In your visit to Marrakech, you simply can't miss a nighttime visit to Jamaa el-Fnaa. I'd suggest heading around 11pm, more or less, and having a tea in one of the terraces (rooftop, preferably) of the bars that circle the square and soak in the controlled chaos that slowly builds. Snake charmers, stands that pop up out of nowhere, juice vendors, monkeys, women offering to paint you with henna....And, above all, lots of effort to coax the more clueless tourists into the square's restaurants which charge rates way above the normal for Marrakech (in the end, this is an first step in every tourist's initiation to the Arab world! :D). Since a video is worth more than world, I'll leave you a video which I shot.
Visiting this square confirms the idea that making a living depends on your level of creativity. The whole thing looks like a circus where you can't take a single step without stopping and marveling over some spectacle: dancers of all kinds, monkeys, henna-painted women, food stalls, juice vendors, trinkets, games, snake-charmers, slick-talking waiters chiding you to enter their establishments, etc. From sunset until way after midnight, the place is a true hive of activity and spectacle.
My fellow photography fanatic, Diego, decided to cross not only a geographical border, but also a cultural, and religious one as well. We went in search of one of the most stunning and beautiful places we've ever heard of of. Chefchaouen. It is perched strategically on a hillside, hence its military and historical value. The place is covered by indigo walls and floors. Actually, everything is indigo! Feral cats are moved by it as authentic protagonists. A walk around the neighborhood places Andalusian recognize me as familiar to me as the Santa Cruz in Seville. The song of a local woman heard from the silence of the street ends to make me understand that we are not so far from home.
The Menara gardens mirror the Muslim Paradise on earth. It´s not difficult to imagine how they used to be in their moments of glory and splendor, when the rulers of Marrakech endowed them with all the luxuries and technological advances. The truth is that the scenery is impressive. There is a pool of 200 by 150 meters with water from the Atlas Mountains, which at that time was the background for those living in tents, many of whom have become accustomed to being fed by tourists. The famous flag or Minzah, is not set from the 9th century, as it replaces a previous one from 1870. The story goes that the place was used by the sultan ve, according to legend, every dawn, after an intense night of love, threw his concubines the pond .... Truth or legend, the place has an undeniable charm that would be enhanced if conservation was a little more careful.
One of the most fascinating experiences I've ever had was spending the night in the desert and, above all, seeing the amazing sunrise above the dunes and how the sun warmed the sand and its shapes and colors shifted every second. It's also amazing to go and see the sky so full of stars in absolute silence. What else do you need to be happy?
Outside the walls of the city, we found the Majorelle Garden, a botanical garden in the heart of downtown Marrakech. This garden was built by the painter Jacques Majorrelle and therefore, he created it as he would a work of art. The building is a bright blue with white details around the windows and doors, giving a sense of freshness that contrasts with the rest of the city.
In the 80's, Yves Saint-Laurent bought it and increased the number of plant species to over 300. Also, he created the Museum of Islamic Art in Marrakesh, open for tourism, to host his personal collection of Islamic artwork.
There is nowhere on Earth like the souks of Marrakech. I'd been to the souks of Egypt and Turkey before, but those of Marrakech took it to a whole other level. They're basically a small city in their own right! The souks are actually a small neighborhood of the Marrakech Medina which, realistically, seems like one massive souk itself.
The souks are divided into several sections, each with a specialty: wood-working, clothes, lamps, metal-works, jewelry, leather-goods, spices, etc. You'll hear people on the street telling you about a "special Berber market" but don't buy that. It's a ruse. Just keep exploring and you'll find some amazing things. I'd especially suggest the back alleys of the leather and metal-working souks where you can see the workshops and the people going about their daily lives.
Oh, and don't forget to haggle!!! My advice is that if they make you a good offer, accept it. Many people prefer to keep looking and you'll come back and the vendor's very cheap offer will have magically disappeared and you have to start all over again. Think about what you'd pay for it in the US or Europe and divide it by 3, that's about what you should be paying.
Good luck! It's one of the most incredible places I've ever seen and it'll throw your senses into overdrive!
Walking through the medina in Marrakech is like travelling back in time, back to another era that you could not imagine existed so close to home. The first few hours or the first few days you can not help but have your mouth hanging out constantly in awe. Everything surprises you, all the colors, smells, people, noise, traffic, shopping, life ... Everything is so different, so fascinating and so real ...
This is a majestic and imposing landmark destination in Morocco that adds value to any outdoor activity. There are trekking routes, and camel and Quad tours. They offer the ability to live like nomads and soak up the remaining ancient culture. Relaxing after a hard day between the dunes will be an unforgettable experience.
This is one of the largest in Morocco. It is amazing to walk aimlessly around its narrow streets and you need a detailed map for them so you don´t get lost. Inside you can experience all of its historical culture. You need at least four days to visit the many attractions it has. Too bad the "infidels" do not let us enter the mosques and enjoy it. They didn´t let us in the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, either. The Palace is also inaccessible because Mokry has acquired a French firm and does not let people visit. The constant wandering of people in the main area is impressive. Its aromas and colorful surroundings are a real challenge to a person´s senses.
Imagine this. You're cruising along through the barren, rocky desert in the back of a dusty Mercedes taxi...no building, no trees, just nothing. After about 10 minutes, you follow the curve around a barren hillside and come across a verdant valley; a true oasis of trickling creeks and date palms and at the center of it all is the spectacular Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou like something out of a fairy tale. It's simply indescribable!
The Kasbah is more or less abandoned excepts for store fronts and a few cafés. You'll arrive in the town itself, but you need to cross the river to get to the Kasbah itself. First, follow the roads in town down to the river to get some amazing views of the Kashab head on, then head towards the concrete bridge (you'll see it) to cross into the Kasbah itself. There's no entry fee and you can explore the Kasbah at your leisure.
I'd suggest winding your way to the very top via the signs that point you along the way. Make your way to the fortified granary atop everything and you'll be rewarded with some simply stunning views of the valley. Then, head down towards the river where the big towers are and you can pay the "owner" (typically a friendly old Moroccan woman who might invite you to have a tea) 10 Dirhams (around $1.20) to enter the buildings. This is the best part, in my opinion. You climb up the winding stairs and explore the various floors, patios, and courtyards with no other tourists around. You feel like Indiana Jones. When you reach the top, you really feel like you're in a different world.
All in all Aït Ben Haddou was probably one of the best things we did in Morocco. It's probably worth the journey in and of itself. For me, it's one of the wonder of the world!
The Ben-Youssef Madrasa, located in the northern half of the Medina, about a 20min. walk from the Djemaa El Fnaa (excluding the time you'll spend inevitable getting lost), is one of the most incredible and popular sights in the city. It was once a learning center where 175 youths would be taken to learn above all the Koran, but also philosophy, astronomy, medicine, and other worthy pursuits. These days, it's most famous for being a sterling example of Moorish architecture and design, as well as a generally lovely place that evokes a feeling of peace and inner quiet.
The structure is based around a central courtyard whose decoration and amazing conservation rival that of the Alhambra in Spain, one of the wonders of the world. The tri-color Moorish tile-work, reflecting pool, and Moorish arches are simply stunning when the bright African sun illuminates it all. The flank buildings are occupied by dormitories and rooms of unknown purpose which, while typically spartan in their decoration, offer amazing views of the courtyard and conceal some surprising touches like arched windows, balconies, and intricate woodwork where you least expect them.
My suggestion is that this Madrasa should be at the top of your list of things to see in Marrakech. I also suggest getting there first thing in the morning, or around lunchtime, when the tourist crowds are at their lowest. Nothing wrecks the peaceful feel like a group tour of 40 showing up when you're letting your thoughts drift in the sunny courtyard! :o). You can get your ticket at the offices of the Museum of Marrakech and then head out to explore the souks which are right around the corner.
It was the minaret of this mosque which we used to guide us through Marrakesh, at least when we were in the Medina. It is the most important mosque, the inspiration to build the Giralda, and non-Muslims can not enter. However, they can admire the outside beauty of this XII century Almohad construction. Their gardens can also be accessed without any problems. The Koutoubia is next to Mohamed V Avenue which takes you toward the new city (Gueliz) and also the area known as modern Hivernage. Besides these things, it is practically next door to the famous Djemaa el Fna market and the souks.
A walk through the port of Essaouira is an important experience. A large boat parking area all painted blue because, apparently, sardines are particularly attracted to this color and so help fishermen in their work. In the pier there are many stalls of fish caught the night before where you can buy and have it prepared. Located right there is the rudimentary shipyard where boats will one day be sent off on fishing operations. The seagulls fill the air with image and sound in search of their livelihood among the fish waste.
The Bahia Palace, in my opinion, is the most spectacular official monument to see in Marrakesh, even ahead of the Ben Youssef Madrasa. I'm not much of a history buff to be honest, so I can't tell you much on that end, but I can tell you that the French colonists found it so spectacular that they booted out the previous owner and installed their local offices there during that time. Nowadays though, it's a museum and one well worth visiting, especially when the entry fee is little more than a dollar.
The highlight here are the intricate wood engravings on the ceilings, many of which border on mind-blowing in terms of ornateness. The austere palace courtyard was another highlight. Apparently, it was once used to hold prisoners begging for forgiveness. The emir would make them wait in the hot sun for hours on end in the patio to beg clemency. It's a really beautiful place and at the top of my list during my visit to Marrakech.
I recommend you go first thing in the morning or around lunch time to avoid the crowds. The place is best enjoyed in tranquility and silence, as that's when its magical air comes into full display. As I said, the entry fee is only one dollar and it's very close to the Badia Palace as well. Enjoy!
This is the second largest mosque in the world, after Mecca.
This mosque is about 30.000 square kilometers. Its construction, without any interruptions, lasted 8 years and 2500 people worked on it in 24 hour shifts.
It's a magnificent building situated in the Casablanca region, with some spectacular views of the sea.
Visiting this mosque is mandatory if you go to Casablanca!
It's an hour and a half from Marrakesh and the journey is pretty rough. But it's worth it! When you arrive you feel like you're smack dab in the middle of some exotic country. Aside from the spectacular views, you can walk along the river canyon and cliff jump into some deep pools. Also, with a bit of luck, you can cross paths with some of the wild monkeys that inhabit the mountains.
El Badi Palace is a wonder that once was. Apparently, it was once covered in gold, inlays of ruby and turquoise, and intricate tile-work and sculptures. During a sacking of the city centuries ago, all of that was stripped and the palace today is a mere skeleton of what it once was. But that's not to say that it's not without its merits.
The main courtyard, with its enormous reflecting pools is a sight to behold. But the best parts are definitely the underground catacombs and cisterns, and the terrace. First the underground: it's a welcome break from the heat and pretty neat to go wandering through the various corridors, halls, and rooms that are hidden there below. The terrace, on the other hand, is hot and sunny but offers some of the best views of the rooftops of the Mellah and Kasbah districts of Marrakech as well as of the courtyard itself. It's not the most spectacular thing in Marrakech, but it's near the Bahia Palace, Dar Si Said, and the Saadian Tombs, and hey, it's only $1 to enter, so it's well worth it.
When you finish, take a walk through the neighborhood which is one of the oldest in the city of Marrakech (though best to stick to the main arteries at night in this particular part of Marrakech). All in all, it's a cool place to explore in the morning and offers weary travelers an oasis of peace from the often hectic streets of this most Berber of cities. Enjoy!
It is the headquarters of the Omar Benjelloum Foundation. The exterior of this building does not compare with the beauty of its interior. This is a feature of the most sumptuous buildings in Marrakesh. Perhaps this is to avoid the envy of the inhabitants of the city to the gracious life the buildings inhabitants. A large courtyard hosts a huge copper lamp and is perhaps the main attraction of this museum, but you can also visit a good collection of Moroccan art in its various forms. The hamman, or old Arabic bath house, takes our mind back in time and allows us to imagine the pleasures that people enjoyed in this beautiful XIX century palace.