The huge open space of Djemaa el Fna is the heart of the old city, or Medina, where acrobats and jugglers, snake charmers, beggars, boxers, musicians, fresh juice and food sellers all compete for your attention – and a few dirhams in the process. During the day it is a fantastic sight, but at sunset it comes into a world of its own – buzzing with atmosphere and life.
At night take a seat in one of the restaurants that overlook the square and watch the scene unfold. With numerous sounds from musicians and singers, and thousands of tiny white lights illuminating swirling smoke that rises from the food stalls, you can expect a real feast on your senses!
Originally built in the 14th century, and subsequently rebuilt two centuries later, the Medersa has recently been restored and is a fine example of Moroccan workmanship, with ornate doors, tiled walls and carved plasterwork. It was named after the Ben Youssef Mosque next door and was reputed to house up to 900 students at a time. Upstairs holds a total of 132 small dormitories with bare walls and small windows either looking out over the central courtyard or smaller inner courtyards
The huge open space of Djemaa el Fna is the heart of the old city, or Medina of Marrakech, where acrobats and jugglers, snake charmers, beggars, boxers, musicians, fresh juice and food sellers all compete for your attention – and a few dirhams in the process. During the day it is a fantastic sight, but at sunset it comes into a world of its own – buzzing with atmosphere and life.
Like Fes, Meknes and Rabat, Marrakech is one of Morocco’s famous Imperial Cities. Renowned for its wonderful climate and for a setting as remarkable as it is varied, it is currently one of the world’s top travel hotspots. With palaces and palm groves, rose gardens, and a backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas mountains it is the capital of the Moroccan South, a cultural crossroads and keeper of tradition and folklore. The ancient pink-walled medina contains a wealth of rich architectural heritage, and the real highlight – Place Djemaa el Fna – is like no other square in the world!
Founded in 1062 by Almoravids from the Sahara, this Berber city was once the hub of a great empire that stretched from Algiers to Spain. Throughout its near 1000-year history Marrakech has been the capital of Morocco on several occasions under different dynasties, and is today a favoured city of Morocco’s young and dynamic King Mohamed VI.
The rich history of Marrakech is reflected in its numerous attractions. This is a city for culture-vultures and a couple of days is simply not enough to fully discover the wealth of attractions the city offers. The minaret of Koutoubia Mosque is the landmark and emblem of the city and a good starting point. Place Djemaa el Fna is at the heart of the action with the covered souks to the north of the square. Other important quarters within the old city ramparts include Kasbah and Mellah (the Jewish quarter), both in the south and close to the Royal Palaces (closed to visitors). Main attractions include the Saadien Tombs, Dar Si Said Museum, Musee de Marrakech and Ben Youssef Medersa. Take your pick!
A number of day trips are possible from Marrakech for travellers just spending a few days in the city. Popular options include a day trip to a typical Berber village in the Atlas – Imlil is popular, as is the Ourika Valley. Camel rides are an option, though perhaps best done in the Sahara. Quad bike trips, bicycle hire and a scenic balloon flight are other options. Familiies may enjoy a visit to Oasiria, a waterpark with beach.
Ideal for escape, privacy and relaxation consider staying in a traditional riad, dar or palace. Based around one or more courtyards and often with small pools, shady palms, antiques and roof-top terraces, these properties provide a real haven of peace and comfort in the heart of the medina.
With a range of low-cost flight options to Marrakech, getting there has never been easier or cheaper. Once in the city Petits taxis (private) or Grands taxis (usually shared along fixed routes) are the easiest way to get around over larger distances. In the Medina, the only practical way to explore, particularly in the souks, is on foot. Caleches – horse-drawn carriages – take up to 5 people and operate from and around the Medina and Djemaa el Fna square.