Marrakech, which is known as the “Pearl of the South” or the “Red City”, is located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. It was founded in 1062 by the King of the Almoravid dynasty. The “Red City” grew rapidly to become an influential cultural and religious centre.
Marrakech is a colorful mosaic of tradition and modernity, where grit and splendor fit side-by-side. Here you can get lost in the bustling souks and discover the heart of the city. Marrakech has become the Moroccan tourism capital in the latest ten years, so it is quite usual to have tourists all over the year. Marrakech is a bold and vibrant city and has a lot to offer both the adventurous traveller and those who are looking for a bit of luxury. Marrakech is known as the red city and is one of the most important former imperial cities in Moroccan history, with its alleys and minarets. At night, the Jemaa el Fna square wakes up for another life. There are more people seeing the dancers, the musicians, the story-tellers with Berber tales and peddlers. You will find all sorts in the souks of Marrakech, from incredible antique doors selling for €100,000 to handmade Berber blankets, spices and mint tea, all the way down to small hand-carved ornaments and trinkets.
The name Marrakech is rooted in the Berber phase murr akush meaning “the land of God.” But another theory says that the name comes from the Arabic words murra kish, which translates to “pass by quickly”—a warning to travelers to be wary of thieves and wild animals.
You have to see:
- Jemma-el-Fna is a square situated between the Koutoubia Souk and Mosque. This tourist destination continues to attract more than a million visitors who come to watch the performances of snake charmers, monkey trainers, storytellers, musicians and other popular artists (games, henna designs, etc.). In 2001, UNESCO included the Jemaa el-Fna Cultural Square in the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- The Marrakech sSuks are very famous places in Morocco where artisans meet. They spread over and intermix in the Marrakech Medina.
- Menara is a large olive tree garden about 45 minutes’ walk away from Jamaa El Fna. At the centre of this garden, there is a large basin at the foot of a pavilion that serves as a water reservoir used to irrigate crops.
- One of the key secrets to enjoying an extended time in the Red City is by taking short breaks in the many gardens and parks across the city. Not only are they places worth visiting as a stand alone reason to go, they will provide moments to take a breath and get back to nature after trawling the shops and souks.
Good to know:
- When you are arriving in Marrakech airport you will need to complete an embarkation card before arriving at the front of the queue for passport control. Embarkation cards are found near to the entrance door or may be passed out on your flight.
- The International Airport is 15-20 minutes drive from the main city centre.
- In Marrakech, almost everything is negotiable and you have to be prepared for the art of bargaining, which is culturally disseminated among the Moroccans, but do not engage in such a campaign if you are not willing to buy, otherwise it would be offensive. Whem bairgain: go down to one third of the asked price and work your way up. Don’t get annoyed and keep on smiling.
- The currency used in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham. Although the exchange rate fluctuates, at the time of writing, one pound is worth approximately 13 dirhams and one euro is closer to 10 dirhams.
- Before arriving in Marrakech make sure you already have some cash money. Both Euros and Dirham. You will need it for taxis and shopping in the souks.
- The climate in Marrakech is good most months of the year with comfortable temperatures in March, April, May and October, with the hot season beginning in June through to September.
- Most Moroccans are tourist-friendly. The inhabitants of Marrakech are used to the tourists so they try to earn money by giving directions. You don’t have to accept that. Just say no, if you don’t want to.
- Djemaa el Fna is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest square in Africa.
- Taxis are very cheap – about 20 to 30 (Euro 4) dirhams will take you to the city centre from most hotel locations.
- The whole Marrakech medina is bursting with history and stories of a rich past.
- The water in Morocco is not safe to drink straight from the tap so you will need to drink bottled water only.
- It is very cheap to eat in Marrakech and you can easily eat like a king at one of the many small food stalls and ‘pop up’ style restaurants.
- In the middle of World War II, Winston Churchill begged Franklin D. Roosevelt to accompany him on a jaunt to Marrakech following the Casablanca Conference: “You cannot come all the way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech,” he said. “I must be with you when you see the sun set on the Atlas Mountains.” So the two set off on a 1943 journey, driving down from Casablanca. Churchill stayed a day longer, engaged in one of his favorite hobbies—painting.
If you want to stay inside the Medina you have to stay in a Riad that is a typical Moroccan house. Outside the Medina you have a new city, with hotels and modern restaurants, bars and discos where tourists have fun. There are many upmarket resorts and hotels in Marrakech, but none will make you feel like you’ve travelled back in time and woken up in a palace of some magical and distant land quite like a traditional riad.
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