Clay pastel-washed buildings formed to create an endless maze of souqs and food stalls are what lies at the heart of Marrakesh, also referred to as the Ochre City . This inviting city, built by Berber empire, has a rich blend of Moroccan and international food blends, allowing a wide range of diversity to be welcomed into the enchanting city of Marrakesh. This city is a fast passed, on the go environment with the locals waking up at sunrise to set up for the chaotic day ahead. The city pulls it’s visitors down endless winding alley ways that leads to new, undiscovered spice souqs and endless magic carpets.
The sweltering heat of the African sun beams down, with locals selling water from all corners of the city. And though your feet may be aching by the end of the day, after walking through the medina and walking at a constant fast pace to ensure that nothing is missed, the sunset that sets over the city whilst sitting at a rooftop restaurant is worth it, and you’ll be bound to do it all again the next day.
Things to Do
Being left with nothing to do in Marrakesh is something that tourists won’t be faced with. No matter what time of day, action and events will be drawing in passing crowds. Don’t be afraid to step out of your Riad and into the city swept life and creative energy of the enriching Marrakesh. Be prepared to be taken away by the cities beauty and it’s divine spirit, and everything can be seen by foot, bonus.
It’s true what they say about this main square located in the centre of Marrakesh, it is busy and active from sunrise to sunset. This square is especially active and alive while the sun is going down and the darkness roll overhead. The square is packed with thousands of people watching magic shows, getting henna tattoos, shopping, watching street performers, snake shows, fortune tellers and eating freshly hot made food. As well as being amongst the mess, sit on one of the many rooftop resturants that surround the square and watch the buzzing atmosphere below. This square at night time was my favourite part about the city, at first I was overwhelmed with the constant activity, but as soon as I overcame the initial intimidation, I was swept off my feet.
Escape the city sounds and enter a hidden treasure. A French artist, Jacques Majorelle, took fourty-years to create a peaceful getaway, a getaway that had been inspired by his travels. This treasure is a garden made up of exotic plants and trees and each description of each one takes you instantly away to the country where Majorelle was too, first impressed by the plant. Not only is there endless amounts of plants from all over the world, but art decor is surrounded by these exotic plants with benches to sit and take in the quietness of the garden before entering the fast past movement of Marrakesh.
With beautifully ornate ceilings, this palace is a stop that shouldn’t be missed. Still used today by the Moroccan government for entertaining formal guests, the Palace is open to guests, however only at certain times of the day, depending on which day you are visiting. Be taken away by the craftsmanship of the design, and the beautifully vibrant colours that are vivid from floor, to walls to the ceilings.
The distant sound of the call to prayer excels over the city as people place themselves facing North in prayer position, and what better way to pray then in Koutoubia Mosque. If you are not a practising Muslim, then you are not aloud to freely enter Mosques in Marrakesh – unless there may be an event on for tourists – but don’t let this stop you from viewing the Mosque from the outside. Islamic architecture is in abundance throughout the city, but even more so when it comes to viewing one of the most popular Mosques in Marrakesh.
Souq Shopping and Eating
Get your map ready, because you are bound to be lost amongst the endless streets of mazes that are that of the local markets. Souq is another common name for a shopping and market district, it’s a place where locals set up stalls to sell antiques, or other types of homemade items. Marrakesh is a city filled with souqs, so finding souvenirs or anything from spices to shoes, doesn’t fall short when shopping in this majestic city.
In Marrakesh, camel and other sorts of meat like lamb are sold across the board at almost every restaurant. Cheese omelette, surprisingly for me, was another prominent meal served across almost all restaurants. Jemmaa El-Fnaa is the most popular place to grab a bite to eat and to people watch from the balcony of your restaurant, whilst also sipping on a non-alcoholic cocktail as alcohol is banned in most restaurants and bars due to religion.
What to Expect
Marrakesh is a thriving and busy city, so there’s no surprise it may take a few adjustments to get use to the constant movement of the city. People in Morocco are willing to help their tourists out, if the locals notice a tourist lost or wondering around endlessly in a circle deciding which street to go down, they will approach you and they will help you. Don’t be afraid of this, yes they may be doing this just to earn some money of you, but make sure if a local approaches you offering to take you to where you need to go (on foot), make sure they know that they will not be receiving money off you.
As I mentioned above, Jemmaa El-Fnaa is extremely busy at night time, I had heard of this but didn’t think it would be anything like it really was. This means it is a prime spot for pick pocking so make sure valuables are left at the hotel or close to your person at all times. Being in this square at night, I was grabbed and a women forced henna onto me and demanded money, be aware of this as this happens and is a real thing. I refused to pay her and she began to use Allah’s name to demand money off me. Be alert of all things happening in this market, even though there is so much happening around, it is easy to be distracted.
lastly, for all the women out there, clothing shouldn’t be the first thing you worry about. Before I went, I was worried about what to wear, but once I arrived it was no longer an issue and I wore denim skirts and singlet tops. I was travelling to Morocco with a male which helped extensively, but if you are travelling alone, I would suggest covering your knees and shoulders as much as possible as you will draw attention if you don’t. Of course, entering any religious site, there is a strict code of dress, so make sure this is known before visiting the site.