Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Marrakech or Marrakesh, known as the "Red City", is an important and former imperial city in Morocco.
There is much to see and do in Marrakech. An entire day can be dedicated to wondering around all the different souks, seeking out the best bargains. The city also offers several historical and architectural sites as well as some interesting museums.
• Djemaa El-Fna is the highlight of any Marrakech night. Musicians, dancers, and story tellers pack this square at the heart of the medina, filling it with a cacophony of drum beats and excited shouts. Scores of stalls sell a wide array of Moroccan fare (see the Eat section) and you will almost certainly be accosted by women wanting to give you a henna tattoo. Enjoy the various shows, but be prepared to give some Dirhams to watch. By day it is largely filled with snake charmers and people with (ill-treated) monkeys, as well as some of the more common stalls.
• The souks, or markets of Marrakech, just adjacent to Place Djemaa El-Fna, are where you can buy all most anything. From spices to shoes, jalabas to kaftans, tea pots to tagines and much, much more. Undoubtedly, being a foreigner means you will end up paying higher prices than a native would, but be sure to bargain nonetheless. The sellers here are much less aggressive than say, Egypt or Turkey, so have fun!
• Koutoubia mosque, right besides Djemaa El-Fna, is named after the booksellers market that used to be located here. It is said that the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is to Marrakech as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. The minaret is visible from Gueliz which is connected to the Medina by Avenue Mohammed V. At night, the mosque is beautifully lit.
• Saadian Tombs were not discovered until the beginning of the 20th century. They have been preserved just like they were during the glory days of the Saadian rulers. Unlike the El Badi Palace, they were not destroyed, probably for superstitious reasons. The entrance was blocked so they remained untouched for hundreds of years. Inside you will find an overload of Zelij (Morrocan tiles) and some beautiful decoration. It doesn't take a lot of time to explore, but it is definitely worth the visit. While here, look for the tombs of Jews and Christians; they are noted by their different markings and direction of the tomb.
• Majorelle Gardens, in Gueliz, provides an excellent respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. The park boasts a collection of plants from across the globe, including what seems like every cactus species on the planet. Get here early to avoid the crowds. Inside the gardens is also the Museum of Islamic Art, for which an additional entrance fee is charged.
• El Bahia palace is an ornate and beautiful palace, popular with guided tours and stray cats. The palace is well worth a visit and gives a great impression of what it must have been like to be a 19th century nobleman in Morocco. There is a nice garden with banana flowers, tranquil courtyards, and other lovely plants.