An exotic location a two or three hour flight from most European countries? There aren’t many. It’s for this reason that Morocco’s cultural centre and its sacred ruins, chaotic markets and mouth watering cuisine is one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations.
Marrakech. The name itself speaks volumes about the city’s puzzling duality and derives from either murr akush (‘Land of God’) or murra kish (‘pass by quickly’, a warning to travellers to be weary of thieves).
One thing is for sure, you’ll need to visit to make up your mind.
Here are 13 things to do in Marrakech.
Soak Up Jemaa El Fna Square
This massive public square in the medina (old town) is the beating heart of the city and a virtual open air theater peppered with merchants, street performers, hawkers, cafes, and restaurants.
The sound of snake charmer flutes creates a city soundtrack second to none, if you’re into that kind of thing 😉
Hang Out in the Jardin Majorelle
This twelve acre botanical garden with its famous blue cobalt buildings is home to the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech and is a welcome and tranquil contrast to the chaos of the city.
Eat a Sheep’s Head
If you’re a fan of nose to tail dining you’ll just have to feast on Jemaa El Fna’s signature dish – these sheep heads boiled in a tasty broth are eaten without utensils and served with an infused salt and fresh bread.
Stay in a Riad
To really soak up the local culture it’s necessary to put your head down in a place distinctively Moroccan. There are over 800 of these traditional houses with their unique and spectacularly decorated interior courtyards.
Check out the Koutoubia Mosque
The biggest mosque in Marrakech broke ground in 1184 and is impossible to miss due to its location a mere 200 meters from Jemaa El Fna. There’s nothing more emblematic of ‘The Red City‘ than its red stone facade.
Bargain Your Way Through the Souks
Once you embrace the chaos of the area surrounding the many market stalls you’ll be more than ready to have a go at purchasing, well, just about anything. From tanneries to handicrafts to spices and the odd knock off bag shoppers can have their fill.
The first piece of advice? Master the art of a strong, firm no.
Take Down a Tagine
One of Morocco’s biggest culinary exports is the deceptively simple tagine, a stew type dish cooked in traditional clay pots. The steam trapping cone-shaped lids allow meals to be cooked in their own juices and leave meat and veg almost impossibly succulent.
Stand in Awe of the El Badi Palace
This ruined palace built in 1578 was also known as the Incomparable Palace, a reference to the lavish display of craftsmanship and expensive gold and onyx materials involved in its construction.
Order the Orange Juice of Your Life
A peculiar part of the Jemaa El Fna is its abundance of vendors hawking glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. If it isn’t the quality that gets you then the price will – you’ll get one for about 20 to 30 pence.
You’ll find another peaceful escape from the city at the Menara Gardens, another place once the privilege of sultans than can be enjoyed by anyone at present day.
See the Saadian Tombs
These beautifully decorated tombs comprising 60 members of the Saadi Dynasty were only discovered in 1917 and have become a massive attraction for tourists after the restoration work undertaken by the Beaux-arts service.
Get a Mint Tea
The most popular drink in the city is a robust green tea flavoured with spearmint. Those with a sweet tooth need not opt for dessert – the amount of sugar added to a standard serving makes a standard fizzy drink seem tame.
Head Over to the Marrakech Museum
You’d hardly visit a country without getting to at least one museum and you’ll find no better collection of modern and traditional Moroccan art than here at the 19th century Dar Menebhi Palace.