Things to see in Marrakech

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Things to see in Marrakech

Marrakech is a cosmopolitan city which is well worth a visit in itself

Tourist offices

Office National Marocain du Tourisme (ONMT)

Place Abdel Moumen Ben Ali, Avenue Mohammed V, Guéliz, Marrakech, Morocco

Tel: 05244 36179.

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1200 and 1500-1830.

www.visitmorocco.com

Bahia Palace
The 19th-century Bahia Palace still functions as a royal residence where the king entertains, but dozens of rooms are open to the public to see how the royals lived, including the former residence of the Grand Vizier's four wives and his royal harem of 24 concubines. These rooms are decked out floor to ceiling with an eye-popping combination of stuccowork, mosaics and intricately carved and painted woodwork.
Opening Times: Mon-Thurs and Sat-Sun 0830-1145 and 1430-1745, Fri 0830-1130 and 1500-1745.
Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: Rue Riad Zitoun el-Jedid, near Place des Ferblantiers, Marrakech, Morocco Telephone: 05243 89564.

 

El Badi Palace
This once magnificent palace, whose name means the 'incomparable', was built in 1578 by the Midas of Marrakech, Saadian sultan Ahmed el-Mansour. Its 360 rooms were once sumptuously decorated in marble, gold, onyx, ivory, cedar wood and semi-precious stones, surrounding a vast central courtyard of pools, fountains and sunken gardens. This was the venue for parties of extreme extravagance until the sultan died, the capital was moved to Meknès and the palace was stripped of anything valuable. Little remains of its glory days and the ruins of the battlements surround a vast empty space where sumptuous gardens and palace rooms once stood. Today the main attractions are the nesting storks that have made their home here and (for an additional entrance fee) the original 12th-century marquetry minbar (pulpit) inlaid with silver and gold and painstakingly restored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Every summer it comes to life as the main venue for the National Festival of Popular Arts, and recently it has served as a venue for lounge and electronica music festivals.
Opening Times: Daily 0830-1145 and 1430-1745.
Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: Bab Berrima, off Place des Ferblantiers , Marrakech, Morocco

 

Koutoubia Mosque
From any approach, the first sight of Marrakech is of the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, which dominates the skyline and is a handy reference point for lost travellers. Marrakech's tallest building dates from the 12th century and is the prototype for Moroccan design, with each facade and archway on the square minaret carved with a different architectural flourish. Originally, it was covered in plaster with each tier decoratively painted, but a 1990s restoration opted to leave the stonework exposed. The architecture can be admired at close quarters from the recently renovated gardens, where you can glimpse the foundations of an 11th-century Almoravid mosque demolished because it was not correctly aligned with Mecca.
Opening Times: Mosque and minaret closed to non-Muslims; gardens open sunrise-sunset.
Admission Fees: No Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: Avenue Mohammed V , Marrakech, Morocco

 

Marrakech souks
Marrakech appeals to all five senses and the sixth besides - you'll need to trust your intuition to find your way through the labyrinth of souks (market streets) with carpet dealers lying in wait around every corner. The main souks are found through an arch to the north of the Jemaa el Fna. Each section has its own speciality - slippers, spices, lamps and jewellery. The medicinal lotions and potions are particularly interesting, especially those to ward off Jinn (souls without bodies) held responsible for a whole range of ills. Avoid any 'unofficial guides' who offer their services: the whole point of the souks is getting lost, catching glimpses of handicrafts in progress, and finding bargains to boot. Touts may offer to guide you to the tanneries to the northeast of the souks, but this 'attraction' is better avoided. The local leather-tanning setup involves toxic chemical dyes and an unholy stench, and is a favourite haunt of local glue-sniffers - hardly picturesque. The dense central souks offer far more appealing sights to fill an afternoon, and even if you've no intention of buying anything, they're worth a visit for the ambience.
Opening Times: Daily approximately 0900-1900.
Admission Fees: No Disabled Access: No Unesco: No
Marrakech souks
Marrakech appeals to all five senses and the sixth besides - you'll need to trust your intuition to find your way through the labyrinth of souks (market streets) with carpet dealers lying in wait around every corner. The main souks are found through an arch to the north of the Jemaa el Fna. Each section has its own speciality - slippers, spices, lamps and jewellery. The medicinal lotions and potions are particularly interesting, especially those to ward off Jinn (souls without bodies) held responsible for a whole range of ills. Avoid any 'unofficial guides' who offer their services: the whole point of the souks is getting lost, catching glimpses of handicrafts in progress, and finding bargains to boot. Touts may offer to guide you to the tanneries to the northeast of the souks, but this 'attraction' is better avoided. The local leather-tanning setup involves toxic chemical dyes and an unholy stench, and is a favourite haunt of local glue-sniffers - hardly picturesque. The dense central souks offer far more appealing sights to fill an afternoon, and even if you've no intention of buying anything, they're worth a visit for the ambience.
Opening Times: Daily approximately 0900-1900.
Admission Fees: No Disabled Access: No Unesco: No

 

Saadian Tombs
One of the most visited sites in Marrakech and in Morocco, the Saadian Tombs were discovered and opened to the public in 1917. The entrance is signposted inside the main gate to the Kasbah, a short walk from Jemaa el Fna. The principal structures of the tombs were built by Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour and date from the late 16th century. An enclosed garden is overlooked by two separate mausoleums, with over 100 mosaic-decorated graves scattered inside lavishly decorated chambers and outside in the courtyard (where most of the royal wives and concubines ended up). The mausoleum reserved for the sultan and his favourite sons boasts magnificent domed ceilings, gilded stalactite plasterwork, intricate carving and marble pillars. There are 66 members of the Saadian royal family buried here, alongside chancellors and royal advisors and some much older graves whose identity has been lost. Visitors should expect long queues unless they visit early to avoid the rush.
Opening Times: Daily 0830-1145 and 1430-1745.
Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: Rue de la Kasbah , Marrakech, Morocco

 

Menara Gardens
With its backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, it is no surprise that the Menara Gardens are one of the most photographed places in Morocco. It is also a popular place among locals for picnics. The best time to come is late afternoon when most of the tourists have left. More a working farm than a garden, the Menara was laid out in the 12th century by the Almohads. Around 30,000 olive trees are set around a magnificent reflecting pool, filled with fish that leap above the surface to the surprise of passing walkers. The well-kept picnic pavilion, the menzeh, was built much later in 1869. The first-floor open balcony offers a wonderful view over the pool and the mountains beyond.
Opening Times: 0530-1830.
Admission Fees: No Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: Yes
Address: Avenue de la Menara, Marrakech, Morocco

 

Musée Dar Si Said
Marrakech has several excellent museums, all set in historic buildings and highlighting collections of local arts and crafts. Just north of the Bahia Palace along Rue Riad Zitoun el-Jedid you'll notice signs pointing the way to Musée Dar Si Said. This former mansion of 19th-century royal chamberlain Sidi Said now houses a notable collection of daggers, carved doors, musical instruments and mysterious kitchen implements. The route through the museum flows through maze-like entry rooms, a courtyard and upstairs to the magnificent domed wedding chamber and top-floor kitchen.
Opening Times: Wed-Mon 0900-1200 and 1500-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: Off Rue Riad Zitoun el-Jedid, near Bahia Palace, Marrakech, Morocco Telephone: 05243 89564.

 

Majorelle Garden and Museum of Islamic Art
Given by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent as a gift to the city of Marrakech, this botanical garden was created in the 1920s by French artists Jacques and Louis Majorelle. Perfectly manicured gardens, with pools, giant cacti, bamboo, coconut and banana trees, stand out against the bright-blue wash that covers the villa and garden walls, with splashes of lemon yellow and emerald green on planters, doors and furnishings. A must-see, both for the garden and a peek inside the Majorelles' old studio, which now houses Yves Saint Laurent's collection of local arts and antiques in the Museum of Islamic Art.
Opening Times: Daily 0800-1800 (May-Sep); daily 0800-1730 (Oct-Apr).
Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: Entrance in side street off avenue Yacoub el Mansour, Marrakech, Morocco Telephone: 05243 13047.
Website: www.jardinmajorelle.com

 

Musée Tiskiwin
Near the Musée Dar Si Said is a beautiful double riad containing the private collection of folk crafts belonging to Dutch collector Bert Flint. This small, dusty, and appealingly quirky museum leads visitors on a journey from Tuareg artifacts of the Sahara to the talismanic Berber adornments of the Atlas Mountains. Despite being around the corner from the Musée Dar Si Said, the way is poorly signed and it is easy to get lost en route; follow the signs on Rue Riad Zitoun el-Jedid instead.
Opening Times: Daily 0900-1230 and 1500-1730.
Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: 8 Rue Dar Bahia, near Bahia Palace, Marrakech, Morocco Telephone: 05243 89192.

 

Ben Youssef Medersa, Musée de Marrakech and Koubba el Badiyin
In the heart of Marrakech's souks, the sublime Ben Youssef Medersa is a former Koranic school where the main courtyard is a wonder of stucco, mosaics and marble surrounded by balconies of exquisite carved cedar and relatively austere dorm rooms where students lived, memorised scriptures, crammed for tests in Islamic law, and prepared simple hot-plate meals. A visit here can be combined with a trip to the Musée de Marrakech (Museum of Marrakech), a magnificently restored 19th-century mansion built by the Mnebhi family that now displays carpets, jewellery, furniture, ceramics, textiles and manuscripts. Across the square in front of the Ali ben Youssef Mosque is the Koubba el Badiyin, the sole surviving structure of the city's Almoravid founders other than the mud-brick city walls. A combined ticket gives same-day access to the Medersa, museum, and Koubba el Badiyin.
Opening Times: Medersa daily 0900-1800, museum and Koubba daily 0900-1900.
Admission Fees: Yes. Disabled Access: Yes Unesco: No
Address: Place ben Youssef (in the souks), Marrakech, Morocco Telephone: (0524) 441 893.

 

Jemaa el Fna (Place of the Dead)
Jemaa el Fna square is the centre of medina life both day and night as a gathering place and unofficial stage for street theatre. For more than a millennium, the Jemaa el Fna's daily bill has featured acrobats, henna tattoo artists, storytellers, belly dancers, musicians, snake charmers and potion sellers. Mint sellers and carts selling dried fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice make way at dusk for 100 makeshift barbecue restaurants and troupes of entertainers vying for attention. Visitors should take plenty of loose change, as the performers do expect a couple of Dirhams worth of appreciation and some of the more colourful characters will pose for a photo for a small charge. That said, this is not a spectacle just for tourists; the crowd is mostly Moroccan. Jemaa el Fna is surrounded by cafés and restaurants, perfect places to escape the hustle and observe the proceedings with a mint tea, coffee or light meal. Café Argana, Café de France and Café Glacier all have roof terraces with wonderful views, although they are slightly more expensive than other local cafés.
Disabled Access: No Unesco: Yes

 

Shopping in Marrakech
Shopping is an absolute delight in Marrakech and one of the city's key attractions. Bargaining is essential to do shopping in Marrakech - visitors should start at around one third of what they want to pay.
Key areas:
A good place to buy carpets is Bazaar Chichoua, 5 Souk des Ksous, but be prepared to spend hours drinking mint tea, head shaking, sighing and smiling as rugs and carpets are unrolled. Handmade copper and silverware, silk or cotton garments, wooden articles and jewellery can be found in Ministero del Gusto, 22 Derb Azouz el Moussine or at L'Orientaliste, 15 rue de la Libertie, Guéliz. Trésorie du Sud, Rue el Mouassine, is one of many small jewellers near the Mouassine Mosque. For leather, Place Vendome, 141 Avenue Mohammed V, is a good bet if quality matters more than price. Chic boutiques cluster in Guéliz around Rue de la Liberté, while Rue Yogouslavie is dotted with hidden galleries. For sartorial and accessories elegance, step into the wonder that is Akbar Delights, 7 rue des Anciens Marrakchis.
Markets:
Leading off from the northern edge of Jemaa el Fna are the winding alleyways of the souks, the vast, crowded, chaotic central market of Marrakech. Browsers can pick up anything from jewellery, textiles or carpets, to herbs, love potions and donkeys. The souks are best approached from Rue Souk Smarine. This busy thoroughfare runs for half the length of the souks before forking into Souk el Attarine and Souk el Kebir. Leading off the Souk el Attarine are spice, pottery, textiles and metalwork souks. Wander around the Souk el Kebir area to find leather bags and poufs, carpets, lamps and traditional Moroccan clothing.

 

Marrakech Nightlife
Marrakech has something of a reputation for its nightlife, which covers groovy Ibiza-style discos to belly-dancing. Music is at the heart of cultural life in Marrakech, as it is throughout Morocco. Marrakech is almost certainly the best place to enjoy the fusion of Moroccan music, as the city has been the host to Andalucian, Arab, Berber and African influences for up to 10 centuries.
The medina provides traditional evening entertainment in the form of cafés, food stalls and street entertainment, with everything revolving around Jemaa el Fna, where many of the best performers are often to be found. For happening bars and clubs, head for Guéliz and Hivernage. Clustered along Avenue Mohammed V, particularly around place Abdel Moumen ben Ali, are most of the city's bars, as well as a wide variety of restaurants, bistros and sidewalk cafés. The city's best nightclubs are located in Hivernage hotels or in venues just outside town.
Although Morocco is an Islamic country, there is a laid-back attitude towards alcohol, with bars in most tourist areas staying open late. In the medina, law and etiquette dictate that alcohol should not be consumed openly within view of a mosque, so drink discreetly indoors or on roof terraces.

 

Marrakech Hotels
Marrakech is renowned for its riad accommodation - a handful of rooms fanning out from a central courtyard and often featuring traditional architectural details. Some of them are now boutique hotels, and many of them are opulent, grand affairs. It certainly pays to splash out and stay in a luxury riad, but you don't always have to pay the earth for the privilege. Aside from riads, Marrakech boasts larger, well-known hotel brands as well as cheaper, budget stays.
The Marrakech hotels have been grouped into three pricing categories: Luxury (over Dh1,500) Moderate (Dh700 to Dh1,500) Cheap (under Dh700)
These Marrakech hotel rates are for a double room per night and include all taxes and breakfast unless otherwise stated.

 

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