Truth be told, I hadn’t had a single clue about this amazing place until I heard the name during a French language class in university. Today, I’ve forgotten most of my French (ughh!) but I’m glad I decided to visit Marrakech. It turned out to be my favourite travel destination!
So here are a few Marrakech facts for you: It is the 3rd (or 4th) largest city in Morocco, that lies in the Northwest part of Africa (Maghreb region). Arabic is the official language with French commonly spoken too. In addition, the city itself is split into two: Medina, the old city and Gueliz, the new city.
The currency used is Moroccan Dirham (MAD), and during the time of writing, 10 MAD was roughly 1 USD. And while not many of us have heard about Marrakech, it was voted as the world’s 3rd best destination in 2016 by TripAdvisor. Really! This place is THAT good!
Since I was already in Europe for my Student Exchange Programme (and I was kinda bored of visiting Cathedrals) I decided to spend a week in Morocco, visiting Marrakech, Sahara desert and Fez.
What to do in Marrakech?
Jemaa el-Fnaa to Marrakech is like Times Square to New York, minus the buildings and excessive lightings LOL. But seriously, this is the highlight of any night in Marrakech. It is full of food stalls, spectacles, stories, animals (yes, monkeys and snakes for shows) and of course people.
This square is the heart of Marrakech, and anyone visiting the town shouldn’t miss it. The crowd can be overwhelming, but it is an undeniably wonderful experience to be here 🙂
Located just across Jemaa el-Fnaa, this towering minaret also serves as your reference whenever you are lost in Marrakech! This is the only tall structure in the city, as I think there is a law that prohibits buildings to be taller than palm trees. I’m not entirely sure though haha that’s why we have the internet 😛
Although it can be viewed from many places, the best sight can be enjoyed from the Rose Garden just west of the mosque.
Like most of the mosques in Morocco, only Muslims can enter into Koutoubia. Nevertheless, its majestic structure can be enjoyed even from the outside.
Souks and Tanneries
Well, I never thought that I would write an article about shopping, but the Souks (marketplace/bazaar) of Marrakech is really something that is unique for travellers. Numerous small and winding alleys will definitely make you lose your bearing once you step inside this chaotic maze.
You’ll certainly have a feast for your senses while you browse an extensive range of unique hand made leather bags and other accessories, jewelry, ceramics, lanterns, rugs, spices, food and much more!
The Tanneries, on the other hand, are a place where raw material for leather goods is processed. Although you might have heard of many bad reviews, I still recommend you to brave through the various “scams” or “rip-off attempts” to experience this fascinating ancient craft. However, the Tanneries in Fez are more famous than the ones you can find here, so if you are visiting both cities, I would suggest to just go for the one in Fez instead 🙂
Museum of Marrakech
There are many museums in Marrakech, but if you have limited time, try not to miss this one! Reason for visiting? The museum is simply gorgeous 🙂
The museum is housed inside Dar Menebhi Palace, and located about 1km way from the main square Jemaa el-Fnaa. The palace itself represents an example of classical Andalusian architecture, and it currently exhibits art pieces and historical articles of both modern and traditional Moroccan, Berber and Arab origins.
But really, with such a gorgeous architecture, I wouldn’t mind visiting even if the museum has no exhibit 😛
Ben Youssef Madrasa
This Madrasa was the largest Islamic college in Morocco and now serves as a public historical site. That’s such a good news because now people from all over the world can come here to witness its marvel 🙂
Oh, this Madrasa is located just a couple of meters away from Museum of Marrakech, so it is definitely worth your time to visit both of them at the same time.
The college is so big that people said it was able to house 900 students when it was operational, thanks to hundreds of dormitory rooms that it had.
There are elaborate carvings all over the Madrasa, and these carvings contain no representation of humans or animals as required by Islam, and consist entirely of inscriptions and colourful geometric patterns. That’s what makes it so gorgeous and attractive!
Marrakech has a very famous garden called Majorelle Garden. It was created over the course of 40 years by a French painter Jacques Majorelle. However, I decided to visit the other garden instead, one that is not as famous but is enchanting in its own way: Menara Garden.
Unlike Majorelle, Menara might not have any exotic trees. In fact, it has only olive trees surrounding its large basin for irrigation. I was captivated by Menara Garden not because of the garden itself, but because of a single green pavilion overlooking a large artificial basin.
Menara Garden is located far away from the city centre, and is actually fairly close to the airport. From the main square Jemaa el-Fnaa, 45 minutes to 1 hour walk is required. The journey might be physically draining due to the warm weather, so prepare your water bottle.
How to navigate around Marrakech?
Marrakech can be a bit confusing. Nah, I think it is actually super confusing LOL. Map is essential but still doesn’t guarantee perfect navigation due to the numerous small alleys. Nevertheless, here is a map so that you can roughly see the location of the various places we’ve mentioned before 🙂
There are more to Marrakech than what I wrote here. Limited time only permitted me to see and do so much, but other recommendations include: Bahia Palace, El Badi Palace and Saadian Tombs. They are great places and it was such a pity I didn’t have time to visit 😦
And of course, since you are already in Morocco, you HAVE TO go to the Sahara Desert! I took a 3D2N tour from one travel agent in Marrakech, passing by many amazing places en route. There are lots of travel agents providing the service, so just walk around Jemaa el-Fnaa and ask around to compare the price. 🙂
In addition, the Atlas Mountain is located quite near Marrakech, so if you have more time and are feeling adventurous, you can hike the Toubkal, the highest mountain in Northern Africa!
And how to get to Marrakech?
Marrakech Menara Airport is connected to many major airports in Europe. From other parts of the world, you probably have to fly to Casablanca (the capital city) first before changing flight or catching a train (3 hrs).
From the airport, you can take (1) Taxi, (2) Airport Bus or (3) Local Bus. And yep, as expected, I took the local bus for 4 dirham (LOL cheapo). Take the city bus number 11 which stops at Avenue Gnassa, a main road near 500 meters from the airport terminal. You can take this bus and alight at the main square Jemaa El-Fnaa (Medina old town).