Rainy Days Out and About in Marrakech

For those days when it does rain (mainly during the winter months, although spectacular summer thunderstorms can provide a free light show) then the following ideas may help. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

In the north in the medina you will find the oldest Islamic university, the Medersa ben Youssef. Worth visiting for its architecture and for a glimpse into the lives of the students who studied there. Alongside the medersa is the relatively modern Musee de Marrakech worth seeing for its amazing "Close Encounters" chandelier in ornate brass and glass. The museum's collections, including changing artworks, are not too notable however. Across the road is the Koubba, although not covered against the rain, is interesting as the newly discovered and excavated medersa student latrines.

Within the medina to the south are various venues which are worth a visit on a rainy day. Within a short walk from each other are the Palais Bahia (not el Badi Palace, which is open to the skies, being a ruin, albeit an interesting and historically important site), lthe Museum of Modern Art (inspiring arcitecture if a bit weak on the changing exhibits) and Maison Tiskiwin which houses mainly sub-Saharan tribal artifacts collected by the anthropologist, Bert Flint. Also in this area is the Jewish quarter, the Mellah (officially called Hay Assalam) with its indoor market replete with spice and herboriste stalls, fabric shops and more. There are synagogues here too but opening times vary. Opposite the side entrance to the Mellah is a gold and silver covered souk.

Although the main tourist souks are mainly covered with cane and rattan "ceilings" water can drip through on a particularly rainy day. However many of the shops and boutiques are in internal spaces and offer and travellers wish to spend hours a carpet emporium is the place to be. Ready made djellabas and gandoras can be found here and if time permits a visitor can have one made to their own design and choice of fabrics.

Remaining with the shopping theme, for local produce try the adjoined markets outside of the Mellah or the Marche Centrale near Avenue Mohammed V in Guilez (the ville nouvelle). Heading back along this avenue towards the medina (look for the minaret of the Koutubia mosque) the Ensemble Artisinal can be found. This mainly covered complex offers Moroccan artisan goods such as slippers, siver jewelry, wood items, clothes, musical instruments, Arabic calligraphy and more in its small shops. The prices here are government fixed which although somewhat dearer than in the souks avoids the need for haggling. For "out of town" shopping Marjane and Carrefour offer a European style hypermarket experience.

The "hop on - hop off" tour bases (look out for open topped double-deckers in red livery) run city tours as do the horse-drawn carriages, caleches, witch have a hood to protect passengers from rain (or sun!)

Finally the cinemas for a rainy afternoon. There are several small cinemas catering almost exclusively for Moroccans. Two others are somewhat more tourist friendly. These are the Colisee on Boulevard Mohammed Zerktoina in Guilez, and cinema Mabrouka on Rue Bab Agnaou just off the main square. Bollywood/Kung-fu double feature films are the staples (in Hindi with Arabic and sometimes French subtitles) and occasional French (dubbed or subtitled) or even more occasional American imports (also dubbed/subtitled).