Flying into Marrakesh is exciting. Seeing the changing landscapes of ocean, desert and then exotic urbanisation, its one of those destinations where you just know you’re ‘not in Kansas anymore’. The drive to our Riad (Hotel) was interesting and the driver took time to show us where New and Old Marrakesh meet and the various gates to the Medina that we passed. We spent 4 days exploring Marrakesh and it really exceeded our expectations. I thought it might be a bit tacky and overblown, but in fact it’s managed to strike the perfect mix of old-vs- new.
Things to do in Marrakesh :
Explore the Medina !
Possibly the best market shopping I have ever seen. The medina is heaving with goods ranging from fresh camels’ hooves to funky woven pom-pom baskets and everything in-between. There is very little cheap chinese crap and the stall holders are friendly and surprisingly non-pushy ( the carpet sellers tend to be the worst and live up to their global reputation). It’s easy to get lost though and I tended to stick to a handful of streets near our Riad, even though I have a good sense of direction and was armed with a phone and a map.
Beware of charming young boys offering to show you the way! They deliberately send you in the opposite direction and then of course you have to pay another young man, no doubt in cahoots, to help you find your way home. At no time did I feel unsafe or alarmed and felt largely that people are more interested in going about their own business than worrying about (yet another) blonde foreigner.
Filled with colorful walkways, ponds, cactus and plants as well as a beautiful shop with hand-made goods, the Majorelle Gardens are a lush, garden estate designed by Jacque Majorelle and maintained by Yves Saint Laurent. Jacque Majorelle left to Saint Laurent one of the more unique collections of flora and fauna of this era. Even though Morocco is no longer under the French protectorate, this originally French creation is one of the most beloved areas in Morocco. There are also some great shops and cafes in the surrounding streets.
Surrounding the Medina is the thriving area known as New Marrakesh that comprises many high-end new hotels, homes, shops and restaurants. We spent a night out at the amazing Comptoir Dara for dinner and a show and ended up having drinks with the Londoner’s on the next table back at the beautiful Sofitel, all lit up in Pink with a huge outdoor bar and shishas.
DJemma El Fenn Square
The famous town square seen in so many magazines and articles does not disappoint. Whilst quieter in Ramadan, the whole place goes crazy at the breaking of the fast with food vendors and various snake charmers, fortune tellers, monkeys & musicians transforming the city center into a medieval circus.
There is an endless lists of fascinating sites to visit. The Saadian tombs mausoleum comprises the corpses of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River. El Bahia Palace in Marrakech is a beautiful building and an excellent example of Eastern Architecture from the 19th century. The Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens is the largest mosque in Marrakech. The Old Spice Market and The Jewish Quarter are both worth a visit and, as corny as it might seem, a ride in one of the many horse and carriages can be a good way to get an overview of the whole medina.