Marrakech knows how to put on a show. Its intoxicating sights and sounds dazzle, dazzle and enchant, as they have done for nearly a millennium. The hustle and bustle takes on a whole new meaning, especially in the Marrakech medina.
Whether you want to spice up your pantry with North African flavors or buy a rug to add a Moroccan effect to your home, Marrakech is one of the best shopping destinations in the world. Is your card ready? Well, that’s probably of little use to you here. Think of the souks of the medina as a commercial center, dotted with shops, accommodation, museums and historical sites, but laid out according to a labyrinthine plan from medieval times.
Here are the best things to do when visiting Marrakech.
Jemaa El Fna
If everyone is a stage, then Djemaa El Fna is the grand finale. Each evening, once the smoke from the restaurant’s grills begins to soar through the air, the square vibrates and vibrates to its own unique soundtrack. Gnaoua troupes beat their drums competing with snake-charmers, Amazigh musicians fight for their voices, and food stall vendors and henna ladies howl overhead. It’s a colorful mashup of the haunting choir of Djemaa El Fna.
Master the labyrinth of the medina of Marrakech
Become a looping master derbs (alleys) of the medina of Marrakech takes a lifetime to learn. But there is nothing wrong with trying. Exit Djemaa El Fna square and dive into the melee of the medina to navigate in donkey carts and bicycles amidst the crowds on the cobblestones. When the main souks get too claustrophobic, dive into the ramifications of the alleys and follow the high walls, washed in pink tones, past large dilapidated doors and doors decorated with brass knockers, through low tunnels and arcades in stucco where they can lead.
House of Photography
The private collections exhibited at the Maison de la Photographie present a vision of Morocco now recorded in history. It is the baby of Parisian Patrick Menac’h and Marrakech Hamid Mergani, who accentuated their passion for vintage Moroccan photography by opening this gallery. Tattooed women from the Atlas, aristocratic Arabs from Fez, servants with round eyes and djellaba-the clothed vagrants all watch from the walls. Most fascinating of all are the scenes capturing the landmarks of Marrakech, like the 1920s photo of Djemaa El Fna as an Amazigh market, a subtle, sepia-tinted doorway to the past.
Take the time to get away from the monuments and dust of the medina at Jardin Majorelle, hosted by French painter Jacques Majorelle and later nurtured under the patronage of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Stroll under the lush canopy along candy-colored trails that pass through bamboo groves and cactus gardens. While fashionistas strike a pose in front of the electric blue art deco studio where Majorelle once painted, inside is the phenomenal Berber Museum. Here, the far-reaching culture of the Amazigh people of Morocco is represented in dazzling displays of jewelry and artifacts.
Taste Moroccan delicacies
Moroccan cuisine has delighted the taste buds of foodies the world over for decades, and Marrakech has the most diverse culinary scene in the country. The hearty, sweet and savory flavors of real Marrakech cuisine are found in both Diffa (feast) blowouts in the palaces and in the stalls of the alleys where caramelized tagines bubble on gas stoves. Learn with the locals dads (chefs) during a cooking class, stroll through the souks with bags of greasy green olives and honey-soaked Moroccan pastries, or book a table at a rooftop restaurant to see where the scene is heading Moroccan culinary.
Inside the Bahia Palace, a prime piece of medina real estate, marrakchi artisans have truly made their way to town in a furious frenzy of zellige (colorful geometric mosaic tiling), sculpted plasters and zouak (painted wood) details. Crane your neck to soak up the towering ceilings, swirling in intricate and delicately colored patterns and patterns, in the palace salons where pashas (high-ranking officials) once posed. Leave the hustle and bustle of the medina behind to hide amid lush, shaded interior courtyards and stroll through the extravagant large marble courtyard.
Modesty obviously did not figure much in the vocabulary of Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour. In the chamber of the 12 pillars of the Saadian tombs, Al Mansour created the most chic final resting place in the city, where the dead were guarded by loads of marble and gilded stucco. Isolated from the world by a jealous sultan Moulay Ismail who preferred to keep the reigning empires out of sight and minds, the monumental tombs of Al Mansour and his entourage only regained their fame and glory when rediscovered in 1917.
The Secret Garden
Move around Majorelle: Yves Saint Laurent’s cactus plantations in Gueliz compete in Le Jardin Secret, a pretty Islamic garden in the middle of the medina. Its foundations are over 400 years old, but rather than restoring the interiors of the riad, the owners focused on revitalizing the garden and the medieval original. khettara (underground irrigation system) which feeds it. Using CGI and modeling, the exhibits expertly explain the importance of water and greenery in Islamic culture. Under its ramparts, the pavilions and lounge areas are separated by water channels and fig and pomegranate trees.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum
From his first visit in the 1960s, French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent was captivated by Morocco. The Majorelle Garden became his second home, and when his partner Pierre Berge died in 2017, the daring Yves Saint Laurent Museum opened next door as a sanctuary to the life and work of YSL. It is also a tribute to the country which nourished his imagination. The building is a contemporary terracotta juggernaut inspired by traditional riad architecture and Islamic colors.
Hammams are the quintessential Moroccan experience. After a day of dusty tourist exploits, a good cleaning leaves you perfectly clean, fresh and invigorated to take back the medina. In its simplest form, a hammam is a steam room where you wash yourself, sweat the day’s dirt and then scrub. They’re great for local interactions, and some, like Hammam Mouassine, offer tourist-friendly services, but the do-it-yourself public hammam experience can be a bit intimidating for newcomers. Fortunately, the city’s thriving private hammam scene provides a refined and relaxing experience.
This article was originally published in March 2020. It was updated in June 2021.