According to BRIDGAT, Marrakech is one of the ancient capitals of Morocco, located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. Casablanca is about 3.5-4 hours away from here, Agadir is the same. Although the city is not located on the coast, tourists from all over the world come here for the purpose of recreation. Russians prefer to visit Marrakech for sightseeing purposes or stay here for two or three nights.
The old city, the medina, is surrounded by a wall for many kilometers. Its heart – Jemaa-El-Fna Square – is included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List.
An hour’s drive from the city is a ski resort, open from December to April. In addition to skiing, there you can go trekking or ride jeeps in the mountains.
What to bring
Marrakech is a real Klondike for shopaholics. Many come here specifically to decorate the interior of their home in a trendy ethnic style. In the markets of the medina, bright colors, an abundance of goods and aromas make you dizzy at first. The shops are literally bursting with brass and ceramic jugs, carpets, amulets, Arab sabers, lamps and majolica tiles with quotes from the Koran. If you search, you can become the owner of a lamp, like the one that a Maghreb wizard gave young Aladdin.
Famous daggers are brought here from El-Kelaa-Mgun, Berber ceramics from Rif, thuja products from Essaouira: inlaid caskets, bread bins, dishes, coffee tables. There are many shops selling argan oil and cosmetics based on it. Entire rows are given to leather products – jackets, bags, ottomans, shoes-grandmothers with curved toes.
Jewelers have their own quarter, where you can buy jewelry made of semi-precious stones, massive silver bracelets, Berber-style items. Collectors come to Marrakesh for fossils. They are brought from the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, some shops look like branches of a paleontological museum with trilobites, belemnites and ammonites.
Cuisine and restaurants of Marrakesh
It is better to get acquainted with Moroccan cuisine slowly. First, the meze appetizers: spicy eggplant, vegetable salads, green beans, hummus and falafel. Following them is “harira” – a rich soup of lamb and chickpeas seasoned with turmeric. A favorite of any feast is “tagine”: lamb or chicken stewed over low heat with vegetables and olives, lemons, dried apricots or prunes. On Fridays, Moroccans traditionally eat couscous with meat and vegetables. It is cooked for several hours and you can order this dish not in every institution.
A distinctive feature of the local cuisine is the abundance of spices: cloves, pepper, cumin, saffron, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, ground ginger.
Dinner at an expensive restaurant, such as the famous Dar Yacout, will be like receiving an honored guest in luxurious interiors. There are many medium-priced establishments offering national dishes in the medina. Most of them have open verandas, some are located in traditional riads with a beautiful shady courtyard. The best place for an evening snack is Djemaa el Fna square, where dozens of mobile kitchens with braziers and smoking cauldrons appear at nightfall to feed the Marrakeshians to their fill with fried lamb “meshui”, “kefta”, lamb brains, puff pastries “bastila” and local delicacy “gulyal” – boiled snails, for which local gourmets come here.
The price of a hearty dinner in a prestigious restaurant of national cuisine is 400 MAD per person, lunch in an inexpensive restaurant is 120 MAD, street fast food is 20 MAD.
Entertainment and attractions
The main attraction and heart of Marrakesh is its ancient medina – an incredible labyrinth of thousands of narrow streets and alleys, wall to wall of houses, shops, madrasahs, hamams, caravanserais and palaces from oriental tales. The axis around which this giant anthill rotates is the Square of Severed Heads, in Arabic Jema el Fna. Here, indeed, heads were once chopped off and slaves tied to poles were traded. Today, carpets of all colors and sizes are hung on them, and in the neighborhood there are stalls with mountains of dried apricots, almonds, dates and bright oranges.
It is both a market and a giant stage, where, like hundreds of years ago, Marrakeshians come closer to sunset to look at snake charmers, fakirs, jugglers, fire swallowers, buy medicinal potions from Berber healers, chat with wise interpreters of the Koran, watch dark-skinned gnaua dancers in colorful robes fall into a trance to the beat of drums.
For 8 centuries now, the medina has been falling asleep and waking up to the exclamations of the muezzin from the 69-meter minaret of the Kutubia mosque. 4 gilded balls on its top are the payment of one of the sultan’s wives for an illegal glass of water she drank before sunset during Ramadan.
Entrance to all mosques in Marrakesh is allowed only to Muslims.
In the tight tangle of streets of the medina, you should definitely find the Ali-ben-Youssef Madrasah – a real masterpiece of Arab architecture. Founded by Sultan Abul-Hasan, for 400 years it was the best school in the Maghreb, where they studied the Koran and the laws of Islam.
Medina is surrounded by a dense ring of powerful adobe walls up to 9 m high. The gates of Bab el-Robb cut into them lead to the tombs of the Saadids with a magnificent Hall of Twelve Columns. Through them you can go to the mausoleum of the Muslim saint Sidi bel Abbes, the Bab Ahmat gate leads to Bahia Palace, the most luxurious in Marrakech. It was built by the black vizier Sidi Musa for his beloved wife, and at the same time for the entire harem. The palace has over 100 rooms and courtyards. Each of the wives was assigned their own riad, from which they were strictly forbidden to leave. The concubines lived in greater crowding, but with greater freedom.
In the 20th century, another beauty, Jacqueline Kennedy, stayed at the Bahia Palace.
4 things to do in Marrakesh
- Surrender to the whirlwind of the crazy life of the colorful Djemaa el Fna square.
- Spend the night in a traditional riad hotel and feel like a medieval Maghrebian.
- Understand where Yves Saint Laurent drew inspiration from when he found himself in the Majorelle Gardens.
- Buy a keepsake.
It never gets cold in Marrakech. A light jacket is needed only for those who are going to wander around the city on winter nights, and you can forget about an umbrella altogether. There are no more than two rainy days per month, in the summer they simply do not happen. Since May, the sun has been scorching mercilessly, forcing you to look for coolness in parks, gardens and shady courtyards of hotels with murmuring fountains. During the day, the life of the city freezes and revives when the sun leans over the horizon. The heat and stuffiness subside only by the end of October. The most comfortable time for a tourist trip is from November to April. The weather at this time is reminiscent of summer in central Russia – you can walk around the city all day long without worrying about finding a saving shade.