One of Morocco’s historic imperial cities, Marrakesh is often said to be one of the country’s most captivating destinations. Nicknamed the Red City because of the high, reddish-brown walls that enclose the old medina, Marrakesh offers an exciting blend of history, culture, tradition, everyday life, and a unique energy that needs to be experienced to be understood. Add Marrakesh to your bucket list and see why so many people cannot help but be enchanted by the Red City.
In addition to luxurious hotels and resorts, Marrakesh has a wealth of traditional riads and dars for guests to stay in. Found in the historic medina, visitors can sleep in the same buildings that many generations of Moroccans have done so before, with most traditional accommodations having been converted from private homes.
A traditional Moroccan home without the inner courtyard is called a dar. Dars can be as charming as riads, with bright light flooding in from above and offering a real sense of how families traditionally live.
A hammam is a traditional Moroccan steam bath. It is a place where locals go to bathe, socialize, and cleanse. While there are many luxury hammams now open to the public, largely catering to tourists, it is still possible for visitors to experience an authentic public hammam in Marrakech. Do note that there are either separate areas or different opening hours for men and women.
Marrakesh has numerous restaurants and cafés where you can sit and enjoy a delicious taste of Morocco. In addition to well-known Moroccan dishes, such as tajine and couscous, look out for places that serve tanjia. Tanjia is a Marrakshi specialty that takes its name from the type of earthen pot it is cooked in.
The medina is at the heart of old Marrakech. The high, sandy-colored walls protected inhabitants from invasions in times gone by. Pass through one of the towering gates and you’ll find yourself in a chaotic world of mayhem – where people, bicycles, scooters, cars, donkeys, carts, and street stalls all compete for space. Narrow alleyways lead to even smaller walkways, with ornate doors and interesting door knockers adding visual charm to otherwise nondescript buildings. Tradesmen get on with their daily tasks in open-fronted workshops, groups of male teenagers huddle together as younger kids play, and women gossip loudly as they walk through the streets. The medina is the place to go if you want to fully immerse yourself in the local Marrakesh life.
The souks of Marrakesh are famous around the world, attracting many visitors who are keen to practice their haggling skills, pick up some bargains, and browse the many colorful delights. Large tubs of aromatic spices, vibrant glass lamps, tall shisha pipes, leather balgha (traditional slipper-like shoes), and wooden musical instruments sit alongside djellabas (long, traditional garments), kaftans, sewing supplies, stuffed camels, silver bangles, cooking equipment, rugs, and an assortment of housing supplies, handicrafts, and souvenirs.
Djemaa el-Fna is a major highlight for both tourists and locals seeking entertainment and fun. During the daytime, ladies offer henna tattoos, men demonstrate snake charming and try to get people to pose for pictures with mischievous monkeys, and an array of stalls sell an even larger assortment of goods. In need of some refreshment? Try the freshly squeezed orange juice. As night falls, the square becomes even livelier, with musicians, magicians, people wearing traditional outfits, dancers, and story-tellers all adding to the carnival-like ambience.
As a former capital city, Marrakesh isn’t short of impressive sites with a long history. The magnificent Saadian Tombs showcase splendid artistic and architectural details from times gone by, while the El Badi Palace stands in a forlorn yet evocative state of ruin. Peek inside the Ben Youssef Madrassa for some religious history, admire the soaring minaret of Koutoubia Mosque, and be dazzled by the details inside Bahia Palace.
Marrakesh has plenty of street art to stumble upon, with detailed graffiti contrasting the sleekness of commissioned pieces. A large painting of a Berber man on a wall opposite the train station is well worth a visit.
Artistic details can be found almost everywhere in Marrakesh, from the colorful tiling on the walls of riads, to the artful presentation of food and attractive Quranic calligraphy pendants that hang from the rear-view mirrors in most vehicles.
If the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh becomes too much, several peaceful parks and gardens offer the perfect respite. Stroll through the olive trees in the Menara Gardens and peer into the waters of the large reflecting pool, see a lush assortment of plants and flowers from around the world at the acclaimed Jardin Majorelle, and watch the fountains as you connect to the free Wi-Fi in Cyber Park. The UNESCO-listed Agdal Gardens have a royal heritage and make up one of the oldest parks in Marrakesh. The gardens are, however, only open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays.
Marrakesh has seven shrines in honor of prominent religious men from the Sufi branch of Islam. Followers of Sufism visit these large shrines to pray and seek blessings, with visitors coming from international destinations as well as places within Morocco. Scattered around the city, the shrines are not accessible to non-Muslim visitors. There are seven large stone towers just outside the medina walls, close to the Bab Doukkala Gate and central bus station, which represent the seven Sufi graves.