Marrakech

Photo © niklasb

Travel Guide Africa Morocco Marrakech

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Introduction

The Medersa in Marrakech

The Medersa in Marrakech

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Marrakech (Marrakesh in English) is a popular travel destination in Morocco. Famous for ochre stucco buildings, the city is surrounded by the Atlas mountains, making for a spectacular setting. Capital of the south and known as the "red city", the atmosphere is decidedly more African than that of Fez, Rabat and Meknes, other Imperial cities. It's primarily this unique atmosphere which makes Marrakech the most visited Imperial city and nowhere is this better experienced than in the alleyways and souks (markets) of the Medina, the Old City. Indeed, such is the change that you think yourself on a movie set as you wander through it.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Medina (Old/Historical city)
  • New city including the two principal districts of Gueliz and Hivernage

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Sights and Activities

Marrakech

Marrakech

© All Rights Reserved jza80

Djemaa el-Fna

In the very heart of the Medina is Djemaa el Fna, the busiest square in Africa.

Tourists are drawn by day to witness the square's acrobats, dancers, mystical story-tellers, water sellers, snake charmers and musicians. By night tourists are just as plentiful, enjoying the transformation of the square into a huge open-air restaurant as the food stalls kick into gear. Unlike so many other locations, tourism has not taken away from the atmosphere, but only seems to be adding to it. The Djemaa el-Fna is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Souqs

Adjacent to Djemaa el-Fna are the souqs, the largest traditional markets in Morocco and famous for its winding streets and stalls selling everything from traditional handicrafts, clothes, leather crafted goods and carpets to spices and marinated olives.

Spices at Marrakech

Spices at Marrakech

© All Rights Reserved jza80

When you enter the souqs make sure you have plenty of time to just wander through the alleyways and get lost. This really is the most fun way of exploring the area and soaking up the atmosphere, without worrying about following a map. Useful landmarks to look out for though are the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque to the Southwest, the Royal Palace in the Kasbah area to the South and to the East of the Souks, just before you get to the Jewish Cemetery, is the Palais de la Bahia. At the centre of everything is the famous Djemaa El-Fna.

Palais el-Badi

The Palais el-Badi is particularly worth visiting at sunset. This ruined palace was once one of the grandest in the world, but was destroyed and plundered, so really the main building is now just a carcass that plays home to a flock of storks. They have enormous nests on top of the ramparts and you can climb the stairs to the top and get quite close to them, while admiring the amazing view across the souqs beyond. The colour of the stone glows as the sun drops in the sky and the scent from sunken orange groves below is beautiful. It’s also another peaceful place to sit in the sun and read a book away from the craziness of the city if you have time.

Jardin Majorelle

The Jardin Majorelle, owned by Yves Saint-Laurent is a beautiful sub-tropical garden which also houses the Museum of Islamic Art. The contrasting colours of the blue painted villa against the cacti, bamboo and bougainvillaea is very dramatic and makes the garden extremely photogenic. It's lovely to wander around the garden and enjoy the peace and the museum itself displays an impressive collection of carpets, wedding curtains, jewellery and manuscripts.

Medersa Ali ben Youssef, Marrakech

Medersa Ali ben Youssef, Marrakech

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Ali ben Youssef Medersa and Mosque

The Ali ben Yousef Medersa is a Koran school which are rarely open to the public, so this really is a must see when visiting Marrakech. The architecture is beautiful, the mosaics and wood carvings are some of the best you’ll see and it’s a nice peaceful place to get away from the madness outside. It’s also interesting to see the tiny rooms that the young boys lived in while dedicating their minds to the Koran.

Other sights and activities

  • Saadian Tombs
  • Dar Si Said
  • Musée de Marrakech
  • Dar Bellarj
  • Mellah
  • Maison Tiskiwin
  • Koubba Ba'adiyn
  • Mouassine Fountain
  • Fondouqs
  • Menara Gardens
  • Museum of Islamic Art
  • Galleries

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Events and Festivals

  • Marrakech Popular Arts Festival - For a whole week, folk singers, dancers, fortune tellers, acting troupes, snake charmers, fire-swallowers and many many more entertainers from all over Morocco fill the streets in celebration. It is usually held mid-July in the ruins of the 16th Century Badi Palace and the main town square. Don't miss the evening Fantasia: choreographed military displays on Arabian horses with traditional dress.
  • International Film Festival - It is held in either September or October, with mainly Arabian and African cinema. It is one of the biggest events devoted to Moroccan cinema and it gathers international writers, actors and personalities to reward the best Moroccan feature and short films.
  • Friendship Festival (04 May 2014 - 06 May 2014) - The purpose of Friendship Fest is to “use the universal language of music to bridge cultures and make friends".The festival focuses on the continuing friendship between Americans and Moroccans. A variety of local and international talent perform that stretch from traditional Moroccan music to American gospel.
  • The International Festival of Salsa (27 Sep 2013 - 01 Sep 2013) - It has only been running for five years but has had growing success. 2011 saw more than 2,000 participants taking part in workshops, performances and parties. For four days, you can meet and learn from famous Latino and Salsa dancers who'll teach for all ages.
  • The International Marathon of Marrakech (27 Jan 2014 - 27 Jan 2014) - More than 5,000 runners from all over the world participate in this 42,195-kilometre circuit. It has a beautiful setting and a mild January climate, which attracts a high amount of tourists and is fast becoming one of the most prestigious marathons.
Cresent moon over mosque

Cresent moon over mosque

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  • Ramadan (November - December) - For 30 days between November to December, Muslims fast during the days. many restaurants are closed during the day with alcohol and smoking restrictions. Non-Muslims aren't directly affected, but you'll notice the streets get deserted at sundown, then the street become alive with nighttime activity.
  • The Marrakech National Folklore Festival (June) - This is the 48th year of the Festival that sees the celebration of Moroccan national folklore. Musical events of musicians/artisans and display stands are there to educate people of Moroccan culture. Young artists showcase their talents and learn from the pioneers of folk arts. It usually runs in June for ten days.

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Weather

Spring is a particularly good time to visit, as is Autumn, when it is mostly dry and sunny. Summers are very hot but low humidity makes things at least a bit bearable. Temperatures can reach over 40 °C during this time. Winters are not particularly cold, but nights are rather chilly, especially when enjoying your dinner on a rooftop terrace over the Djemaa El Fna. Make sure you pack a warm jumper and plenty of layers!

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Getting There

By Plane

Menara International Airport (IATA: RAK, ICAO: GMMX) has a growing number of flights from southern and western Europe, for example with low budget airline Ryanair to Alicante, Bristol, Brussels South Charleroi Airport, East Midlands, Girona, Frankfurt-Hahn, London-Luton, Marseille, Pisa, Reus (Barcelona), Seville and Airport Weeze (Düsseldorf). Atlas Blue, a Moroccan budget airline flies to Barcelona Airport, Bordeaux, Brussels , Geneva, Lille, London-Gatwick, Lyon, Madrid, Marseille, Milan-Malpensa, Nantes, Nice, Paris-Orly and Toulouse.
Some domestic services exist as well, for example to and from Casablanca. Regional Air Lines has many domestic services.

By Train

Trains connect Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat. For more information you can check the ONCF website.

By Car

Marrakech is the central focus of the south of Morocco and is well connected by road to a number of cities. Roads going north lead to Fez, Meknes and Casablanca, west towards Essaouira and Agadir and east across the Atlas Mountains towards Ouarzazate and the Sahara desert.

By Bus

CTM runs many buses to main cities and towns in Morocco.

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Getting Around

By Car

Navigating the streets of Marrakech can be nervous activity and you don't need a car anyway in Marrakech.

By Public Transport

The main bus station is on Bab Doukkala, just outside the Medina walls. This is where most buses depart from and where you will find the main booking office for CTM. You can get a local bus (Number 3 or 10) here from Place de Foucauld which is near Djemaa el-Fna. Grande taxis congregate just to the north of the bus station and ordinary taxis can be found across the road from the local bus stop.

By Foot

In central Medina, this is the only way to get around the narrow little streets, unless you have access to a donkey! You can also take a leisurely ride on a caleche, the horsedrawn carts.

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Eat

  • Dar Najat's kitchen - Address: Douar graoua, derb lalla chacha N.18 Marrakech 40000, Phone: 00212524375085, Hours: 18-23, Price: €23-28

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Drink

Lunch in Marrakech

Lunch in Marrakech

© All Rights Reserved Flora2010

Alcohol is not easy to come by in Marrakech and limited to the more touristy hotels. A good place though to cool off with a cold beer or a cocktail is Cafe Arabe at the northern end of the souk. Take a seat on the terrace and revel in the cool mist spray which emanates from the overhead pipes. There are quite a few good cafes on the edge of the Djemaa el-Fna as well, with great views, especially at sunset. If you are happy to have your vitamin C neat, then you wont be disappointed either at the Djemaa el-Fna. Scores of juice bars line up to offer you six oranges in a glass for a few pence. Without exception, all cafes and bars will have on offer the traditional mint tea or 'Whisky Berbere' as it is affectionately called. Made and served properly, which is quite an art, it is absolutely delicious.

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Sleep

Marrakech literally has thousands of choices to spend the night. There are an estimated 1,100 riads alone! The riads (and dars) are usually in the older parts of Marrakech, like the medina. There are also many regular hotels, which are located in the newer parts of Marrakech and some luxurious hotels a bit further away from the main drag. Although riads are quite expensive, they are a great way to spend the night as close to the action as possible. They usually only have several rooms, more than 10 is already unusual, and come with breakfast.
The luxurious hotels are great to combine some relaxing days at the pool with some days exploring Marrakech and its surroundings.

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Marrakech or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Work

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are plenty of internet cafés in cities and small towns and accessing the Internet won't be a problem. The price is around 4 to 10DH/ hour. If you have a laptop while traveling then you can buy a USB key for wireless connection from one of the 3 main telecommunication companies (Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi). Credits are available starting from 10DH/24 hours (starting from the time you use it, if you start at 2:00am then next day at 2:00am you will have to recharge it again). Wifi is getting more and more common in places like hotels, shopping malls and in restaurants and coffee places in larger cities. The wireless connection in some areas might be slow, that depends on the signal as not the whole of Morocco has 3G coverage.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Morocco's country code is +212, International Call Prefix is 00. The telephone numbering scheme is changed starting March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0. Useful numbers are Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160.

Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used.
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel or Maroc Telecom. Prepaid cards are available. It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numerous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign.

Post

Post Maroc is the national postal service of Morocco and has details on their website (French) regarding the sending of letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically and internationally. The postal service in Morocco is very efficient and the post offices are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Saturdays it is open from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Some might keep longer hours though, especially in larger tourist cities and central areas. You can post your mail at one of the post offices or otherwise in the yellow post boxes you'll find throughout the country. For packages, you can also use international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS. They offer quick, reliable services and competitive rates. The main post office is on the southern side of Djemma el-Fna, just round the corner from the Pharmacie de Garde. Stamps can also be bought at 'Tabacs' and there are several post boxes dotted around the city.

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 31.63917
  • Longitude: -8.00477

Accommodation in Marrakech

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Marrakech searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Marrakech and areas nearby.

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This is version 66. Last edited at 20:10 on Aug 25, 17 by Utrecht. 76 articles link to this page.

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