Marrakech is a visitor's delight. If it's a weekend break, or a longer trip, you can be sure there will be no shortage of things to do in the red city. Being married to a local means I often play tour guide to overseas visitors and know the city better than most.
Here are my top 5 things to do when you're in town:
1: Visit the Marjorelle Gardens.
The gardens are a creation of fashion designer Yves St Laurent, and were built around this beautiful, cobalt blue home he created - it's a fine example of a Morocco property. Here you will see lots of exotic species, beautiful water features (and a small array of friendly visiting cats). From the lush palms, to the myriad varieties of cactus, the beautiful greenery in a calm, tranquil and shaded location, make for a cool and peaceful retreat from the heat and noise of the city. There is also an Yves St Laurent museum inside the grounds. Avoid the cafÃ©, as service is notoriously slow.
2: Eat dinner in the Djemma el Fnaa.
Marrakech's main draw is the crazy, lively square and the surrounding covered markets. This is real Morocco at it's finest. Each evening, a myriad of food sellers set up shop and offer up a smorgasbord of Morccan cuisine - everything from slow cooked, exotically spiced goat's head to regular kebabs. Around Ramadan, try the harira, a meaty red lentil soup, which is traditionally eaten to break the fast. Or try the Moroccan equivalent of a meat pie â€“ a pigeon or chicken pastilla â€“ ground meat mixed with nuts, wrapped in delicate filo-style pastry and dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon. Try to avoid the salad, but pretty much everything else is good to eat. When you're done, move to a rooftop cafÃ© for mint tea and pastries, and take in the view of the square and all the action. Afterwards, take a death-defying trip over the road to see the equisite Moroccan mosaic details that decorate the Koutoubia mosque. (Non-Muslims are not permitted inside).
3: Take time to haggle in the souks.
It's a nice idea to think that you'll remember your way out from the maze of covered markets that surround the Djemma el Fnaa, but most likely you won't. Just keep going and you'll find your way out â€“ eventually. Otherwise, pay a guide a few Dirhams to take you around. Wind your way through the spice bazaar (a great buy is the saffron), the ceramics and the clothing and haggle for whatever your heart desires. Just remember you'll have to bring it home, so unless you're willing to pay excess baggage, maybe that huge Moroccan lantern or Moroccan tile table isn't a wise investment. Also take some time to go off track to see the real Morocco villas (riads), down the twisty-turny little lanes (derbs).
4: Admire the architecture of the Bahia Palace and neighbouring Koranic School (Ali Ben Youssef Madrassa).
A multi-venue pass will get you into both. Take a wander around to appreciate the breathtaking carved plaster, Moroccan tile and highly decorated woodwork, and of course the handmade tiles, called zellige. Be aware that each guide tells a slightly different story behind the history, so you'll need to make up your own mind as to what's truth and what's fiction! In the Koranic school, be sure to go upstairs, where, in some of the rooms, past students have carved their names into the ceilings.
5: Enjoy images of the past in the photography museum.
The museum opened in 2009, and houses over 3500 images, dating back to 1870. Here you can see the traditional costumes and tattooed chins of the Berber tribes-women, see the Djemma el Fnaa when it was a trading centre of a bygone era (little has changed), and appreciate the vast mountain and desert expanse that surrounds the city. Upstairs is a delightful cafÃ© with a view on the comings and goings in the souk.
Finally, be sure to stay in a traditional Morccan luxury riad, rather than a hotel when in Marrakech, to be sure of the best 'real Morocco experience.' Enjoy!
Other articles on Morocco you may find interesting:
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- Can You Buy Alcohol In Morocco?
- Essaouira, Morocco
- Facts About Morocco
- Marrakech, Morocco
- Moroccan Cakes
- Moroccan Chicken Recipe
- Moroccan cuisine
- Moroccan Culture
- Moroccan Decor
- Moroccan Family
- Moroccan Mint Tea
- Moroccan Riads
- Moroccan Spices - Ras al Hanout
- Morocco Language - What Language Do Moroccans Speak?
- Weather In Morocco