Marrakech is one of the oldest cities in Morocco. It gave its name to the whole country, because "Morocco" is just a distorted Spanish pronunciation of the city's name, which is translated as "red". Both walls and houses in the city are painted ochre. Marrakech was founded in 1062 by Yusuf ibn Tashfin of the Almoravid dynasty and, in 1106 AD, became the capital of the vast kingdom.
Marrakech lies at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, a few hours' drive from the main resorts of Casablanca and Agadir. But it is very different from the coastal cities. It is quite hot in summer and not too warm in winter, and it has a dry climate. The city's population is about a million people. Transport interchanges in Marrakech are well developed. Only 6 km from the city is Menara airport. In addition, there are trains and buses from the nearby major cities.
The hotels in Marrakech are full of attractions, such as golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, and fitness centers. A few kilometers from Marrakech is a ski resort, open from December to April. Especially popular is the so-called "trekking" through the mountains by jeep or hike. To feel the best atmosphere of Marrakech, you can spend the night in a traditional inn called a "riad". These are small, two-story buildings built around a courtyard with a pool or pond.
Every morning, the city is awakened by the singing of the muezzin on the tower of the Koutoubia mosque. The heart of Marrakech's medina, or "kilometer zero", is Jemaa el-Fna Square. There are many souvenir shops. Another attraction, and also a symbol of the city, is the famous public park, the Gardens of Menara. The Palace of Bahia is considered a masterpiece of architecture.
The best attraction and heart of Marrakech is its ancient medina, an incredible maze of thousands of narrow streets and alleys, wall-to-wall houses, shops, madrassas, hammams, caravanserais, and palaces from oriental fairy tales. The axis around which this gigantic anthill revolves is the Square of Severed Heads, known as Jemaa el-Fna in Arabic. Here, indeed, heads were once cut off and slaves were traded and tied to poles. Today, there are carpets of all colors and sizes hung on them, and trays with mountains of apricots, almonds, dates, and colorful oranges. It is both a market and a giant stage, where, just as hundreds of years ago, people come to see snake charmers, fakirs, jugglers, fire swallowers, buy medicinal drugs from Berber healers, talk to wise interpreters of the Koran, and watch the dark-skinned dancers gnahoua in bright clothes, falling into trance under the beat of drums.
In the tangle of streets in Marrakech's Medina, the madrassah Ali-Ben-Yusef is the best masterpiece of Arabic architecture. Founded by Sultan Abul Hasan, it was the best school in the Maghreb for 400 years, where they studied the Koran and the laws of Islam. The medina is surrounded by a ring of thick mud walls up to 9 m high. The Bab el-Robb, a gate cut through them, leads to the tombs of the Saadi dynasty, with the magnificent Room of Twelve Columns. The Bab al-Robb Gate takes you to the mausoleum of Sidi Bel Abbes, a Muslim saint; the Bab Ahmat Gate leads to the Bahia Palace, the most magnificent in Marrakesh. It was built by the black vizier, Sidi Musa, for his beloved wife and the whole harem. The palace has more than 100 rooms and courtyards. Each of the wives had her riad, which they were strictly forbidden to leave. The concubines lived in more cramped quarters but with more freedom.
Jemaa el-Fnaa Square
Marrakech's soul is Jemaa el-Fna Square, whose main landmarks are the Cafe de France and the mosque building, where all city tours begin. The unforgettable atmosphere has become a magnet for millions of visitors from all over the world, visitors to Morocco. The name Jemaa el-Fna Square comes from "jema", meaning "cathedral mosque" and "fna", meaning "death" or "the place where death reigns". It is also called "Beheading Square" because of its grisly past. In the 10th century, bandits and criminals were executed (beheaded) here.
Today, Jemaa el-Fna Square is the city within the city and the busiest place in Marrakech. In the morning and the afternoon, it is almost indistinguishable from other Moroccan squares. In the vast expanse under the hot sun are the stalls of spice merchants. A few vans selling orange-fresh, vendors of greens and fruits, traditional watermen in colorful outfits taking pictures with all comers. But at sunset, real life begins behind the Qutubiya minaret. The noise, the hubbub, the rhythms of the bendirs (tambourines), and the clanking of the metal castanets, and in some places the crowds are so thick that it is impossible to pass.
In Medina, behind a huge wall, is the El Badi Palace, built in 1578-1603, the best example of Maghreb architecture, "a wonder of wonders", a model of architectural balance, praised by poets in the past. It was fabulously beautiful-it is not for nothing that its name translates as "incomparable". It was built for a member of the Saadi dynasty, the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, who was madly in love with the luxury, and so it was called "Golden". The palace became the symbol of the victory of the ruler Ahmad al Mansour over the Portuguese army in the battle known as the "Battle of the Three Kings".
The palace was decorated with gold, turquoise, crystal, rare Italian marble, Irish granite, Indian onyx, and precious woods. All this was imported to Marrakech by the Sultan with Portuguese money received after its defeat, from India, Italy, Central Africa, Spain, and France. The best masters of Andalusia and Catalonia worked day and night to create this eastern masterpiece. According to one version, the prototype of the El Badi palace is the Alhambra palace in Granada. Legend has it that the marble for the palace was bought for sugar, as a bargaining chip. Surprisingly, the palace had a central heating system, although it was in the 16th century. The builders were paid generously: once a year each was given gold by the builder's living weight.
Walking around the palace, you can see the windows of the dungeons, where the servants lived; see the remnants of the baths, and walk under the ancient palace arches. The observation deck of the tower offers views of the inner compound of El Badi and the old Medina houses around the palace. In the distance, you can see the main mosque of Al-Qutubiya. As a landmark, it helps visitors not get lost in any part of Marrakech.
Menara Gardens Park
The best symbol of the city of Marrakech, the Menara Gardens are a 100-hectare public park located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, a 45-minute walk from Djemaa el-Fna. Historians agree that this attraction was built in the middle of the 12th century during the reign of Abd al-Mumin, the founder of the Almohad dynasty. There is a swimming pool at the entrance of the park, and behind it is a house with a pyramid roof. There are a huge number of palm trees, fruit trees, and olive trees growing in the park. It is an ideal place to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city, both for Marrakech dwellers and visitors.
Jardin Majorelle Garden
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 to make the best garden. Even during his lifetime, the owner started to let tourists in.
It is the best to get to know Moroccan cuisine slowly. Meze dishes start with spicy eggplant, vegetable salads, green beans, hummus, and falafel. followed by "harira", a rich soup of lamb and chickpeas seasoned with turmeric. The favorite part of any meal is "tagine": lamb or chicken stewed over low heat with vegetables and the addition of olives, lemons, apricots, or prunes. On Fridays, Moroccans traditionally eat couscous with meat and vegetables. It takes several hours to cook and is not available at every restaurant.
Dinner at an expensive restaurant, such as the famous Dar Yacout, will be like receiving a guest of honor in a luxurious interior. Medium-priced establishments serving national dishes abound in Marrakech’s Medina. Most have open verandahs, some in traditional riads with beautifully shaded courtyards. The best place to eat out in the evening is Jemaa el-Fna Square, where dozens of mobile kitchens with roasting pots and steaming cauldrons appear at nighttime. You can taste the grilled lamb mechoui, kefta, lamb brains, puff pastries, bastila, and the local specialty goulal — boiled grape snails.
Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansour built this tomb primarily for himself. He was buried here in 1603. Within 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 destroy the cemetery but walled it off. Nobody knew anything about the tomb until 1917 when it was discovered by a French expedition.
Ben Youssef Madrasah
The Islamic school in Marrakech was built in the 14th century. 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 ablution. The path leads to the main prayer hall through it. The paths and floors are covered with marble or mosaic.
Markets are part of Morocco's national culture. Marrakech has been famous for them since ancient times. There are highly specialized ones, such as food markets, but most are universal. So Bab-Doukkala Street is filled with the smell of spices and shops with the products of local craftsmen. The biggest "borough" is Jemaa el-Fna Square. It is divided into several parts, where they sell carpets, babouches, and antiques.
It occupies the palace of Dar Menebhi. The collection is dedicated to the culture and history of the city, as well as all of Morocco and the surrounding regions. Ancient books, relics, religious objects, ceramics, and jewelry form the basis of the collection. The XII-century Koran and the Sufi prayer book are both one-of-a-kind exhibits. In recent years, the exposition has been supplemented with modern items by local masters. There are temporary exhibitions of artists, photographers, and sculptors.
This museum occupies an old building located between the palaces of Dar Said and Bahia. The exhibition was assembled by Bert Flint, an anthropologist from Holland. 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. All of it tells the story of the city, but also of all of North Africa.
Mosquée de la Koutoubia
Every morning, Marrakech is awakened by the singing of the muezzin on the tower of the Koutoubia mosque, the largest mosque in the city. It is translated from Arabic as "the mosque of the booksellers". The name comes either from the library at the mosque or from the booksellers who used to occupy the grounds here in the past. Construction of the Qutubiyah began under Sultan Abd al-Mumin of the Almohad dynasty, but violations of the religious canons were soon discovered, and the mosque was therefore demolished. The second attempt at construction took place at the end of the XIIth century. The minaret, with a spire of 77 meters in height, can be seen from 25 kilometers. Besides the spire, its top is decorated with 4 copper spheres and a 16-meter lantern with a dome. The internal staircase is wide enough for the muezzin to ride his steed up it. The Qutubia is near the central square at the exit of the medina. The mosque is surrounded by a magnificent garden in which it is possible to walk. The prayer hall is forbidden to tourists.
Oasiria Water Park
Oasiria Water Park is an extensive entertainment area for the whole family in Marrakech. The water park provides guests with restaurants to suit all tastes as well as fitness activities. All eight pools are available to visitors all year round. Some of them have attractions. For nature lovers, about 10 hectares of gardens are planted. Exotic plants can be found in them. There are special night show programs. On major holidays, there are theatrical performances.
Oukaimeden ski resort
A large part of Morocco is occupied by the Atlas Mountains, the tops of which are covered in snow all year round. The ski season is open from December to April. The pearl of the ski resorts in Morocco is Ukaimeden, located at an altitude of 2600 meters, 75 km south of Marrakech. There are 7 ski elevators within the base, and the resort area is constantly monitored. Uqaymeden has restaurants, bars, discotheques, a heated swimming pool, a fitness center, and a solarium.
It is located about 150 km from Marrakech 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 come to the waterhole at Uzud, where they have become accustomed to the dominance of foreign visitors.
The best time to visit Marrakech
It never gets cold in Marrakech. A light jacket is only necessary if you're going to wander around on winter nights, and you can forget about an umbrella. There are no more than two rainy days a month, and none in summer. From May on, the sun hits hard, forcing one to seek refreshment in the parks, gardens, and shady hotel courtyards with trickling fountains. The city comes alive during the day when the sun sets over the horizon. The heat and sweltering heat don't let up until late October.
The most comfortable time to visit Marrakech is from November to April.