Marrakech is a large, expanding imperial city in Morocco with a population of around one million and an atmosphere which is utterly compelling. There is nothing remotely European about it, it’s Africa, a ceaseless whirligig of colour, energy and chaos. At one and the same time, it bewilders and bewitches the senses. Called red city of Morocco!
Where is Marrakech located
Strategically Marrakech located in the centre of Morocco at the foot of high atlas mountain. Marrakech is one of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco; for many centuries it was the capital of an empire! Which extended throughout Spain to the north and Libya to the east. It is the first great city north of the Sahara Desert.
It divides easily into two distinct parts. A modern district, the Gueliz, built by the French outside the ochre-red city walls! And the ancient Marrakech Medina within. The Gueliz is not unattractive, with its wide boulevards, cafés, restaurants and shops; but it is in the Medina that you will find the almost medieval atmosphere and energy of Marrakech! In its winding markets, twisting alleys and densely packed souks, where you can find amazing things to buy in Morocco. And, in the centre of it all, the huge square, the Jemaa el Fna square.
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weather in Marrakech Morocco
Marrakech in Morocco is set on the plains below the Atlas Mountains. Which rise dramatically across the entire southern skyline, it’s a city of cool winters and very hot summers. In winter cold air flows down from the snow-capped peaks; whereas in summer it is a furnace under the desert of Morocco sun which can push temperatures up to 50ºC (135ºF) in the shade. By mid-afternoon, the air itself trembles from the onslaught. Spring (late February, March, April, May) and Autumn (October, November) are the best times to visit Morocco and Marrakech.
Jemaa el fna Marrakech
Jemaa el fna square Marrakech Morocco
This vast square-cum-open space lies in the heart of the Medina and is, without doubt, the focal point of street life in Marrakech. It could not be described as attractive, in truth it’s a rather scruffy piece of tarmacadam.
But at night, from around 5 pm it becomes completely intoxicating: jugglers, snake charmers, musicians, orange juice sellers (for some reason there is a row of fifty or more orange juice stalls along one side of the Jemaa)! Acrobats, storytellers and assorted odd-balls all congregate here. Vendors set up stalls each evening where they cook and serve a variety of traditional Moroccan foods; their aromas filling the air, clouds of smoke swirling up through the lamps and lanterns into the night sky. The atmosphere is almost medieval. Jemaa el fna square in Marrakech Morocco is a perfect address for a street food lover.
Around jemaa el fna square
If you prefer to watch all of this pandemonium from a distance; there are several cafes and restaurants around the perimeter of the Jemaa el fna with excellent views over the square. As for eating at one of the stalls in the Jemaa el fna square itself, some say the food is exquisite, others are a little more dubious.
Just getting to the Jemaa el fna square in Marrakech, Morocco is all part of the fun too, because first you have to cross the road! Traffic discipline is not high on the list of priorities around here; so be ready to do some deft weaving through the mirad of bicycles, carts and battered Old Mercedes cars! Which all seem to be heading straight for you, irrespective of which direction they are coming from.
Medina and market (Souk) in Marrakech
Medina in Marrakech
Beyond Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech Morocco, lie the Medina! A warren of shadowy streets and ancient passageways; jammed with tightly packed shops selling a head-spinning array of goods in a head-spinning atmosphere of bustle and commotion. As always, handcarts, bicycles, motorbikes and people weave in and out, through the crowded, dimly lit thoroughfares. It’s all slightly scary but thrilling at the same time. Vendors will shout out to you to come and look at their wares but it’s a relatively hastle-free experience these days. Odds on that you will get lost from time to time, though!
Market (Souk) in Marrakech Morocco
Those in the know will tell you that the souks of Marrakech are among the best in Morocco. It’s quite amazing what you can find here. Quite apart from the seemingly thousands of shops selling carpets and lamps, jewel-studded silver and camel-bone trinkets! Spices, herbs, dried fruits, olives, ornate wedding slippers, metal garden furniture, brass work, intricately carved woods, leathers and silks.
Although everything appears to be a disorganised jumble in the market of Marrakech, and you will never see a signpost! The maze of twisting streets is actually a network of specialist markets. The Souk des Teinturiers, for example, the wool and silk dyers quarter; where the rich, vibrant colours of the silks hanging out to dry blaze fiercely against the bright blue sky.
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Hidden Riads in Marrakech Morocco
Marrakech is a city of grand old merchant’s houses. Secluded and peaceful havens hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside by solid external walls. Many of these beautiful houses, called riads, which are built around the four sides of a central courtyard with the open sky above. Those Riads in Marrakech Have been restored and converted into very fashionable Maisons d’hôte! Offering a very attractive alternative to the usual city hotels. Moreover, they are to be found in the Medina of Marrakech itself, right in the heart of the old city. Others have been converted into art centres, tea rooms, restaurants and museums.
Best things to do in Marrakech Morocco
The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, now beautifully restored, is the landmark of the Marrakech skyline in Morocco. A true masterpiece of hispano-moorish art; it was completed in 1199 (replacing an earlier mosque which was possibly wrongly aligned to Mecca). Seventy metres high, the tower follows the Almohad dynasty’s classic proportions of 1:5 (it’s five times higher than it’s wide). And it served as the model for both the Tour Hassan in Rabat and the Giralda in Sevilla. With its piazza alongside and extensive gardens, an enjoyable atmosphere has been created in which to stroll and admire the Koutoubia mosque and its minaret.
Saadian tombs in Marrakech
To the south of the Koutoubia Mosque is a second mosque built by the Almohads, some 30 years later, the Kasbah Mosque. Built in brick rather than stone. Alongside are the Saadian Tombs, a beautiful and peaceful place of rest for the monarchs of the Saadian dynasty; who swept through Morocco in the 16th Century on a wave of religious fervor and nationalist sentiment.
El Badi Palace Marrakech Morocco
The elegant ruins of the 16th Century El Badi Palace, long regarded as a wonder of the Muslim world! And which took 25 years to complete. Are now the setting for nightly concerts during the annual Marrakech Folklore Festival! An international event which includes folk troupes from many Arab countries.
Menara garden, Jardin Majorelle, Bahia palace …
Other marvels to be found in Marrakech Red City of Morocco are the El Bahia Palace of more recent, 19th Century origin. The Dar Si Said Museum, containing some splendid examples of Morocan art and artefacts. Madrasa Ben Youssef, a koranic school founded in 1570 and a true masterpiece of Merinnid architecture. And the gardens of Agdal and Menara, where the view of the snow-covered Atlas rising over the pavilion (at sunset, in winter months) is quite special. The Jardin Majorelle in Gueliz, restored by the couturier Yves st Laurent, is a kaleidoscope of tropical colour.
Infact, there are gardens all over Marrakech, places of beauty and cool water which offer escape from the fierce heat of summer. Quite apart from the large public gardens, there are many smaller, walled gardens, full of intense explosions of roses! Jacaranda, jazmine and orange blossom, pomegranites, figs, peaches and the heady pollen of the datura tree.
The sensual, intoxicating perfumes of these gardens is no accident: this is Marrakech in Morocco!
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