Marrakesh is the second largest city in Morocco. Lying at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains, it is rich in natural beauty. It is a city that offers loads of culture and a wonderful mystique. This Moroccan city is home to a medina quarter (a centuries old, labyrinthine, walled city), unique to North African cities. The Medina is often very historic, with archaic fountains and mosques. Medinas are usually free of car traffic (crowds, bicycles and mopeds abound) because the streets are so narrow. A medina is a must-see for its uniqueness to North African culture!
Additionally, Marrakesh is famous for its bustling market (Arabic for "markets" is souks). The market in is undoubtedly one of the busiest and most fascinating places in the world. One can purchase anything from rose and orange blossom water to tanned leather luggage and beautiful silver (and not so silver) hand-crafted jewelry. Remember that it is considered rude NOT to haggle and barter with stand owners for goods. To get the best possible price, at least for a tourist, and to immerse yourself in a highly cultural activity, Trekker Time suggests you bargain hard! It's half the fun of experiencing Morocco's rich merchant heritage.
After the Almoravids conquered the area, they moved the capital from the overflowing Aghmat to the uninhabited area that became the city of Marrakesh in 1062. It became a prosperous and culturally rich city, central to an empire stretching from Northern Africa to Europe.
Less than one hundred years later, the Almohads took the city. Still, it continued to flourish under the new dynasty’s influence. The third Almohad sultan, Yacoub el Mansour, built the Koutoubia Mosque and many other architectural masterpieces.
The empire fell prey to tribal feuds, and by the mid-13th century Fez, not Marrakesh, became the capital of the triumphant Merenids. Marrakesh quickly lost its position and prosperity.
In 1554, the Saadians captured Marrakesh and made it their capital. They returned it to its former opulence, building the Al Bedi Palace and the Saadian Tombs, and brought about a golden age.
When the Alaouites took over in 1669, they relocated much of Marrakesh’s wealth to Meknes, the new capital. Marrakesh again fell into decline. The Alaouites still rule today, though the French took Morocco as a protectorate from 1912-56. Rabat became the capital, but Marrakesh has had much of its cultural heritage restored (with some French influence) and has become a popular destination for travelers from around the globe.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The new city stands outside the medina, or old town. Most of the city’s historical attractions, along with its famously large market, Djemaa el Fna, reside in the old city, but the many restaurants and shopping opportunities provide reason to visit the new city as well.
Djemaa el Fna
Palais de la Bahia
El Badi Palace
Riad Monceau Restaurant – The Riad Monceau (only a few minutes from the city’s main square) has a romantic restaurant waiting to take you out of the bustling city and seat you by the mosaic-tiled pool, fireplace or on a terrace for a refined Moroccan dinner served by an attentive staff. At 360 MAD (about 40 US dollars), the ever-changing tasting menu consists of a soup, starter, entrée, dessert and cup of mint tea. Reservations recommended.
L’Annexe Restaurant For a quality French meal with a chic, modern atmosphere, visit L’Annexe. The Parisian owners offer set lunch specials and a large variety of dinner entrees.
Dar Lahna This hotel has lovely, individually decorated rooms, such as “Fresh,” a room by the pool filled with bright oranges, red, and yellows.
Riad Noir D’Ivoire – A member of hotel staff and a donkey will likely escort you to the hotel, where you will become very familiar with the owners, Jill and Demian, who can give you great advice for your trip. The rooms, each named after an animal, are lavish, but comfortable, and breakfast is included. Master suites include a private terrace with Jacuzzi.