Marrakech City Guide
Camel treks, snake charmers, and glittering souks are all part and parcel of life in Marrakech, which is an ancient city with charm and style to spare. Marrakech's Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its labyrinthine alleyways and heady perfume of incense will discombobulate and delight you at the same time. ¶ One of the star attractions listed in any Marrkech city guide is the Djemaa El-Fna. It has been the centre of public activity for over one thousand years, and is ground zero for live theatre, open air shopping, and the sizzle of street food stalls. While little has changed in areas like this over the centuries, Marrakech is also a modern destination. You can see evidence of this in the city's "vie nouvelle," or new town. This area is packed with art galleries, office buildings, and trendy fusion restaurants that show just how cosmopolitan Marrakech remains.
Things to do in Marrakech
A natural starting point to explore Marrakech are the streets surrounding the main square, where you can try your hand at haggling for everything from delicate birdcages to hand-woven carpets. Yet there's more things to do in Marrakech than shopping, and you can also admire the sophisticated architecture of monuments like the Palais de la Bahia. This palace features elegant decorations from floor to ceiling, with multi-coloured tiles and mosaics used to stunning effect. The Saadian Tombs are another prime location to marvel at Marrakech's architecture. Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi used imported Italian Carrara marble and honeycomb plasterwork to create a decadent work of art. For a breath of fresh air, venture out into the Jardin Majorelle with its floral displays and lush green spaces.
Things to see in Marrakech
Explore Moroccan culture at the luminous Musee de Marrakech, where you can bask in the sunny courtyard and view the latest exhibitions. The Dar Bellarj is another whimsical sight to see. This former stork hospital is now Marrakech's top arts centre, with exhibitions and performances taking place regularly. Although you can spend days at the souks in the Medina, an alternative experience is to visit the tanneries, where animal hides are turned into fine leather. Hundreds of concrete vats are used to process these skins, creating a pungent smell but an impressive sight. For more things to see in Marrakech, take a wander through the historic Jewish quarter, Mellah. You'll note the use of ornate wrought iron balconies and tall homes composed of mud bricks.
If you choose to fly into the city's international airport, door to door airport transfers are available. Alternatively, taxis can be hired from the airport. Many cruises stop in Casablanca, where you can take a train service to Marrakech. The train station is located in the Gueliz neighbourhood, and also provides rail service to Tangier, Rabat, and a wealth of other destinations. If your feet get tired from wandering the Medina, try taking a horse-drawn carriage, or caleches, for a unique form of Marrakech transport. Taxis are also a convenient method of travelling from the Medina to the New City.
Marrakech events are held throughout the year. In June, the city comes alive with the Festival of Popular Arts. This features dancing and singing folk groups from throughout the Kingdom, who come to perform for enthusiastic crowds. The Marrakech Marathon is one of the most prestigious in the world, with over 5000 participants each year. The Moroccan Classic Rally provides another type of racing spectacle, as the world's fastest vehicles take to the roads in style. Celebrities from around the world strut along the red carpet at the annual Marrakech International Film Festival, which features both Moroccan and world cinema.
Restaurants in Marrakech
Moroccan cuisine is legendary for its innovative use of spices and slow cooked stews. Don't miss rich tagines, using fresh vegetables and meat slow-cooked for hours in colourful clay pots. These are flavoured with cinnamon and served with fluffy couscous. ¶ You can find excellent food simply by walking through the open air stalls of the central Djemaa El-Fna, where vendors will aggressively hawk their tagines, grilled aubergines, and ginseng tea. If you're interested in a sit down gourmet dining experience, there's no shortage of restaurants in Marrakech's new town, with Mediterranean, Japanese, and traditional African restaurants side by side.