cloth in a marrakesh morocco soukFilled with history and stories, the ancient city of Marrakesh has been called the “Red City” for some time. As a former capital and perennially thriving trading post, it also houses some of the finest artifacts in the country. And, as the city has always served as the symbolic and physical link between north and south, mountain and plain, it is one of the best places to experience the true mélange of Moroccan culture.

If you want to experience all that Marrakesh’s vibrant cultural scene has to offer, make sure not to miss these outstanding spots.

Jardin Majorelle and the Museum of Islamic Art – A botanical garden first built by French artist Jacques Majorelle in 1924, the grounds today host innumerable flowering plants and trees, more than 15 bird species and a series of fountains and walkways. The garden has been open to the public since 1947 and has been owned by Yves Saint Laurent since 1980. The garden is also home to the excellent Museum of Islamic Art, which houses traditional pottery, jewelry and metalwork, textiles and other art from Morocco and North Africa.

Marrakesh Film Festival – Morocco has become a go-to location for Hollywood, serving as backdrop for films like The Mummy, Black Hawk Down, Prince of Persia and Lawrence of Arabia. In 2000, Marrakesh decided to celebrate this partnership with the establishment of an annual film festival. Small at first, the fest now draws major stars and big time releases from all over the world. 2011’s edition will be held in mid-December.

International Salsa Festival – Morocco’s proximity to Spain has always provided some cultural cross-over, which makes the annual Salsa Festival all the more vibrant. Quickly becoming a fall tradition, the festival draws dancers from all over the world and provides visitors with workshops and classes to help them start their own salsa careers.

Marrakech Museum – Housed in the late 19th century Dar Menebhi Palace, the Marrakesh Museum holds a vide array of artifacts and artwork that span Morocco’s long history. In the center of the medina, the museum displays works from Arab, Berber and Jewish traditions. The palace itself is also a part of the exhibit, with its fine architecture restored and fine examples of traditional tile and stone work, a hammam, courtyard and private seating areas.

Matisse Gallery – Another converted home, the Matisse Gallery is dedicated largely to modern Moroccan art and displays a number of pieces from local artists just breaking in to the scene. Since opening in 1999, the gallery has become a hot spot for the local art crowd and is well viewed within the art community.

Medina and Souks – There is nothing more Moroccan than a stroll through a souk, and Marrakesh holds them in spades. Indeed, the medina and its marketplace have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason; here life still goes by the rhythm of the market. You can stroll through medieval passages and alleyways, shop for gifts of nearly any sort, and experience a way of life largely unchanged for hundreds of years. Be ready to haggle, and be ready to smile.

Written by Margaret Jackson.

Photo by twenty_questions.