On the northern most tip of Africa and just below the Atlas Mountains lies Marrakech, a beautiful, vibrant city, full of history and culture. This former imperial city is a mix of ancient and contemporary cultures, languages and customs. The bewitching, magical city has a lot to offer from friendly locals - mouth-watering local cuisines, breathtaking palaces, mosques and the famous souk markets. Whether you want a tranquil and relaxing visit or the sensory jolt that is the Medina; Marrakech's people, music and energy will certainly stay with you long after you have left.
If you want a delicious breakfast in Marrakech you should try out the food stalls. This is where the locals eat so youâre sure to find some really tasty Morrocan food; from delicious Harira soup, which is made with fresh vegetables and beef stew, to lamb's head - no doubt something for the more adventurous eaters. Wandering around the stalls youâll be met by all sorts of mouth-watering smells wafting from the different dishes being prepared.
After breakfast, your first stop should be the Majorelle Gardens. The gardens have a lot of history, including being previously owned by renowned French fashion designer Yves St Laurent who restored the gardens to its former glory. It's also home to the Islamic Art Museum, displaying the magnificent Islamic art collection of Pierre Berge. Not only do the beautiful gardens offer some tranquillity as well as being home to 41 bird species, but they also offer a chance for you to experience more of the history of Marrakech with jewellery, ceramics and painting exhibits.
Koutoubia Mosque is Marrakech's largest mosque standing at 67 metres. Koutoubia Mosque was originally used as a library and its name translates to 'bookseller' in Arabic. For lovers of history and all things ancient, this mosque is a great place to visit, and even if you're not big on history, the sheer size will certainly spark your interest. Although non-muslims are not permitted inside the mosque, it's still nice to walk around the outside and see the surroundings of this important landmark. A guided tour of the mosque is a great way to get some extra information about the rich history of this magnificent place. A holiday with Naturally Morocco will ensure that you get a great experience in Marrakech with knowledgeable guides whose insight into all aspects of Moroccan life will enrich your visit to this magnificent place.
When you think of camel rides images of sultans from The Arabian Nights riding through the desert wasteland, braving the harsh winds and sand beating on their covered faces might fill your head. Camels have long been used as a means of transport across Morocco, especially in the desert areas, so having the opportunity to ride a camel will take you on a timeless adventure. The countryside of Marrakech will intrigue you in a different way with its traditional and old-worldly charm.
Having ventured through the market and tasted some of the local street food served, it's now time to head to one of Marrakech's restaurants to continue your love affair with Moroccan cuisine. Not only will you get to enjoy a good meal that truly brings Marrakech alive, but you'll also be treated to some entertainment in the form of belly dancers, with daring routines including dancing with lit candles on their heads - the ease with which they do this makes it even more magical. Le Tanjia is not only a charming restaurant that allows you to get a delicious lunch away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but a continuation of Marrakech's spirit with its friendly service and warm atmosphere.
The Saadian Tombs are situated in the Medina of Marrakech and have been sealed for many centuries, which explains why it's a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Marrakech. Superstition is said to have kept the tombs from being destroyed by Moulay Ismail after he became ruler of Marrakech in 1672. Instead of destroying them, he ordered the tombs to be sealed and they remained hidden until 1917. The two main mausoleums have 66 tombs laid out within them containing the remains of the members of the Saadi dynasty who ruled Morocco in the 15th century, there are also over 100 more tombs of Saadian princes and other members of the royal household outside in the gardens.
Ben Youssef Medersa has been described by many as breathtaking; the magnificent detail in the marble, striking curved arches complemented with intricate mosaic pieces and how well it has been preserved makes this one landmark you won't want to miss seeing when in Marrakech. The Medersa used to be a Koranic boarding school dedicated to teaching Islamic laws and scriptures and the largest such institution in North Africa. And although the Medersa is no longer in use, you can still appreciate its beauty and rich history.
A Hammam is a steam room, similar to a Turkish bath, where Moroccans habitually go each week to cleanse themselves; here they get steamed, scrubbed, rinsed and massaged. Unless you want to take a private hammam with your partner - men and women are usually separated - I suggest you go the authentic route and try a hammam in one of the local bathhouses. This is where the locals go to socialise, gossip, and even do business. This is one experience you have to try, unless of course baring your skin in front of strangers seems like an absolute nightmare. You'll need to bring a towel, your swimsuit, a hammam glove and savon noir, which is the black soap used in the hammam. After the steaming and scrubbing, not only will you leave the hammam feeling rejuvenated and refreshed, but also a little bit lighter.
Marrakech is filled with a constant buzz, alive with the energy of the people and the activity of the city, so its nice to get away and relax in some peace and quiet. Throw in some wonderful food - their lamb tagine is not to be missed - and you're on your way to the perfect evening. Al Fassia is a restaurant away from the crowds and in the more modern part of town, offering some good company in a cosy setting. It may also be one of the few places in Marrakech where you can get some good wine, which will certainly help you to relax and wind down.
Maison de la Photographie or The House of Photography is located in the heart of the old city or Medina of Marrakech and has been open since April 2009. Maison de la Photographie houses a private collection of photographs amassed throughout the 19th and 20th century in Morocco. The experience of seeing the Moroccan way of life through the eyes of talented photographers is said to be an incredibly moving experience. The terrace is an added bonus as it offers an amazing panoramic view of the city, so you can relax with a lovely mint tea and enjoy the view. The photographs on display are a rare look into the multiple aspects of Moroccan society and its rich complexities. Exhibits include the first colour film shot of the High Atlas by Daniel Chicault. Be warned this place can be a bit tricky to find, so get someone who knows the place to help you, like a guided tour by Authentic Morocco. They offer personalised itineraries around Morocco, allowing you to see Marrakech at your own pace. Their tours are suitable for couples, families and smaller groups. Best of all, they are committed to promoting low impact tourism whilst retaining the traditional customs and way of life in Morocco.
With all the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, a caleche ride - which is a horse-drawn carriage - is great for just sitting back and watching the city go by. Often we want to get involved in everything and immerse ourselves in all the activities, but it's also nice to just sit back and observe how life carries on in the city. You'll get to ride around Marrakech and just take in everything, from the people and sights and sounds, to the buildings natural surroundings. A caleche is also a great way to get to your next destination in Marrakech, so get in, sit back and enjoy the ride.
After hopping off your caleche ride, it's now time to explore the most vibrant part of Marrakech - the souks or, as we know it, the markets. The souks thread north from Jemaa el Fna - the most famous souk in Marrakech - and continue in a winding labyrinth until they hit the MusÃ©e de Marrakech. You can find almost anything in the maze inspired markets - from clothing, jewellery and metal wares to pottery and crafts. It can be a bit daunting for the first-timer, but as soon as you have found your way around and have your bartering skills sharpened, youâll be trading like a local. Don't be afraid to haggle for a good deal, it's a way of life in Marrakech, and remember to carry enough cash with you as ATMs can be few and far between in the Medina.
Top Tip: Take something small, like a keyring, to exchange with in the souks and you're bound to get a great deal.
After you've ventured into the souks and bargained like a local, it's now time to catch your breath and grab a drink to cool you down. Cafe de France is where the locals go to enjoy some mint tea and get a great view of the Djemaa El Fna below. Cafe De France has a quaint, charming atmosphere, especially on the rooftop where you can sit and enjoy the spectacle of life on the square.
After watching the drama of the square unfold, enter the most well-known and visited souk in Marrakech, Djemaa El Fna. No other souk in Marrakech comes alive at night quite like this one. The magic of Marrakech thrives in Djemaa El Fna, where you will be overwhelmed by the sheer sensory overload of all the people selling and buying, and the goods on offer. The market is a mix of snake charmers, trained Berber monkeys, storytellers, medicine men, jugglers, henna tattoo artists, dancers and much more - you can just imagine the carnivalesque atmosphere the square has. Remember to make sure you get permission before taking pictures of the jugglers or snake charmers as they tend to charge for this.
Your last stop for the night is Cantobar. With their friendly staff, a luxurious and warm atmosphere and great DJs, this is a great place for you to enjoy a nightcap. The decor is eye-catching - can you imagine sipping a cocktail while seated on an armchair shaped liked a high heel? Cantobar is the perfect way to complete your night out in Marrakech and youâre bound to have a memorable time whether you're with friends or family. They even have karaoke so you can debut your musical talents in Marrakech.