Superb ways to explore Marrakesh Morocco without wasting time
The name Marrakech means “Land of God.” It is the third largest city in Morocco, after Casablanca and Rabat, and lies near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. It is a few hours from the foot of the Sahara Desert.
The metropolis of Marrakesh is full of character and is not mere a telltale sign and imbibes the entire Morocco in the most appropriate way possible dating to the Berber empire. Marrakesh has been a trading town since the 11th century and it is country. Autumn (September to November) is ideal for non-sweaty souq exploring and sightseeing. Remember your umbrella in November, Marrakesh’s wettest month.
Marrakesh is called the Red City. Like all Moroccan cities, it’s a town of two halves: the ancient walled Medina with its ancient palaces and mansions with original woodcarving or stuccowork and the colonial Ville Nouvelle or Guéliz with Rue de la Liberte and Rue Vieux Marrakshis as hotspots with pavement cafés, trendy boutiques, upmarket shops, palace-restaurants, difas or banquets, bistros, garden suburbs and boulevards. The kasbah or old inner citadel offsets with unrivalled luxury and grandeur with ramparts, vaults, crystal pavilion, cubits, fountains.
Marrakesh has become Morocco’s capital of chic of modern times, attracting the rich and famous from Europe and beyond with its unmistakable landmarks and array of spectacular displays and is chock-a-block throughout the year.
The souk of medina is a little paradise with soaring minarets and has got a distinct stucco vibe and that which cannot be replicated anywhere. The main market streets are Souq Semmarine and Souq el-Kebir. The quintessential Moroccan souks are helter skelter and yet only enhance your shopping experience with a beeline souqs, bazaars and souikas on the design district of Sidi Ghamen upscale Gueliz for contemporary crafts. The upscale boutiques of Gueliz in ville nouvellee with cross-cultural vibe have classic finds from all across sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite its size and the maze of its souks, Marrakesh is not too hard to navigate. The broad, open space of the Jemaa el Fna is at the heart of the Medina, with the main souks to its north and the easiest approach en route the main with souks most of the main sights and Derbs or streets surrounding the Djemaa El-Fna within easy walking distance: Souk Ableuh, Rue Souk Smarine which splits into two lanes – Souk el Attarin and Souk el Kebir.
Cannabis, Hashish and opium grow through the ancient medina in Marrakesh and is an authentic highlight to the place. One of the most characteristic types of building in the Medina is the fondouk or caravanserai. Moroccan souqs come with the kind of trappings that conjure up for a real treat with the zing of its expats and in-the-know tourists and back home to look out for. Directly south of the Djemaa El-Fna is Rue Bab Agnaou. A five-minute walk takes you straight to the famous Bab Agnaou entrance to the Kasbah district of the Medina, Place d la Kissaria and El Glaoui the Pasha of Marrakesh.
Souk markets have a boudoir vibe and are considered to be the oldest and open-air markets, boutique galleries and design districts in the world with Khmissa boutiques and makeshift shops and bhou or booths replete with wedding dress, bags, wallets and coats in butter-soft leather and suede, Moroccan leather and suede designer-style loafers, embroidered tablemats, throws, cushions, tassel-fringed towels and linen robes, contemporary kaftans and embellished jackets, faux-gem encrusted clutch bags, homeware, hand-embroidered table linens, kaftans, Berber Silver jewelry, oil lamps, pottery, honey, argan cooking and cosmetic oil, rose oil and rose water, tea pots, tagines, suede satchels, Tuareg cutlery, fragrant thuya wood items, painted wood frames, artefacts, embroidered leather, Moroccan carpets, platters, bowls, cashmere shawls, tagines, camel leather poufs,
Djellabah or long coat with hood for men, Shisha, metalware, chandeliers, scented candles, over-sized Amira candles, essential oils such as cedar, fig, rose and jasmine, flat-weaved and delicate filigree hand-knotted rugs, Moroccan ceramics, tableware, upcycled vintage and printed fabric and oilcloth, candlesticks, hand-crafted candle-holding lanterns, textiles, Beni Ouarains carpets, handiras carpets, woollen wedding blankets from the Atlas Mountains sequins, woven kilims, cactus silk and rayon scarves, handbags, earthenware, tablecloths, bedspreads, tea glasses, couscous sacks, cushions, decor and what not and it is all about getting in the game of haggling and rip-offs. Babouche shoe Souk, El-Attarine perfume and spice souk and Cherratine leather souk are some of the must visit Souk Markets. Place des Epices Spice Market is definitely worth shopping at for the most exotic spices in the world. Ras el hanout is a classic mix of aromatic spices used for stews, grilling and added to tagines.
The eclectic street potraits and graffiti murals of Moroccan icons and fashionistas, Warhol-esque objects and Arabic language street signs will grip you. Book your slot with medina’s southern Kasbah district for the books, bric-a-brac furnishings, knick knacks and souvenirs. Derb Debachi neighbourhood has the best Moroccan boutique lodgings and inns or riads with a vintage vibe with roof decks, patios, rooftop pools
and terraces, spa, hammam, courtyard pools, courtyard lounges with turntables, hand-hewn stool, terrace parasols, mirrors, bedspreads and retro and chic antiquities as you bed down for a night in a riad. The Medina is packed with Riads and Dars which were originally grand houses converted into themed boutique hotels and inns. Most windows are inward facing towards the central atrium in this boutique hotel–style accommodation with a garden setting.
Souk Cherifa is home to a number of wardrobe-sized outlets, including Lalla, Laetitia Trouillet’s line of stylish bags, Sissi Morocco, handmade purses and pillows. Hand-painted glassware is sold on Rue De La Liberté.
Marrakesh’s medina scene is embryonic and archetypal in every way. Rooftop cafes in Marrakesh are like a big thing. The ensemble artisanal artistry and craftsmanship of craftspeople form contemporary art and design scene of the Ville Nouvelle.
Marrakesh is called the “Jewel of the South”. The labyrinth like passages, backstreets and bazaars of the old medina and the tapestry of fenn which means art will transport you to another worldly charm. The modern boulevards of Gueliz district are artistic to the core. The creative spaces have been filled with the works of arty acronyms of Moroccan and International artists. The culinary traditions in itself shout artistry to its finest with different.
The artisanal creations blend with them Moroccan Modern Art and classic Moroccan Art. The centuries old heritage structures are been converted into converted into lavish boutique hotels. The creative art spaces in the Gueliz neighbourhood along Rue de Yougoslavie such as Compagnie Marocaine des Oeuvres et Objets d’ Art and Musee d’ Art et de Culture de Marrakech balance out Moroccan Art and European Orientalism perfectly.
An Arabian night experience in Morocco is a bourgeois and an aggravated experience. Morocco’s signature Casablanca beer, Moroccan Terres Sauvages red wine and vin gris in rose flavour, barley and alfalfa aperitifs and wine pairings are definitely not something that should be missed out. Moroccan vintage wines are to die for.
The scenic road trip to the Tizi-n’Test stands out and these winding mountains can give you dizzy spells with the array of zigzags. Imlil is a restored fortress and has become one of Marrakesh’s best hotels. Toubkal National Park houses the highest mountain of Morocco Djebel Toubkal and has the Aremd circuit on its route. The desert camel experience and hot air balloon tour on the Atlas Mountains are extremely popular with the travellers. The Berber villages, Ourika Valley waterfalls, Berber delicacies, Takerkoust Lake and Kik Plateau bring out the aboriginal vibe of Marrakesh.
The labyrinthine souks are a cluster of markets in the alleyways of the Djemma El Fna. The theatrics of the square are on a different level as it is the main thoroughfare. Jemaa el Fna square is at the entry to the medina and the Koutoubia mosque has an exquisite old world charm and are absolutely iconic places. Unesco declared the Djemaa el-Fna a ‘Masterpiece of World Heritage’ because of Djemaa’s nightly carnival.
Gnaoua Amazigh music troupes, classical Andalucian artists, traditional hikayat storytelling performances, fairground acts, halqa or street theatre and henna body art and tattoo artists, Berber artefacts, wall murals, horse-drawn-carriage traffic draw attention around the perimeter of the plaza amidst the mayhem of the Djemaa food kiosks with powder-pink pisé ramparts where the medina is reminiscent of medieval-era as the hustle and bustle engulfs you with exotic and hypnotic background noise. The main square in the Medina is Djemaa El-Fna. It is surrounded by endless labyrinths of souks (bazaars) and alleyways covering all of the Medina.
Majorelle gardens are tropical gardens. Jardin Majorelle is an electric-blue villa and Majorelle’s art deco studio showcase the rich panorama of Morocco’s indigenous inhabitants one of the country’s most beautifully curated museums with the collection of wood, leather, metalwork, textiles, musical instruments, religious trappings and a display of regional traditional dress. It has a collection of chiseled, filigreed and enameled jewelry. Coffee-table books and pricey souvenirs which include Majorelle blue slippers, perfumes with YSL trappings are just worth it.
The Art Deco pavilion at the heart of the garden is painted in a striking cobalt blue and the pergolas and concrete paths in pinks, lemon yellows and apple greens with the greens like bamboo, dwarf palm and agave, the cactus garden, bougainvillea, nasturtiums, geraniums and lily-covered pools.
Bahia Palace has intricate marquetry and zouak or painted wood ceilings with carvings, grand courtyard with white Carrara marble floor, Room of Honour, cedar ceiling, harem with original woven-silk panels, stained glass windows and rose-bouquet painted ceilings. The Bahia Palace is one of its kinds with zellige tiles and ornate peacock structures.
Saadian Tombs in Carrara marble, keyhole arches, ribbed vaulting, interlaced arabesques and domed cupolas on crenellated bases, cedar windows, mashrabiyya window lattice screens and gilding honeycomb muqarnas in pure gold is a landmark of the Marrakesh’s mausoleums. The Saadian Tombs are enriched by an opulent bounty of marble
Musée de Marrakech is a curated museum exhibits a collection of Moroccan art forms with salons. The courtyard, cedar archways, stained-glass windows, painted door panels, zellij tilework lashings, Fez ceramics ornamental frippery show.
Koutoubia Mosque of Marrakshi legends is built by Almoravid architects with scalloped keystone arches, spikey merlons and crenellations and minarets in blush tones.
Bab Debbagh Tanneries on either side of Rue de Bab Debbagh have leatherware shops.
Le Jardin Secret is museum in Mouassine & Bab Doukkala with revived traditional medina garden sprayed with khettara underground sprinklers and palatial grounds. The trail around La Jardin Secret recreated from the ruins of 19th century palace comes straight out of heaven with its concepts inspired by Koranic verse is a treasure trove.
Fondouq el-Amir is well-preserved fondouq filled with small artisan shops.
Rahba Kedima square has apothecaries who sell exotic and mysterious spell supplies to locals, Berber hats, woven baskets and spices.
Souq des Teinturiers in Mouassine & Bab Doukkala is the right place for coloured wool draperies.
Menara Gardens in Ville Nouvelle with olive groves, pavilion and reflecting pool against the Atlas Mountain backdrop is a great haven for relaxation. Menara Gardens in the heart of Marrakesh is a local-favorite spot. Adgal Orchards is a fruit bursting affair with orchards of oranges, figs, pomegranates and olives on 400 hectares since 12th century.
Palmeraie is replete with hotels and over-the-top holiday homes and is a hub for celebrities with resorts offering quad-biking and dromedary rides. The date palm Palmarie Palmerie groves on the outskirts of Morocco are an escape from the Moroccan heat especially on a horse carriage, mule caravan and donkey- cart tour and truly define Marrakesh’s palmery.
Fondouq Kharbouch with balconies clinging to threads of wooden ceilings and ivory pillars is a well preserved fondouq.
Almoravid Koubba also known as the Koubba Ba’adiyn is the part of Marrakesh’s architectural legacy and the oldest monument from 12th century in Almoravid motifs.
The desert Cascades d’Ouzoud is one of the quintessential experiences with dirt tracks or pistes and to really not miss when you are in Marrakech in places like Erg Chebbi , Erg Chegaga Ouarzazate, Tinerhir, and Boumalne du Dades, Merzouga and Jbilets Geological Sites.
These towns in the High Atlas can be seen as part of a day trip with overnight stops: Amizmiz, Asni, Oukaimeden, Ourika Valley and Setti Fatma.
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