Situated at the foot of the snow-caped Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh is the third largest town of Morocco, but certainly the most interesting to discover and the tourist capital of the country. Founded in 1062 by Youssef Ibn Tachfin of the Almoravid dynasty, the city now has 700,000 inhabitants.
Discovering this Moroccan city famous all around for its palm grove and for its minaret is somehow similar to watching a live show with in a charming medieval setting. Although hop on and off tour buses are available, those planning to discover the city's real charm should start with a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Jemaa El Fna square
The spot of the town that is most populated with tourists is the Jemaa El Fna square. The snake charmers as well as henna tattooed women offering their body painting services appeal to Western visitors. You will also meet here fresh orange juice sellers and Berber water carriers. In a nutshell, Marrakesh's heart - Jemaa El Fna square - comes with a true cultural richness to be discovered. This UNESCO heritage site is filled with music bands, lots of merchants and traditional bistros, but also with pickpockets, so beware!
Next to the Jemaa El Fna square are the famous souks where tourists can buy anything from spices to shoes, bags and carpets. The souk in Marrakesh is a true maze with countless alleyways and paths. You can easily walk for miles and get lost without realizing it. However, it is best you venture on your own and do not yield to the arguments made by all sorts of pseudo guides that you will certainly notice at the entrance.
The Souks of Marrakesh
The souk of Marrakesh is an adventure you must dive into. It is an open door to another world, full of sounds, colors and exotic flavors that will delight your senses. It's a dazzling show. In addition, the walk through the souks will be enjoyable as the centenary roof made of wooden slats will protect you from the sun.
The souks of Marrakesh are a true hive. Over 40,000 craftsmen and merchants work here every day, manufacturing and selling jewelry, vases, teapots, lamps, pots, trays, carpets, shoes and clothes and spices. In this area, you can visit the Tanneries and be the witness to an ancient custom and manufacturing activity – leather processing and dyeing.
One of the city's benchmarks – the Koutoubia – is a 77 meters high tower dating from the 12th century. It has served as a model for the building of the Hassan Tower in Rabat, and also for the Giralda in Seville. The Koutoubia is not open to visitors, but they can stroll in the gardens surrounding it. A view not to be missed at sunset is represented by the Koutoubia lights which provide the tower with a totally different look.
Many museums in Marrakesh, starting with the one bearing the name of the city, are available for tourists. There is the Dar Si Said Museum with its rich decorations, the Ber Flint with its impressive collection of costumes, jewelry, arms, musical instruments, carpets and furniture, the Museum of Islamic Art and many others.