You’ve booked your ticket to Morocco, now you need to decide where to stay. After all, you’ll need a place to sleep, shower and relax between riding camels on the beach, shopping for handmade rugs and eating couscous on your holiday to Morocco. While there are a variety of chain hotels and luxury resorts available throughout the country, every visitor should strongly consider spending at least a few nights in a Moroccan Riad.
Morocco is unquestionably both a photographic destination and a great place to flex your walking and trekking muscles – Photographer Charley Tuffey decided to do both, and has shared with Journey Beyond Travel both the journey and the visual inspiration, along with some perfectly framed photos taken en-route during a recent visit that started in Marrakesh, then headed up into the mountains for lunch in the shadow of Mount Toubkal, included quad biking in the Agafay Desert before winding back down to the medina and markets of the Red City.
The Jemaa el-Fnaa (also often: “Djema el-Fna” or “Jamma el-Fnaa”), is the historic main square of Marrakesh. It is a free and veritable outdoor theater that has existed for a thousand or more years. Any tour to Morocco would somehow be incomplete unless you spent an evening strolling through this incredible landmark to experience for yourself. (more…)
Le Maison de la Photographie (often the “Photography Museum” or “House of Photography” in English) is one of Morocco’s richest photography museums. Le Maison de la Photographie is tucked away deep in the old Marrakesh medina. You will have to make your way through the popular souks and walk through some twisting back alleys to find the beautiful riad where the museum is located. But even if you get lost on your way, the museum is well worth the hunt! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the heart of the Red City you will find a collection of photographs worth thousands upon thousands of words. (more…)
For over a thousand years, Marrakesh has been many things. A hub for trade. A cultural melting pot. A powerful world capital. A tourist mecca. For all of these reasons, and many more, make the entire old medina of Marrakesh a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (more…)
You can’t miss the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco. It looms large over the vast expanse of the Jemma el-Fnaa, the famed public square. From afar, this is the beacon leading you to the Red City.
Of all the gardens the world over, the Majorelle Garden (Le Jardin Majorelle) in Marrakesh is one of the most exquisite. Located outside of the historic old medina, this veritable paradise blends Art Deco charm with a modern take on the traditional Islamic garden. If you were going to visit one garden in Morocco, the Majorelle Garden would be the one.
The historic old medina of Marrakesh can be overwhelming. The hot Moroccan sun beats down while vendors callout at passersby, hoping for a quick sale. Clanging metal rings out from the ironmongers souk. In the Jemma el Fnaa, the Gnawa rhythm of drums and shrill flute of the snake charmers break through the din. Scooters rip through it all, quickly zigzag through the crowds. It’s no wonder that The Secret Garden of Marrakesh comes as such a reprieve! (more…)
Peter Mayne’s A Year in Marrakesh was first published nearly 60 years ago. It remains a remarkable achievement in travel writing, even today, for its insights into a culture isolated from much of modernity’s reach. (more…)
Over the past few years, people have often asked me what sort of books they should read about Morocco. That’s a tough question as there are quite a few really great books about this little kingdom nestled on the northwest corner of Africa. Still, I have my favorites. What follows has been born from an email exchange with a JBT client (and fellow University of Washington alum!). It is a list of what I believe to be the Best Books about Morocco. These are my favorite by Moroccans and non-Moroccans alike. Any one of these will help you to pull back the curtain, dive straight into the souks, into the mountains and desert, and understand even more about Morocco before your plane touches down. (more…)
Three days in Marrakesh. This is the average most travelers manage to spend in the Red City. Whether you’re coming for work or pleasure, it’s almost impossible to not spend at least a couple of nights in Marrakesh. And for good reason! Marrakesh is a delight, a feast for the eyes as well as all your other senses. It’s familiar and exotic. Decadent and humble. Rustic and opulent. And it manages to be all these things, and much more, all at once. It’s a place that has to be seen to be believed. For whatever reason, two nights seems to be the magical number to spend in Marrakesh. (more…)
For many travelers the question isn’t if you’ll be traveling or when you’ll be traveling. It’s a matter of where you’ll be traveling. Where do you want to go on your dream vacation? Where should you spend your beach getaway to relax after a hectic month at the office? Where will you be taking that once-in-a-lifetime family trip? If you’re reading this, you probably already know where you’re going: Destination Morocco!(more…)
The souks of Morocco are chalk full of the perfect gifts for your special someones. Whether you’re looking for something small for a stocking stuffer or something a bit larger to toss into Santa’s sleigh, the likelihood of you making a big holiday splash with unique, often handmade gifts is assured. (more…)
The long, storied history of learning and scholarship in Morocco is often surprising to first time visitors, and even to some longtime inhabitants. In fact, Morocco boasts the world’s oldest university – the University of al-Qarawiyyin (also written as: Al Quaraouiyine or Al-Karaouine). Recognized by UNESCO and the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest university, al-Qarawiyyin was founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant family who immigrated to Morocco from modern-day Tunisia. (more…)
The lush grounds of a golf club in the outskirts of Marrakesh are now home to one of the only museums dedicated to African art on the continent. The Museum of Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), privately-owned by a non-profit organization, had its official opening in February of this year. The museum aims to showcase the work of established and emerging artists making art related to Africa. Apart from a big contemporary art museum that opened last year in Cape Town and a few privately-owned galleries that have sprung up, there are relatively few places where African art can be seen on home turf. (more…)
One of the most valid proofs of a successful visit to Morocco is a picture of you with one of the snakes of Marrakesh slithering over your shoulders. But what if thinking about being near a snake sends a chill shuddering down your spine? You still want to see all the wonders the Red City has to offer, but you hate snakes. It’s quite a dilemma. It makes you wonder: How can I enjoy Marrakesh when I’m afraid of snakes? (more…)
The hustle and bustle of Marrakesh is exciting, but can become overwhelming. One of the key secrets to enjoying an extended time in the Red City is by taking short breaks in the many gardens and parks across the city. Not only are they places worth visiting as a stand alone reason to go, they will provide moments to take a breath and get back to nature after trawling the shops and souks. Many of the gardens are free or only 10 dirham making it easy to pop into a park or garden for a short amount of time and chill out. If you find yourself needing to escape the madness of the medina, be sure to head to one of these gardens to refresh your spirits. (more…)
There is a buzz surrounding Morocco’s food scene at the moment and its not hard to see where all the fuss is coming from; new and inspiring restaurants are popping up all across the country. Let’s be honest, Morocco has always been high up on the must-visit list for foodie travellers. But it is a new wave of fusion cooking and cultural dialogue that is at the centre of this gastronomical shake up and Morocco appears to be waking up to the creative re-imagining of traditional dining experiences that’s been happening in innovative eateries across the world. Intrepid travelers are looking for great places to eat in Marrakesh and beyond. (more…)
It’s 1578 and Morocco is at war with Portugal. On a fateful August day, the Moroccan forces wipe out 26,000 Portuguese men including the army’s commander, King Don Sebastian. Morocco’s commander, Sultan Abd El Malik survives to witness his kingdom’s crushing victory but perishes shortly thereafter on the battlefield – but not without first naming his youngest brother his successor. (more…)
If you walk too quickly through the busy streets of the Marrakesh medina, you may just miss out on one of its biggest treasures. Once the largest Quranic school in North Africa, the facade of the stunning Medersa Ben Youssef (Ben Youssef Madrasa) blends too easily with the dusty houses and buildings of the medina. But don’t be mistaken by its plain wooden doorway and bare outer walls. The inside of this ancient school is filled with magnificent craftsmanship details from zeillij tiling to incredible stuccowork and beautiful wood carvings. So take a breather on your journey through the winding streets of the medina and discover a magnificent (and quiet!) sanctuary that will make you forget all about the hustle and bustle of the hectic souks.
Hidden from the world for roughly 200 years, the Saadian Tombs were found a short distance from the bustling city center of Marrakesh, and are a truly rich architectural gem. Housing two lavish mausoleums with approximately 60 tombs and over 100 more in the beautiful gardens, the Saadian Tombs are one of the most elaborate and best preserved resting places in Morocco today.
Morocco is a country unlike any other. And, Marrakesh is a city of equal stature. From getting lost in the maze of souks while trying to avoid the gravitational pull of each shop, we found ourselves in middle of the mayhem one February day.
There are places in the world where simply mentioning their name conjures up an image of romanticism, the exotic, a step into the magic of the imagination. The Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal; Rome’s Colosseum, the symbol for the ‘Eternal City’ and the civilization of the Imperial Roman Empire; Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, a sacred site beyond the memory of modern man. Say ‘Marrakech’ and a world of souks, snake-charmers and storytellers, kaftans and colour, tales from the Arabian Nights, the call of the muezzin summoning the faithful to prayer, unfolds like the unrolling of a luxurious Moroccan carpet. “There are certain places on the surface of the earth that possess more magic than others,” said Paul Bowles, the American writer who lived in Morocco for fifty-two years. “And one of those places is Marrakech.”
Marrakesh is home to enough attractions and curiosities to keep people occupied for several days, but if you only have 24 hours, here is one way to fill your day:
Start your day with a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice while you watch the city begin its day. You can purchase a large glass for around 3 Dh in the Djemaa al-Fna. Next, get your bearings by sauntering over to the Koutoubia Mosque. This building has the tallest minaret in the city and is one of Marrakesh’s most iconic sites. While non-Muslims are not permitted entry to the mosque, everyone is welcome to roam around the gardens.
Take a spin through the souks in the heart of the medina and start shopping for souvenirs. Shopkeepers traditionally gave a discount to the first customer of the day, although usually it’s worth checking out a few stalls before you buy anything. (more…)
Marrakesh visitors with money to burn have no shortage of places to spend it, from luxurious spas to endless marketplace treasures. Happily, this vibrant city also has many free things to enjoy as well.
Djeema el Fna
Marrakesh’s symbolic heart, the Djemaa el Fna, is the city’s town square, and at any hour of the day, musicians, food vendors, acrobats and magicians can vie for your attention. Djemaa actually means “meeting place,” and this plaza has served as one for centuries. Lined with cafes and bazaars, the Djemaa el Fna certainly has many places to spend money, but a lot of the location’s fun involves walking or sitting and enjoying the carnival-esque atmosphere. (more…)
Many know Marrakech as a bustling cultural hub, rich with historical sites, museums and colorful souks. Locals and visitors alike are especially drawn to Place Djemaa el Fna, the city’s main square, which showcases a nightly maze of dinner stalls, storytellers, musicians, artists and more. The reputation makes Marrakech a natural home to the Popular Arts Festival, taking place July 10-18 this year.
Thousands of Moroccans and international visitors flock to the festival each year to admire the artistic feats of performers from throughout Morocco and around the world (particularly Europe and Asia). Attending the range of Moroccan performances will give you a taste of the nation’s ancient past as well as its modern pop culture. Look for featured performances by ancient folk dancers, traditional Berber musicians, and fusion and pop bands. Other talents on display include fire swallowers, storytelling, snake charming and acrobatics. The nightly “Fantasia” just outside of town also draws crowds with groups of men and women in traditional clothing, presenting a choreographed performance on horseback. (more…)
Some travelers have only a few days for their holiday to Morocco, yet want to experience the rich history of an imperial city, a taste of luxurious modernity and the serenity of the Sahara and nearby mountains. For these travelers, Marrakesh brings good news … you can experience it all.
The highlight of Marrakesh is its main square, Place Djemaa el-Fna, which hosts clamoring crowds by day and a flurry of festivities by night. To survey the evening’s bustle before joining it, opt for a traditional tajine dinner at a terrace cafe. The elevated view will help you inventory the maze of chefs offering local fare, rows of booths selling freshly squeezed orange juice and the circles of storytellers, musicians, artists and more. (more…)
Morocco’s souks are known for their bold colors and traditional handicrafts, but how can visitors to Morocco turn these treasures into something special? Maryam Montague of the well-known Morocco blog, MyMarrakesh.com, recently published Marrakesh By Design, which provides do-it-yourself solutions for people who would like to incorporate their souk purchases and a distinct Moroccan atmosphere into their own homes.
Marrakesh By Design completely covers design elements from floor coverings to ceilings and light fixtures, touching on all aspects in between, but it doesn’t do this in a void. It would be easy simply to fill the pages of this book with information on how to design using Moroccan concepts as a vehicle, but Montague incorporates elements of Moroccan culture, language and history within the pages of the book. She provides a comprehensive background on why certain design components are prevalent in the country and what cultural influences have played a part in creating the modern Moroccan home. (more…)
Hot air balloon excursions from the outskirts of Marrakesh take passengers over the Western High Atlas Mountains, the Oueds Tinsift and the Al Hawuz Plain. Half-day trips start early, around 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., so the balloon can be launched before or around sunrise. The early morning hours offer the best light for enjoying the view.
Balloon rides don’t operate during the height of summer (mid-July through late August) due to southern Morocco’s extreme heat. When booking, make sure the company you plan to go with has certified pilots and utilizes trailing vehicles that follow the course of the balloon in case of an emergency. Ask whether transport to and from Marrakesh and any meals are included. Most half-day excursions include 4×4 transport, a camel ride and breakfast in a Berber tent.
Each hot air balloon can hold up to 10 passengers, including the pilot. The balloon’s basket is made up of four sections, and three passengers can stand in each section. Keep this in mind when booking; most companies also offer a pricier option of renting the entire balloon for a romantic couple’s flight. Reduced rates may be available for children, although be sure to check the minimum age requirement. (more…)
Moroccans and tourists alike would agree that a Morocco trip would be incomplete unless you visit Marrakesh. Imagine a cosmopolitan, yet ancient, city colored in red, with very temperate and healthy weather, located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains on a trek . Here you will enjoy colors and light, food and shopping, relaxing and exploring. For many, it is not enough to visit Marrakesh once and come back regularly; many Europeans and Americans, charmed by its unique atmosphere, have moved there permanently and started calling it ‘home.’ There is simply nowhere else in the world like Marrakesh.
The list of things you can do in Marrakesh is endless. If you are interested in visiting some historical landmarks in the red city, here are a few you should not miss: (more…)