Marrakesh, imperial city
Marrakesh, imperial city, holy city with its seven marabouts (tomb of a venerated saint), opens the door to South Morocco.
It is a place of contrasts where the fashionable places, fancy restaurants and huge five-star hotel complexes mix with a medina which has kept its traditions and medieval atmosphere.
Tourist attractions are abundant – historical, cultural or festive. Palaces, museums, gardens and Riads (traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden) all contribute to surprise and charm the visitor.
Not to forget the colorful souks, where the various craft corporations are gathered by sectors, offering the work of the many craftsmen at the medina.
Jemaâ el Fna place, in the middle of the historical city, seduces by its human and theatrical effervescence. Here you can find the print of a recent past where story tellers brought fables, epopees and tales to life in the center of the towns.
Boarded by the souks, its perpetual swarming slowly turns out into an immense outdoor restaurant area. At the end of the afternoon until late at night, this is a must-see.
Koutoubia mosque dominates the imperial city from its 70 m.
The distant palm grove hosts a number of five-star hotels and restaurants.
The Ourika valley cascades, 70 km north in the High Atlas, is a popular resort of the inhabitants of Marrakesh during the summer furnace season. It is close to the Oukaïmeden, and snow covered tops create a major ski resort during the winter.
Marrakesh is rich in activities of all kinds, from golf, all kind of sports, spas or excursions to the High Atlas to name a few. Just two hours’ drive away from the ocean, Essaouira with its colors, charms and vivifying air opens its doors.
The Districts Through History
The first foundations of Marrakesh go back to 1062. Like a phoenix, the mythical city always rebuilds itself from the ashes. It radiates with invaluable monuments, palaces and riads, and vestiges of a rich and complex history.
The ramparts, built around 1162, surround the entire medina. Jemaa el Fna place and its surroundings souks are with the mellah (Jews’ district) and the Kasbah, the most visited places in Marrakesh.
Among the monuments to be visited in the medina is the Almovaride Koubba (mausoleum with a cupola), built in the XII century it was restored in the 1950’s, and is a unique remnant of the Almoravide architecture.
Just in front, the Medersa Ben Youssef erected in the XVI century by the Saadiens is a wonder of Arab-Andalusian architecture.
Both El Badi (XVI century) and Bahia palace (XIX century) give us an idea of the opulence and the magnificence of the now disappeared lifestyle of the sultans of Marrakesh.
Museums, caravanserais (stopover on the caravan roads) and riads, just to name a few examples, will fill you with wonder.
Outside the ramparts, Gueliz is the modern district of Marrakech. Apart from a few art nouveau buildings dating from the French protectorate and the famous Majorelle garden, it isn’t a tourist area.
Administrative buildings are present there among some really good restaurants, the peaceful quietness of the residential areas in this new district contrast with the boiling and permanent activity in the medina.
The Hivernage District contains the triangle made by the Mohammed V, Mohammed VI and Hassan II avenues. It hosts the five-star hotels, the casinos and high profile private residences.
For the pleasure of your tastebuds…
The number of quality restaurants in Marrakesh and their great diversity is every bit as good as the European metropolises. Of course the Moroccan art of cooking, with its diversity of tajines and couscous dominates.
From the simpler to the more refined dishes, it offers a vast range of culinary choices. The Moroccan cuisine can be tasted everywhere from the popular restaurants in the medina, the numerous ones in the Gueliz District and the more select ones in the Hivernage District.
Italian cuisine, pizzerias, Asian food and French gastronomy among with the local fast foods and the unavoidable Chawarma (kebab) are disseminated all over the city. It all contributes to make Marrakesh a city for all tastes. If you stay in a Riad you will surely end up with a delightful dish.
On the Jemaa el Fna place
A must-see. It isn’t just the price or quality of the food that gathers the onlookers around the tables installed there every late afternoon, but also the extremely convivial and nice atmosphere.
Going Out and Having a Drink
It is around midnight that the night life starts in Marrakesh. Clubs from Hivernage District, Gueliz district along the Mohammed V Avenue, the Marrakesh palm grove and other areas around the city compete to create an extraordinary animated night atmosphere appreciated by all Marrakshiens and tourists.
During the day one will find numerous coffee shops serving mint tea or fresh orange juice all around the city. If the idea of a fresh beer or aperitif pops into your mind, some bars have beers and spirits in the Gueliz District.
However, couples favor the bars in hotels or clubs. The mostly male customers in the public bars often create a rougher atmosphere.
Hammams and spas in Marrakesh
There is a great difference between the local Hammams and the luxurious spas.
Often located close to the mosques, they include three rooms at different prices. For a moderate price (often 8-10 Dh), the men living in the district come here to relax out of the rush of the city. Meanwhile, the women meet there in one rare moment of intimacy far away from the men.
Tourists are usually welcome. Whereas some hammams have two entries heading to two different areas, others only have one. Obviously unmixed, the hammams then share their time. The day would be for the women while morning and evening are reserved for men. Massages often provided for an additional 50-100 Dh.
Often in a sophisticated frame, spas have been hatching in Marrakesh lately. Beside the sauna and hammam, Oriental and Asian massages often including therapeutic oil are provided here. Their price range is more expensive than the traditional hammams.
Organized Tours Around the City
Most travel agencies have an office in Gueliz District, in or around Mohammed V Avenue. Most of the riads and hotels offer to organize excursions, either on their own or in relation with an agency. The seriousness of this excursion depends mostly on the relation between the service provider and his interlocutor.
The day tours usually bring you to Ouzoud cascades or Oukaïmeden and the Ourika Valley or even to Essaouira.
Excursions lasting several days would carry you to Ouarzazate and the Drâa valley, Dades and Todra valleys and, of course, spending a night in the desert around erg Chergaga or Merzouga dunes is another option.
There are phone booths all over Marrakesh, they work with phone cards. For those staying more than a week buying a local prepaid sim card is a good and cheap option, price starting at 20 Dh. If needed you can unlock your mobile phone in one of the many phone shops disseminated around the city, price starting at 50 Dh.
The Carrossas (Luggage Porters)
These porters with their wheel carriages are all over the lanes in the Marrakesh medina. Handy and cheap, they also have a great advantage to bring you to your destination.
The Best Season
The best time to visit Marrakesh is between October and May, the climate is mild then and seldom reaches 30 °.
Hotels and Riads in Marrakesh
Marrakesh offers a complete range of accommodations, there is room for all tastes and budgets. From a riad in the heart of the medina, a villa in the palm grove, a luxury hotel in the hivernage district or a hotel with night club in the gueliz district the choice is yours.
During the heat of the summer, the close Ourika Valley opens its doors to the visitors with a great range of charming places.
Moving Around in Marrakesh
The urban buses cross Marrakesh with a timing interval of about twenty minutes.
Here are some of the main lines starting from Foucauld place, between Jemaâ el Fna and the Koutoubia.
- Line 1: medina-Gueliz
- Line 2: medina-bus station
- Line 3: medina-railway station
- Line 11: medina-Ménara garden
Ticket price:3.50 Dh
To and from the airport
From 6.00 to 21.00, every twenty minutes, the line 19 make the connection.
Ticket price: 30 Dh
Some carriages offer regular connections between various locations. For example, in front of the Tazi hotel, the carriages join Mellah up to Bab Ghmat for a cost of 5 Dh per person.
Meanwhile, the carriages stationed along the Foucaud place offers an hour long tour which is a pleasant way to discover the city. Price ranges between 100-150 Dh.
Taxis in Marrakesh
The small taxis only take up to three passengers. The taxi meter starts at 1.70 Dh and a lift from the medina to Gueliz cost between 10 to 15 Dh.
Some taxis are still refusing to put the meter on for tourists, A simple determinate “Salam Aleikoum” could solve this most of the time. If not, make sure to fix the price before the lift and if the price remains too high just take another taxi.
Cars and Bikes
In the medina walking is still the best way to discover the city. Driving in Marrakesh is quite a challenge, the numerous mopeds cannot be bothered with road rules, the carts drawn by mules don’t help the traffic either,nand priorities aren’t highly respected. With this in mind you will have to be really focused and vigilant on all sides.
To park in Marrakesh
Some large secure car parks are located around the medina doors. In Gueliz, ticket machines are along the pavement. If you don’t use them, you risk the penalty of removal or immobilization of the vehicle. When there are no machines, guards will look after your car for a few Dh.
If you find a yellow shoe on your one of the wheel of your car, do not panic, the employee isn’t far away. He is quite recognizable with its yellow waistcoat. Once you paid the fine of 30 Dh he will remove the shoe. Lucky escape, we expected worse.
Rent a car in Marrakesh
There is no lack of choice but be aware of services.
Most of the big rental car companies are present in Marrakesh along with lots of smaller ones but those ones could lack services.
Ménara airport has been increased and modernized recently, it is located 6 Km south-west of Marrakesh downtown.
There is a bus shuttle every twenty minutes, bus N° 19. It stops on the main sites of Marrakesh, Jemaa El Fna, Hivernage, Bab Doukkala, Gueliz and the bus station. It costs 30 Dh one way and 50 for a return ticket.
Taxis from the airport have no meter, it is a fixed price. It will usually cost you 100 Dh for a lift down to or from the airport.
Buses and Bus Station in Marrakesh
There are buses to and from all the major cities of Morocco at the Bab Doukkala bus station. There is a luggage deposit at the station and a lot of coffee shops open in the area.
RESERVE YOUR ACTIVITY AND ENJOY IT!
EXCURSIONS TO ESSAOUIRA
TRAVELING TO THE MONTAIN
TRAVELING TO THE DESERT
VISIT THE CASCADES OF OUZOUD
VISIT OUARZAZATE AND AIT BEN HADDOU
Stay in family with Marrakech….and in accelerated
That rolls quickly on the boulevards and in the palm plantation, like the rhythmic musical one, in accelerated. Family vacancies in a beautiful hotel with swimming pool and freshness. Swing and of tennis before setting out again at any speed in splendor calms of a raised garden.
Finally, a meal before the watery toboggans and the animation of Djemaa el Fna to enclose an agitated course.
Marrakech by Claptone