DISCOVER

HIGHLIGHTS OF MARRAKECH

DISCOVER THE BEST OF MAGICAL MOROCCO

Standing on the world map at a cultural crossroads, the exotic Moroccan metropolis of Marrakech is a melting pot of European, African and Arabic influences. Magnificent and mind-blowing, Marrakech is a demanding mistress, not for the faint hearted.

A constant assault on all your senses, she’ll sap your energy and spit you out, perplexed and exhausted if you don’t pace yourself, dodge those donkey carts and find a way to avoid being wrapped across the handlebars of one of the hundreds of mopeds and motorcycles zooming along narrow streets that are heaving with people.

Marrakech has bags of charisma.

There is nowhere more exotic, more stimulating or culturally disparate within four hours of London, than mad Marrakech. You can taste it in the food, observe in the architecture and hear it as the call to prayer echoes evocatively through the city’s narrow, winding streets. You’re not in Kansas anymore Toto….

8 UNMISSABLE HIGHLIGHTS OF MARRAKECH

 

1. THE SOUKS

A trip to this city’s famed souks is part history lesson, part endurance test. A cacophony of colour that fills much of the northern half of

The Medina

, when you leave you’ll covet things you never knew existed before your visit. Laid out in the narrow streets to the north of central Jemaa El-Fna, this dizzying maze is an exotic bazaar teeming with stores and craftsmen who eke out an existence from hand-making slippers, rugs, pressed

metal pieces, art, fabrics, clothes, leather goods and jewellery right there, in the midst of all the action.  Different areas specialise in their own specific wares and no surface is left uncovered; Bronze rhinoceroses, embroidered pointy-toe slippers called babouches, silk rugs and leather pouffes overflow from everywhere with piles of rainbow Moroccan blankets, tapestries and rugs draping down over barrels of spices. Enjoy!

2. JARDIN MAJORELLE

A verdant oasis on the outskirts of Marrakech, Jardin Majorelle – or Majorelle Gardens as you’ll hear tourists refer to it – was the brainchild of the French painter Jacques Majorelle, who took up residency in Marrakech in the 1920s and left the city with the lasting legacy of a garden, and a colour. A hypnotic cobalt named majorelle blue. Rescued from disrepair in 1980 by Yves Saint-Laurent and surrounded by high earthen walls, this stunning botanical garden is home to an exotic mix of flora with geraniums and bougainvillea planted among the coconut palms, bamboo and cacti that line soothing water features and raised walkways. The Berber Museum also gives a fascinating insight into Berber culture.

3. JEMAA EL FNA & THE NIGHT MARKET

This vast plaza at the heart of the medina is truly the eye of the Marrakech storm. Quite frankly, to the unaccustomed, Jemaa el-Fna is nuts. By night, Marrakech’s main square transforms into a circus, a theatre and a restaurant with the intoxicating appearance of the renowned night market.  Amidst the melange of merchants and entertainers all vying for attention, you’ll find storytellers, snake charmers, fortune tellers, herbalists, acrobats, tooth pullers, monkeys and witch doctors; It’s hard to believe Marrakech’s bustling centrepiece is just a four-hour flight from London.

4. BEN YOUSSEF MADRASA

Turn a corner in a narrow, cat-infested alley in the souk and you’ll find Ben Youssef Madrasa whose beauty of craftsmanship and design is incomparable.  A triumph of Islamic architecture, this former Quranic college is one of Morocco’s most spectacular buildings. Embellished with intricate stuccos, ornamental tiling and wood carvings, you don’t have to be an architecture buff to be blown away by this place. There’s really not much more to see except the cell-like student quarters upstairs but this is still one of the most satisfying attractions in Marrakech.

5. KOUTOUBIA MOSQUE

Marrakech’s landmark monument boasting a tower that dominates the skyline for miles around. Like most mosques in Morocco, Koutoubia Mosque is closed to non-Muslims but it’s an impressive sight none the less. Five times a day, one voice rises above Marrakech in the adhan (call to prayer): that’s the muezzin calling the faithful from atop the Koutoubia Mosque minaret. Excavations confirm a longstanding Marrakshi legend: the original mosque built by Almoravid architects wasn’t properly aligned with Mecca, so the pious Almohads levelled it to build a realigned one. I’m glad they did; from the rooftop pool at my hotel, I had a pretty spectacular view…

6. BADII PALACE

In the 17th century, Palais El Badi was one of the world’s largest and most beautiful palaces. Today, only ruins remain. Nevertheless, visitors flock here to explore the surviving network of underground tunnels, marvel at the views and watch storks raise their young in the crumbling ramparts.

7. SAADIAN TOMBS

This stunning mausoleum complex is home to what remains of 60 members of the Saadi dynasty, which ruled Morocco between 1554 and 1659. The Saadian Tombs were re-discovered during a ground survey in 1917 and have since been returned to their former splendour.

8. LA MAMOUNIA

Since opening in 1923, 

La Mamounia

 has been welcoming the rich and famous. It is without a doubt the most luxurious hotel in Marrakech. You may recognize it from Poppy Delevingne’s gorgeous wedding Instagrams. But this Moroccan palace is even more exquisite in person—definitely one of the most enchanting places on the planet. Its enduring appeal lies in the lavish rooms, excellent restaurants and beautifully tended gardens. Of course, all this imperial splendour comes with an imperial price tag with rooms starting from 6,000 dirhams (around £455 per night).

Its grand architecture is decorated with the richest of detail,and somehow the magnificent retreat feels expansive and intimate at the same time. Even if you can’t stay the night, you can still don your silk kaftan and float around its zellig-tiled domes and avenues of olive trees, Talitha Getty-style, with a day pass. If you’re going to splurge on one thing while in Morocco, let it be the classic Hammam at Spa la Mamounia. This archaic treatment involves being scrubbed with Moroccan black soap and wrapped in mineral clay before a heavenly massage.

Has your favourite highlight in Marrakech been left off my list? Let me know in the comments below… For more info on travelling to Morocco check out this post on Back to Buckley.

Related