Marrakech is a vibrant city; intense, exotic, colourful, and chaotic all at the same time. The city is a feast for the senses, filled with culture, souks, delicious food and beautiful architecture.
The famous Djemaa el-Fna square is chaotic and vibrant as everyone says. At night, there are hundreds of people eating, shopping, watching acrobats and listening to bands; during the day, they’re watching and monkeys, along with snake charmers. It’s one of the most fascinating places to people-watch while sitting on a terrace sipping mint tea. You will never forget your extraordinary experience of Djemaa el-Fna square.
Here is your travel guide to Marrakech Morocco!
I visited Marrakech at the end of August in time for my birthday with my friend (thewanderingjam). Marrakech is a three-hour flight from any major European city. This brief flight takes you to a foreign land. We arrived early Friday morning and stayed at the Riad Nesma, recommended by a friend. The Riad arranged transport from the airport.
The Riad Nesma is located in the Medina, which was within some minutes walking distance from Djemaa el-Fna and the souks.
Morocco’s predominant religion is Islam, and the official languages are Arabic. French is also used.
After getting into the taxi from the airport, we began talking to the driver. But, we realised he didn’t understand English nor we his Arabic. We tried a few words of French, which is the second language in Morocco, but this got us nowhere, either.
We arrived at our riad and our driver went to get the owner of the riad. Once in the riad, we were then served fresh mint tea and almond cookies.
We had arranged a guided tour on the morning of arrival, with a local guide who spoke English. I recommend getting a licensed tour guide; that way, you’ll learn more about the country’s history, culture, and people.
In this travel guide of Marrakech, I have listed where to stay, what to eat, see and things to do in Marrakech Morocco.
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Places to visit in Marrakech
We walked past the Royal Palace of Marrakech, a location on the outskirts of the southern Medina which history dates back to the 12th century. The royal palace is privately owned and does not open to the public. All we could do was admire the palm trees, high walls, and the guarded gates.
We arrived at the Bahia Palace, which was built in two stages by two different men. Construction started in the 1860s by Vizier Si Moussa and was completed in 1900 by Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed. This historic palace has mosaic floor-to-ceiling decorations, and shiny marble finishes with arching courtyards dotted throughout. The palace has 150 rooms, with only a few open to the public. It is also surrounded by an eight-hectare garden where visitors can wander through the beauty of nature.
We then visited Ben Youssef Madrasa, an Islamic college founded in the 14th century and once the biggest in North Africa. The Madrasa contains 132 rooms altogether on the ground floor and upstairs. Today, the student dorms are decorated using beautiful geometric and floral patterns, woodwork, and ornate tiling.
The Souks of Marrakech
The souks are not one but a cluster of markets that stretch out along the medina’s winding alleyways. They are traditional markets of central Marrakech where everything from shoes to spices is sold.
You can find the best souks through an arch north of Djemaa el-Fna; they are a definite must-visit for every tourist. The souks are mystifying, chaotic, confusing and unleash a ferocious attack on the senses. They shouldn’t be missed by a first-time visitor to Marrakech.
Get lost wandering to Souk at your own leisure
Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech
Djemaa el-Fna, is where the action happens. Walking across the Central Square and marketplace, you can feel the energy of Marrakech. There are a thousand different things happening all at once in Djemaa el-Fna, and everything has a rhythm and fluidity to it. From men shouting for your attention from their orange juice stalls, to monkeys on chains, to women urging you to get henna tattoos, and of course the strong smell of various blends of spices laid out on the floor, flooding your nostrils. All of these are going on while you’re under the hot sun, dancing to the rhythm of the snake charmer’s flute.
This was Djemaa el-Fna by day!!
Around the outskirts of the square, you’ll find a large number of shops, cafes, and entrance to the souks. The square changes constantly from sunrise to sunset. I definitely recommend you walking through the square at different times of the day.
At sunset, the square comes alive, filled with musicians and Chleu (dancing boys), storytellers, healers, peddlers, and magicians. The food stalls are also transformed during the evening, with an endless array of food servings; a feast for both your eyes and belly. We had the softest tajines that melted in your mouth, khobz (bread), fragrance couscous along with some fresh mint tea. Food is inexpensive in Marrakech and it is easy to find local dishes.
Bear in mind that if a performer tries to drape a snake around your neck or puts a monkey on you, you’ll have to pay. My friend was pulled into a game while we were watching performers and she had to pay him before he would let her walk away.
I found the best way to enjoy Djemaa el-Fna was to arrive before sunset and get a seat on a rooftop terrace with some mint tea to watch the spectacle from above.
The Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech is one of the most visited tourist sites in Morocco; the product of over forty years of dedication by the French painter Jacques Majorelle. Wandering through the garden feels like walking in the middle of the rain forest. You can stroll along the garden path shaded by palm trees while listening to the soothing sound of flowing water and singing birds, away from the noise and bustle of the souks and the Medina. You’ll be enticed by the exotic plants, azure blue mosaic and bright yellow tiles. The garden was a gift to the city by Yves Saint Laurent.
With this travel guide to Marrakech, you should be able to experience the diverse beauty that the city has to offer.
All photos by @thewanderingjam
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