Marrakech... our favourite spots
Where are our favourite spots in Marrakech? Here, we share them with you.
A city of bustling souks and spicy scents, Marrakech has the power to instantly enthrall. For the traveller, it offers experiences quite distinct from those you will find anywhere else in the world – something that gives it an irresistible draw.
We spoke to Cox & Kings' very own Sabastian tofind out more about this fascinating city, including just what makes it so special, and which spots are unmissable.
Why we love Marrakech
For Sabastian, it is the uniqueness of Marrakech that really makes the city shine. Its fantastic history, vibrant souks and labyrinthine streets imbue the metropolis with an atmosphere entirely its own. Indeed, Sabastian claims that he hasn't experienced anything like it outside of Morocco.
Of course, Marrakech is a popular city for tourism. Interestingly, the interplay between the more tourist-focused attractions and the sights associated with the day-to-day life of the residents is part of what makes it such a fascinating place.
Ben Yousef Madrassa
Sabastian names the Ben Yousef Madrassa as one of the most captivating architectural highlights. This theological college is located around ten minutes' walk from Djemma el-Fna Square, the beating heart of Marrakech, and was founded in the 14th century.
For hundreds of years, this remained one of those foremost centres for Qu'ranic learning and, visiting today, you can feel an almost palpable studious ambience. However, for Sabastian, the fascination with this attraction lies in its wonderful architecture. As you explore, you can admire stunning wood and marble decorations, including intricate carvings of beautiful Islamic patterns. Take a stroll through this educational building to see charming wooden lattice screens, stucco arches and cedar windows.
Lying just outside the historic medina walls is another of Sabastian's favourite attractions – the Majorelle Gardens. This provides a marked contrast to the endless bustle and throngs of people in the city streets. Indeed, the gardens are something of an oasis of calm, and this contrast alone would be enough to warrant them a visit. However, Majorelle offers plenty more merits besides.
Having taken approximately 40 years to achieve its current splendour, the gardens are home to more than 300 stunning plants from across the world; a gentle stroll to discover these is, as you would expect, the absolute highlight of a visit here. Interestingly, the garden was actually gifted to the city by renowned designer Yves Saint Laurent, who purchased it from painter Jacques Majorelle. The work of ethnobotanist Abderrazak Benchaabane has allowed their visions to live on.
While the gardens are themselves, of course, the star of the show, it's worth noting that there is also a small museum here should you be keen to add a splash of culture to your visit. Housing some 600 artefacts, the Berber Art Museum displays a wealth of work from Moroccan artists, including everything from textiles to musical instruments.
Sabastian recommends allowing several hours to enjoy Majorelle. Either dedicate the morning to a tranquil stroll followed by lunch at the onsite cafe, or enjoy a few hours drinking in the view during the afternoon before treating yourself to a light snack.
Djemma el-Fna Square
Djemma el-Fna Square is probably Marrakech's most famous attraction. Unesco has placed it on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, while Sabastian extols its endlessly exciting ambience.
All this praise will come as little surprise once you have visited the square; Djemma el-Fna is a hive of Marrakech culture and, with its mix of attractions for locals and tourists alike, is wonderfully representative of the city as a whole. Likening the square to a living circus, Sabastian explains that there is always a fascinating mix of things to see here. Snake charmers, dancers, fortune tellers and musicians vie for your attention at virtually all hours of the day –but the real show begins in the evening.
At this time of day, food sellers proceed into the square followed by musicians - and then an astonishing theatre of cookery begins. From this point on, you can wander between the stalls tasting all kinds of mouthwatering vegetarian and meat dishes to satisfy even the most demanding of appetites – while the intoxicating atmosphere will sate your cultural appetite too.
Offering a small tip, Sabastian comments on the wonderful displays on the stalls, which are almost works of art in themselves; this market provides as much of a feast for the eyes as the stomach.
Tips for visiting Marrakech
Offering a few parting words of wisdom, Sabastian notes that there are a few simple steps you can take to make your stay in Marrakech all the more memorable. The first is to stay in riad rather than hotel. These are traditional homes that have been converted into hotels, and offer a way of having a more authentically Moroccan experience. Indeed, you can expect very distinctive architecture (typically including rooms situated around a central courtyard) and beautiful decor.
He also recommends carrying plenty of small change, as many shops and vendors prefer not to be handed large notes (and in some cases refuse to accept them). Once you are out exploring the riches of the city, it can be tempting to stay out into the evening, but Sabastian suggests a less intense approach; go back to your riad after a day's sightseeing for a few hours rest before making your way out again in the evening. This way, you can avoid wearing yourself out, and have the energy to really appreciate all that Marrakech has to offer.
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