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Ultimate Guide to Marrakech


Why should you travel to Marrakech?

The “Red City” of Marrakesh is a magical place, brimming with markets, gardens, palaces, and mosques. Marrakech has approximately one million inhabitants, it was one of the four royal cities with Fes, Meknes, and Rabat. Morocco is amazing, from snow at Atlas, across the desert to the south to the Atlantic Ocean in Casablanca, I can freely say that Morocco really has everything.


I Love Morocco and love Marrakech! This is truly the country too busy to hate. Warm people and great hospitality, whether in the old medina or up in the Atlas mountains. You will have a better experience if you take the time to learn a little about their customs and a few basic everyday Arabic phrases. Almost everybody speaks English or Franch, but nothing breaks down barriers like showing a little respect for the local culture.

Let's get started! If this is your first trip to Marrakech, you might find this list helpful.



01 | TRANSPORTATION

 
Airport

 
Marrakech Menara Airport is located 6km southwest of town. Due to the growing number of international and charter flights serving Marrakesh, the airport is expanding and a second terminal is currently being built.

In the arrivals hall, you'll find currency exchange, ATMs, an information desk and phone providers where you can equip yourself with a Moroccan SIM card. The currency exchange office stays open until the last flight for the night has arrived.

A petit taxi to central Marrakesh from the airport (6km) should be no more than Dh70, but you will most likely have extreme difficulty convincing the driver of this. Late at night, with no other options available, drivers will typically quote between Dh200 and Dh300.
Getting Around Marrakech

Marrakesh was made for walking. The medina's skinny maze of souqs and alleys can only be explored on foot and central Guéliz is only a 20- to 25-minute stroll from Djemaa El Fna.

It’s pretty easy to get around the city of Marrakech by foot and by taxi. We mostly walked, but I recommend having a map or using a phone with data to use Google maps as some of the directions can be tricky, especially in Medina. You can also download offline maps in advance if you know where you will be headed.

Taxi

Metered rates for the city's beige petit taxis around town are between Dh8 and Dh20 with a Dh10 surcharge at night. Many drivers will insist their meter is 'broken' and will quote higher prices, particularly taxis waiting at stands that get a lot of tourist business (the airport, train station, Djemaa El Fna and Jardin Majorelle are notorious for this). You can usually get a metered rate – or at least, a better-quoted price – by flagging a taxi down from the street.

If your party numbers more than three, you must take a grand taxi, which requires negotiation.


    Top Things To Do In Marrakech

 

02 |Jardin Majorelle

You haven't visited Marrakech if you don't visit these gardens.



Marjorelle Gardens was one of the attractions I wanted to visit in Marrakech and I certainly wasn't disappointed. There was a cooling and calming atmosphere to the place as we walked along the pathways through the various garden rooms. I was quite taken by the colours which dominated - yellow, blue and orange, and the plants blended so well with these.



The Majorelle Garden is a two and half acre botanical garden and artist's landscape garden in Marrakech, Morocco.

It was created by French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle over almost forty years, starting in 1923 and features a Cubist villa designed by French architect, Paul Sinoir in the 1930s.

The property was the residence of the artist and his wife from 1923 until their divorce in the 1950s. In the 1980s, the property was purchased by fashion designers, Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé who worked to restore it. Today the garden and villa complex is open to the public.





03 |Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech


If you appreciate fashion or design you will more than likely enjoy this small museum next to the Majorelle gardens. YSL was a true icon of his time and this was a nice way to spend an hour learning more about him and his work.

The Museum of YSL is one of the absolute MUST SEES of Marrakesh. In the exhibition of Haute couture (some pieces are also from the ready to wear collection), you can go on a journey from the beginning of his work up to the late 90th.




04 |Ben Youssef Madrasa
Good place for photographs


Ben Youssef Madrasa's a beautifully maintained place giving an indication of the glorious past. The sense of space with the luxurious mosaic, mixed nicely with the grand cedar wood doors and garden. There are many nice photo opportunities with the right light and beautiful background.

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was named after the Almoravid Sultan Ali Ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106-1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Madrasa in all of Morocco. It was closed down in 1960, the building was refurbished and reopened to the public as a historical site in 1982. Today the Madrasa is still beautiful and stunning to look at. The bronze doorway at the entrance is adorned with beautiful cedar wood and mosaic carvings, and through a passage, you can reach the interior with its large, marble patio with a water basin, artistically decorated in its centre.

The entire inner courtyard is lined with beautiful and breathtaking mosaics, and its walls and columns are adorned with exceptional sculpture and stuccoes. Visiting this Madrasa was a very peaceful, calm and relaxing experience, and we highly recommend a visit here.







05 |Bahia Palace
Gorgeous hidden palace





A must if you visit Marrakech, the beautiful palette of colours is both, breathtaking and pleasing. We spent more than two hours taking pictures and enjoying the amazing architecture of the place.

Bahia Palace is a palace and a set of gardens located in Marrakesh, Morocco. It was built in the late 19th century, intended to be the greatest palace of its time. The name means "brilliance". As in other buildings of the period in other countries, it was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style.







06 |Medina of Marrakesh
Wonderfully crazy place


This was a great experience and one not to miss. You must experience the Medina, maybe with a guide initially and then alone to experience getting lost and finding all sorts as you seek your way out!

Only warning here - beware of those willing to guide you to places, best case scenario you will walk around and they will demand payment.









07 |Jemaa el-Fnaa
It's crazy. It's mad. It's busy. It's brilliant.

Jemaa el-Fna is the main square in Marrakech. For only a few dirhams, you can buy a fresh glass of orange juice.

Need a full day and an evening to see all that is at an offer. Need to be a good walker as most of it is toured on foot. There are plenty of authentic food stalls, snake charmers, tea stalls and folk singers/dancers.

However please please please avoid the snake charmers and monkeys. If you pay to have your picture taken with these animals then you are supporting the cruel treatment of them. The poor monkeys have chains around their necks, are dragged around like toys and kept in cramped dirty cages - not acceptable. The snakes also look drugged up and have had their fangs removed.






08 |Marrakech Souk
A good place to buy souvenirs and presents to take home


This place is amazing. It is full of different shops selling metalwork lanterns, jewellery, leatherwork items like slippers, pouffes, bags, wooden items painted and inlaid with exquisite marquetry, herbs, spices, oils, foods, woven baskets, textiles etc. There is so much colour and the standard of the handicrafts is really high.

You are expected to barter, which is nice, though there is no hard sell really. The locals are used to tourists, and I found them to be very friendly and welcoming. The oils I bought were of a really high quality and the spices were great too.

Many bargains can be found in the leather stalls, and if you like woven traditional pots or rugs you would be spoilt for choice. I bought a scarf made of cactus silk cheaply and also some wonderful herbal tea mixes.

You don't have to spend any money it is just lovely to stroll around and take in the sights sounds and smells.

Lone females may well get more attention than couples... and I recommend sticking to a sensible dress code of being fairly well covered up. If you like photography there are subjects to shoot everywhere.

Locals advised me to not display expensive items like phones, cameras, and jewellery carelessly, but I felt safe and just kept valuables in my backpack.





09 |Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret
Historic and beautiful


The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest building in Marrakech. The original mosque was torn down because it did not face Mecca. The ruins of the old mosque remain and the new mosque faces Mecca. Prayers are broadcast from the speakers all over Marrakech five times a day. One cannot go inside, but it is quite impressive from the outside and is a must-see while in Marrakech.

Non-Muslims can not enter the working mosque but just standing outside and appreciating the beautiful architecture of the building and reading the plaques of the history of the mosque more than makes up for not being able to enter.

The gardens surrounding the mosque were beautiful and we enjoyed sitting on a bench watching the world go by.

If you only visit one place whilst in Marrakech make this the one place you go.

There are lots of stuff around the mosque that you need to see, great place for photography as well. You can sit in the park around the mosque and rest if you need, the view is amazing.








10 | Saadian Tombs

The Saadian Tombs are within 15 minutes walk from the Jemma el Fna – market square. They are located just behind Moulay El Yazid Mosque. The entrance fee was very cheap at 10 Dirhams per person.

It is very peaceful and beautiful structures. The Saadian Tombs give an insight into the life of 1600's. The mosaics of the graves draw attention to the layout of the site. Very ornate ceilings and archways. The Saadian tombs are sepulchres in Marrakech, Morocco, which date to the time of the Saadian dynasty sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603).

They are located on the south side of the Kasbah Mosque. The tombs were discovered in 1917 and were renovated by the Beaux-arts service. The tombs have, because of the beauty of their decoration, been a major attraction for visitors of Marrakech.

The mausoleum comprises the interments of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River. Among the graves are those of Ahmad al-Mansur and his family. The building is composed of three rooms. The most famous is the room with the twelve columns. This room contains the grave of the son of the sultan's son, Ahmad al-Mansur. The stele is in finely worked cedar wood and stucco work. The monuments are made of Italian Carrara marble.


 

11 | Coffee on the rooftop

If you get the chance to go onto any of the roof terraces, it is interesting to see the city from a height, where the mosques dominate the skyline, and the Atlas mountains can be seen in the distance. 











12 |Private tours 


Camel trek in the Moroccan desert


Like most travellers coming to Morroco, we all want to see camels and ride them so there is no better place to do this that Merzouga or Zagora, but if you don't have 3 days to do that great alternative is Palmeraie in Morroco.

If you are planning private tours I can recommend my friend Alal and his amazing agency Sahara Dream Desert.
Click here to check Sahara Dream Desert

P.S. Tell him that I send you and get discount (haha, just kidding, but you can try)



The road of one thousand kasbahs
Ait Ben Haddou


Along the southern border of the high Atlas in the heart of Morroco is the impressive village of Ait Ben Haddou.

Ait-Ben-Haddou is a fortified city (Ksar) in Ouarzazate province of Morocco. Listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site as "striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco" and "an extraordinary ensemble of buildings offering a complete panorama of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques."

Many movies have been shot on site, like 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'Gladiator', 'The Mummy', 'The Last Temptation of Christ', 'Kundun', 'Alexander', 'Kingdom of Heaven', 'Babel', 'Game of Thrones', etc








Ouzoud Falls

This was going to be our last stop of the trip, but we ended up not making it in time. If you’re waterfall-obsessed like me though or need a break from Marrakech, Ouzoud Falls would make for a good day-trip. It’s about a 2 hr drive from Marrakech and is home to a few groups of small monkeys (if the waterfall wasn’t motivation enough).




Where To Stay?

We stayed in Gueliz and found it very comfortable and more relaxing than staying in the medina.

If you are tired of the medina vibe and need a bit of western, head here. Not only do you have a mall, Mc Donald's or Zara, you can walk along Mohamed Av. or admire the beautiful buildings and gardens.

Medina is the heart of the old city and where most of the traditional Riad is found. Riads are beautiful and staying in one is an amazing to experience but Don’t walk alone at night if you’re a woman. I mean, this is my personal experience If you still want to walk in the medina at night) be careful.

What to Eat? Food In Marrakech

Everything! Simple as that. Morrocan food is delicious

Moroccan cuisine is typically a mix of Arabic, Andalusian, Berber and Mediterranean cuisines with a slight European and Subsaharan influence.

Morocco produces a large range of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables and even some tropical ones. Common meats include beef, goat, mutton and lamb, chicken and seafood, which serve as a base for the cuisine.

The main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is couscous, the old national delicacy. Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco, usually eaten in a tagine with a wide selection of vegetables. Chicken is also very commonly used in tagines or roasted.





Drinks

The most popular drink is green tea with mint. Traditionally, making good mint tea in Morocco is considered an art form and the drinking of it with friends and family is often a daily tradition. The pouring technique is as crucial as the quality of the tea itself.

Moroccan teapots have long, curved pouring spouts and this allows the tea to be poured evenly into tiny glasses from a height. For the best taste, glasses are filled in two stages. The Moroccans traditionally like tea with bubbles, so while pouring they hold the teapot high above the glasses. Finally, the tea is accompanied with hard sugar cones or lumps. Morocco has an abundance of oranges and tangerines, so fresh orange juice is easily found freshly squeezed and is cheap.






TIPS

  • The only other thing I would say is - ladies - PLEASE remember to cover shoulders and don't show too much flesh. This is a mark of respect to their culture and religion and although it might seem unnecessary and odd.

  • Stay away from henna ladies, snakes and monkeys in the centre square,
  • Traffic Can Be Dangerous
  • Keep an Eye on your Pockets
  • Avoid the Old Medina at night, and never show large amounts of money or flashy jewellery or watches. Women should not walk around the city alone at night.
  • Always negotiate taxi prices up front

Are you thinking about going to Morocco?


I hope you found this travel guide helpful and I wish you an unforgettable trip to Marrakech.
Let me know in the comments below!





Happy travels!