great overview of the chaotic activity.
The main mosque of Marrakech, Koutoubia Mosque is surrounded by lush gardens. The soaring minaret can be seen from far and wide, and you will hear the melodic call to prayer issued by the muezzin from up high. There are some old ruins alongside the mosque that members of the public can look inside, although do note that non-Muslims are not permitted to go inside the mosque itself.
Mederssa Ben Youssef
A former Islamic school and centre of religious learning, the Merderssa Ben Youssef showcases wonderful examples of Islamic art and architecture. A central courtyard is filled with greenery and fruit trees and you can explore the small rooms where devotees used to study. Your Marrakech travel guide can give you lots of details about the buildings past. There is also a nice mosque nearby.
Whilst not as famous as the tanneries in Fez, you can see people hard at work preparing the leather of animals like cows, camels, sheep, and goats, ready to be turned into common items such as bags, belts, wallets, and shoes. The smell can be a little overwhelming, but it’s very interesting to see how the leather is treated and coloured with natural dyes. Going with a guide lets you enjoy the area with relatively little hassle.
Filled with plentiful flowers and plants, the Majorelle Gardens are a popular and peaceful destination in Marrakech. Fish swim in a central pond and there is plenty of shade provided by the overhanging palms. There is a monument dedicated to Yves St Laurent, who was a huge fan of Marrakech, and there is also a small onsite museum dedicated to Berber culture. Offering a pleasant change of pace to the hectic activities of downtown Marrakech, the botanical gardens are well worth a visit.
El Badi Palace
A once grand palace that no stands largely in ruins, you can still appreciate how splendid the complex would have been in its heyday. Wander through the large courtyards, head up to the viewing deck, see the storks nesting on the walls, and step into Marrakech’s marvellous past.
The ancient Saadian Tombs were rediscovered in the early 1900s, and they contain the remains of many latter members of the Saadi Dynasty. Ornate and decorative, the details are really quite amazing. Popular with tourists, let your Marrakech tour guide lead the way and bring the past to life.
Other places of interest in Marrakech include the Agdal Gardens, the Menara Gardens, Bahia Palace, the Marrakech Museum, the Douiria Museum, Gallerie 127, the Railway Station, Bab Es Salam Market, the Photography Museum, and the Ensemble Artisanal.
And there are many more unique experiences to be had. Compare and contrast the old narrow alleyways of the Medina with the wide leafy street of the new town of Gueliz, ride a horse-drawn carriage (known as a calache) for some easy and relaxed sightseeing, have a day of fun at one of the waterparks (such as Aqua Fun Club, Oasiria Water Park, and Eden Aquapark), drink mint tea, relax in a hammam (traditional steam bath), and revel in the flavours of tagine and couscous…. Marrakech is just waiting to be discovered!
Image details and licenses: https://flic.kr/p/dMHkds (jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/dxFuwn (Kathrin Mezger, CC BY-SA 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/h1Zgkc (Sarah Karlson, CC BY-NC 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/neom1r (Oliver Townend, CC BY-ND 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/8hvVTk (Mike Prince, CC BY 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/rVRz34 (My Wave Pictures, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/b7sRsR (Didier Baertschiger, CC BY-SA 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/8N5AsW (UncleBucko, CC BY-NC 2.0),