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Marrakech has many wonders for the first time visitor and the following are the main attractions which people are inevitably drawn to. The centre of activity in Marrakech is Jemma el Fna, a memorable experience in the evening which can be viewed from one of the terrace cafes. All except Jardin Majorelle and Jardin Menara are located within the medina and easily accessible on foot.
Museum of Marrakech
If you are not a fan of museums do not be put off as it is worth a visit for the building alone, which is stunningly impressive. If you are interested in art then that is an added bonus as there are some amazing works of art displayed, you may also be interested in the Moroccan items although there is no English labelling or information so it's more for visual pleasure.
Palais la Bahia
Constructed around 1880, this is a fine example of Moroccan architecture with plenty of detail, arches, light, engravings, magnificent wooden ceilings and was actually built as a harem residence which makes it even more interesting. Open daily but closed when the Royal family visit who have direct access from the adjoining palace. The name Bahia means 'brilliance' and the palace was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style. Entry fee 10Dh. Recommended.
Palais el Badii
This construction was ordered by the Saadian Ahmed el Mansour in 1578 and was not completed until after his death in 1603. No expense was spared, items were even transported from China. Destroyed by the next King, who moved his capital to Meknès, and much of the Palace's building materials with it, the ruins are given over to storks and their families. Entry fee 10Dh.
Built in the 1920's by the Majorelle brothers these world famous gardens have a predominantly blue and yellow colour scheme. Large scale planting of desert and succulents of all sizes with ponds and terrapins. Also houses the Museum of Islamic Art but with additional entry fee. Formerly owned by Yves Saint Laurent who occupied a separate house. Entry fee 30Dh. Recommended.
In the southwest part of Marrakech, not far from Jemma el Fna, the landmark of the Koutoubia Mosque is situated with its great minaret which can be seen from a great distance. The height of the minaret is 69m and was constructed by the Almohads in the late 12th century and is the only one finished during their reign. Surrounding the mosque are gardens, fountain and the remains of the Almoravid Palace next to the mosque. No entry to non-Muslims.
Jardin de Menara
On the outskirts of town towards the airport, these gardens were designed as a summer escape with orchards and olive groves. The original pavilion predates the present structure which was built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Adu Rahman. The building is one of the most photographed settings of Morocco with Atlas mountains in the background, sadly it is also very rundown with no detail, furnishings, murals etc, probably the burglars got here first. Entry fee 10Dh.
La Mamounia hotel
The world famous hotel visited by the rich and famous since it opened in 1923 and located in the very heart of Marrakech and just at the entrance to the medina called Bab Jdid. La Mamounia is set amid idyllic gardens that are almost three hundred years old and surrounded by the city's 12th century ochre-coloured ramparts.
Located near the Bab er Rob entrance in the southwest of the medina, the Saadian tombs are those of the ruling dynasty of the 16th and 17th century. Created by Sultan Ahmed al Mansour in the late 16th century, 66 in total for his dynasty, they were sealed up in the 17th century but only re-discovered in 1917. The two attached mausoleums include more than 100 unrelated tombs. In spite of their location in a very busy part of the medina, it is a very peaceful and tranquil place. Access is via a very narrow passageway. Open daily except Tuesday and is best viewed very early to avoid the numerous tourist parties. Entrance fee is 10Dh. Recommended.
This is the old Jewish district located in the southern part of the medina, again with some very old and fine architecture and very low arched tunnels.
Arabian Nights complex north of town best described as a sort of Moroccan Disneyland. Despite the crowds that flock there nightly, you may just want to make the pilgrimage because it presents a variety of folk music and folklore from parts of Morocco you might not otherwise see.
Dinner is a rather mad affair served under caidal tents and includes the famous Mechoui roast lamb, couscous with chicken & veg, fruit, tea and Moroccan pastry with half wine and half water.
This is followed by ringside entertainment comprising a staged camel caravan, belly dancer, singer, bareback riding and finally the charge of the horsemen firing rifles and a flying magic carpet (?).
Place Jemma el Fna
Originally a place of execution hence the name “place of the dead”. In the daytime this is filled with musicians, a dancing troupe, performing monkeys, dentists, snake charmers, orange juice sellers (not always fresh), fruit and spice sellers and sellers of general tourist items. Leading off the square are entrances to a labrynth of souks and numerous riads.
It is quite manic in the daytime but as sunset approaches, the square is transformed before your very eyes. Firstly the restauranteurs move in whilst still light and begin setting up the numerous restaurant stalls, all with seating. One loses track of time and before realising it, darkness has arrived. The stalls are all brightly lit and for a small payment of typically 30Dh you can enjoy a good selection of fish served with bread, salad, fiery chili sauce, grilled aubergines, olives and salsa, all in generous quantities; best to agree a price before sitting down.
There is also a friendly boxing match in the square surrounded by a small crowd, elsewhere in the now overcrowded square there are more musicians and performers and storytellers speak of times long past and it is for this reason the Jemma el Fna is classed as a world heritage site.
A spectacle not to be missed. Recommended
Dar Si Said
Private museum of Moroccan arts and crafts including jewelry, costumes, weaponry, ceramics, wood carvings, furniture and other artefacts. Set in a dar of three storeys. Each craft is carefully situated in its own room so as to avoid the appearnace of being cluttered. The gardens are tastefully crafted with mossaics and a fountain where one can relax not caring that you are in the busy medina. Entry fee 30Dh. Open daily. Recommended
Described by some as a “paintbox of colours” which is very inaccurate. Profound smell of pigeon droppings used to treat the skins. Bab ed-Debbagh is the the entry point for the tanneries otherwise it is a long way going through the winding alleyways from Jemma el Fna. There are opportunist guides to lead you there and put you in the hands of one of the workers, you are then expected to pay a minimum of 100Dh to each.
Marrakech Tour Bus
On this you can observe the most important monuments from a double-decker bus while learning more about the city’s history. There are two circuits with about 25 stops each: “Marrakech Monumental” and “Marrakech Romantique” which goes too far out and shows you little. It operates on a 24 hour hop-on, hop-off system so one can get off at any stop and then get on later using the same ticket, although it does not operate at night (so not really operated 24 hours).
Take a relaxing flight up in the sky in a hot air balloon with Ciel d'Afrique, looking over the breath taking views of Marrakesh . Fly over the wide open tranquil deserts and the small local villages while travelling through the sky in a relaxed and peaceful manner. This fantastic activity is available to any one with a sense of adventure and an interest in the magnificent culture that Marrakech has to offer..
Medersa ben Youssef
Built in the 16th century as an Islamic school by the Saadians and could house up to 900 religious students. If you are thinking of visiting a medersa, you should definitely take a look at the one next to the Ben Youssef mosque. It is one of the most significant monuments of Marrakech, and one of the largest medersas in Maghreb. Here you will be able to see some of the best examples of Saadian art anywhere. Entry fee 10Dh. Recommended
The Ramparts of Marrakech
The walls of the medina have been standing since the 13th century and make for a wonderful early morning stroll. Each gate is a work of art and the walls run for 12 miles.
There are many souks to visit, each one with its own speciality. The Souk Laghzal is devoted to wool, El Batna to sheep skin and Zarbia to rugs and caftans, although there are more.
Many of these are situated off Jemma el Fna square at different entrances. In these you will also observe hard working folk creating many items from wrought iron works, ornate lampshades, wood carvings, leather crafts and silverware in addition to the usual tat for tourists. Recommended
Popular Arts Festival
This is one of the most important festivals in Morocco since it first started in the 1960's. It takes place every year in June in the ruins of the El Badii palace. There you will be in awe of the music, dances, costumes, etc. Many national and international groups come and entertain the crowds during ten days. At the end of each show, there is also a superb display of fireworks.