5 Reasons to Visit Marrakesh
This weekend, Morocco celebrated its Independence Day commemorating the country’s independence from France on 18th November 1956. So to celebrate the occasion, we thought we’d take a look at one of the world’s most unique cities; Marrakesh.
A market town since it was founded in the 11th century, Marrakesh is city like no. Steeped in history and architectural wonder, it’s vibrant, colourful and often bizarre, mixing old traditions with new charms. It can be overwhelming when first experienced but behind the exotic music and snake charming, it’s a city of soul and splendour. Here’s 5 reasons to visit Marrakesh;
Souks & Markets in Marrakesh
A visit to Marrakesh just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its souks and markets in the Medina walls of the old city. The souks refer to the maze of market streets that stretch north from the Djemaa el-Fna and sell everything from cheap souvenirs to premium Moroccan fabrics, craftworks, ornaments, lamps, jewellery and carpets. It’s a truly incredible experience, full of sights and sounds. It can be overwhelming and you’ll probably hear scare stories of pushy tradesman and intimidating crowds, but relax and soak it all in. It’s all part of the fun.
We should say that given the premium location, rent is high in the souks and products can get pretty expensive unless you’re a superb haggler. As such, you can find pretty much all the same stuff cheaper in the specialist quissariat (covered markets) located further north of Marrakesh. The apothecaries square, Rahba Kehdima, is well worth a visit for its multi-coloured spice stalls alone, while the the Creiee Berbere is the best place to bag yourself a decent quality carpet. For leather goods, head to Place Ben Youssef.
Hammams in Marrakesh
After bustling your way around the souks, chances are you’re going to want a little R&R. Luckily, Moroccans know how to unwind thanks to their traditional Hammams. A Hammam is essentially a public bathhouse where Moroccans go usually once a week to bathe. You can grab treatments and massages, swim, or simply sit and relax. Rather than being a treat or indulgence, it’s more of a way of life in the country and a significant part of life in Morocco, so there’s plenty of options in Marrakesh.
Alongside more contemporary Hammams like the boutique Les Bains de Marrakech (ideal for couples who want joint massage rooms) and the legendary and lavish La Mamounia (which has been voted the best spa hotel in Morocco), we’d recommend heading to something a little more authentic, such as Hammam Dar el-Bacha which is one of the largest in Marrakesh and predominantly used by locals.
Food in Marrakech
Food will always be a part of discovering a new country/city and a trip to Marrakesh should be no different. Exotic spices and pungent aromas fill every corner of this city. While there are of course exclusive restaurants to sample, you’ll also find some superb Moroccan food big on flavour in corner cafés and food stalls in the souks and squares.
Cous cous naturally features heavily in dishes in Marrakesh and you really do have to try a traditional beef or lamb tagine at some point, but we’d also recommend chermoula – a herby and spicy marinade usually used with grilled fish – and B’stilla – a pie made with pigeon, almonds and eggs, and spiced with saffron. Also make sure you try a Moroccan mint tea (just try and forget how much sugar is in it) and grab some orange juice from a market stall – Moroccan oranges are some of the best in the world.
Architecture in Marrakesh
Moroccan architecture is some of the most fascinating in the world. Like its cuisine, its influences are far reaching with the traditions of Northern Africa meeting Moorish and Islamic style elements. Buildings in Marrakesh are famed for their extravagant geometrical decorations and elaborate use of contrasting colour, and to be honest you could walk around anywhere and find something of interest – especially in the historic Medina. But there are some specific places in the old town we’d recommend you visit.
You can’t really miss Koutobia Mosque; it’s the largest in the city and towers above everything. We’d definitely recommend checking it out before heading to the nearby Saadian Tombs which date back to the 1550s and feature some characteristic Italian marble and opulent, colourful tiling. The ruins of Badi Palace are a must, while the ornate former royal palace, Bahia Palace, showcases traditional Moroccan design in all its splendour. The Marrakesh Museum is also housed within a former palace.
Atlas Mountains & Desert Tours in Marrakesh
While the city has more than enough to keep you occupied, a trip to Marrakesh should really coincide with a least a day trip into the nearby Atlas Mountains. The spectacular winding, rugged roads pass everything from peaks, valleys and canyons, to sand dunes, rocky plateaus and lush green oases, making Morocco one of the most renowned desert destinations on the planet.
Ourika Valley is the most popular excursion from the city and is perfect for a day trip. Located in Berber region, we’d recommend signing up to a day tour where you’ll have the option of visiting a visiting a Berber village to see how the indigenous people of North Africa live. If you get the chance, make sure you stop off for some authentic Berber cuisine too – it’s sensational. There’s also plenty of quad biking options in the desert too.
For something closer to home, here’s 7 Reasons to Visit Poland!