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.
Wander the Souks
One could make an entire vacation out of wandering the souks of Marrakesh. The winding, ancient alleyways of the marketplace prove that getting lost can be fun, and countless storefronts make for great window-shopping. Be determined, however … the pressure (and temptation) to buy may be high.
As with most mosques, only Muslims may enter the Koutoubia Mosque, but all visitors are welcome to enjoy the landscaped grounds and snap pictures of the 12th-century house of worship. As the largest mosque in Marrakesh, the Koutoubia holds court over the happenings of the Djemaa el Fna. Five times a day, the muezzin, the Muslim call to prayer, broadcasts from the tower. Hearing the echoing calls is a special look into an ancient religion.
Tourist favorite Majorelle Garden charges admission, but luckily for visitors and locals, Menara Gardens does not. With a sweeping view of the Atlas Mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a popular location for picnics and general relaxation away from the hectic crowds. Orchards and olive groves surround the idyllic spot.
The Gallery Scene
This ancient city has a burgeoning contemporary art scene, and most of the chic galleries are free to visit. Many may host openings and parties also free of admission. Notable galleries include the Matisse Art Gallery (focused on young Moroccan artists), the Light Gallery (international artists) and Galerie Re (mostly Moroccan and Mediterranean artists). Galerie 127 opened as only the third photography gallery in Africa, and it can boast that King Mohammed VI has purchased some of its works. Finally, for contemporary art in a 16th-century setting, check out Dar Cherifa in the Media. Here, international and Moroccan artists exhibit works in a restored home. Check with individual galleries for free events or viewing hours.
Written by Brinda Gupta.
Photo by wanderer_by_trade.