If I had to describe this city in one word, I would say COLOURFUL. Never have I set foot in a place with as much energy and vibrancy as Marrakech. Want culture shock? Then this is the place for you. For those of you who don’t know, Marrakech is one of the largest cities in Morocco, a country situated in North Africa to the west of Algeria. Marrakech is home to just under 1 million people and a popular tourist destination due to the many beautiful mosques, enchanting palaces and thriving marketplaces known as souks.
Sights of Marrakech
There are many amazing things to do in Marrakech. If you love history, you must visit the Bahia Palace, Koutoubia Mosque and the Saadian tombs. Each destination should be visited with a tour guide who can give detailed explanations and an understanding of the importance behind these significant sites. You can easily book one from your hotel for a good price.
Bahia Palace is situated near the Medina. If you are interested in art and design, you will love the unique detail this Palace has to offer. Each room is full of colours and exquisite lavishness. You will also find small gardens scattered around the palace. It was built in the 19th century with the hope of it becoming the greatest Palace of all times and to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style. It is still used by the royal family from time to time but is mainly for the tourists who wish to learn about the history of Marrakech.
Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech and is a sacred building in which the locals use to worship their god. It is situated southwest of the Medina quarter and is an enchanting site to visit due to the creative architecture. Five times a day you will hear the call to prayer from atop of the mosque. Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed inside, however you are still able to admire the beauty from outside.
The Saadian Tombs date back to the time of the Sultan (1578), but they were only discovered in 1917. They are a popular tourist destination due to the beautiful decoration and the authentic history. As it is a popular site, there are usually long lines during peak tourist season. The tombs are located in Rue de La Kasbah just outside Marrakech, therefore you will need to take a taxi.
Visiting the Medina souks is a must. The locals sell handmade goods such as bags, jewellery, clothing, carpets, teapots, pottery and antiques – all for a good price if you know how to barter well. A very traditional souvenir would be a Moroccan rug. Although they can be expensive, they are absolutely exquisite and most of them are handmade. Moroccan lanterns also make a great souvenir choice and you can see them light up the streets at night.
Re-enact a scene of Moroccan night, by bringing home some lanterns. Many locals will persuade you to enter their shop by offering free tea. If you accept the tea, you will be expected to buy something. Also, be careful in the souks, you will probably get lost multiple times! Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, you will be expected to pay when asking a local for directions.
My favourite countries are those with great traditional cuisine. Morocco is definitely one of those. Tagine and couscous were ultimate highlights along with the homemade bread. Tagine is stew of spiced meat and vegetables prepared by slow cooking in a shallow dish. Couscous is a traditional Arabic meal made from semolina and served with meat and vegetables.
Moroccans value meal times, as it is a way to come together and spend time with loved ones. Traditional restaurant walls are decorated in beautiful Arabic designs and complemented by Moroccan carpets and pillows. Instead of sitting on chairs, most places offer cushions for sitting, which creates a comfortable dining experience.
Be prepared for a sugar overload. Wherever you go, you will be offered traditional Moroccan tea, which nearly always contain sugar. Did you know (on average) each Moroccan consumes 7kg of sugar a year just in their tea? Usually, Moroccan tea is made up of fresh mint, green tea herbs and of course, sugar.
Depending on the time of year, Marrakesh can be extremely warm. I personally travelled in November (autumn) and the temperature was pleasantly mild. During the summer months, you may find the heat overwhelming, as temperatures can reach up to 45 degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, you’d be guaranteed of beautiful pictures under the bright summer rays. Either spring or autumn would be the best time to go. Not only is the weather milder but there will also be less tourists and cheaper accommodation rates.
Relative to Europe, Morocco is a very affordable travel destination. The main currency is in dirhams, but some places accept euros. Many shops and markets do not have fixed prices, so it is important for you to learn how to barter. This is always a fun experience and a great way to interact with the locals.
Morocco is an Arabic country and therefore Islam is the main religion. It is important to respect all views and rituals when visiting Marrakech. Moroccans do not show huge amounts of skin in public and therefore tourists are expected to do the same. In particular, you should dress modestly when you are visiting places of worship. Avoid wearing sleeveless shirts or shorts.
Prayers take place 5 times a day and it is initiated by the Islamic call from the mosques. You will be amazed by the intensity of the sound and deep words. It is a remarkable experience for travellers new to the Islamic traditions. Although the main language used in Marrakesh is Arabic, most people can speak French or English.
There are many fantastic and affordable hotels spread throughout Marrakech. You should find accommodation close to the Medina, as this is where you will find the majority of tourist attractions. However, it is easy to walk from one side of the city to the other (under an hour) and taxis are incredibly cheap. Make sure you negotiate a fixed fee before you enter the taxi, as many drivers can give you false meter rates.
Marrakech is a city in which you will need plenty of time to explore. I suggest at least a week! There are so many wonderful things to see, do and eat. Hopefully it will leave you with a newfound love for the magical Moroccan culture.
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