Sightseeing - Marrakesh
Wondering what there is to do in Marrakesh, apart from shopping? Below are some sights in the city that may interest you:
Everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh’s main square, you’ll discover drama in progress. The hoopla and halqa (street theatre) has been non-stop here ever since this plaza was the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’.
By mid-morning the soundtrack of snake-charmer flutes has already begun, but the show doesn't kick off until sunset when restaurants fire up their grills, cueing musicians to tune up their instruments.
Unesco declared the Djemaa el-Fna a 'Masterpiece of World Heritage' in 2001 for bringing urban legends and oral history to life nightly and although the storytellers who once performed here have since given way to acrobats, musical performers, and slapstick comedy acts, Djemaa's nightly carnival continues to dazzle.
Berber musicians strike up the music and Gnaoua troupes sing while henna tattoo artists beckon to passers by and water-sellers in fringed hats clang brass cups together, hoping to drive people to drink. This is a show you don't want to miss and it's a bargain too. Applause and a few dirhams ensure an encore.
The square's many eclectic exhibitions are not without a darker side though; you are very likely to see monkeys, kept in cages throughout the day, led around on chains for entertainment, and some of the practises of the plaza's snake charmers are ethically questionable, to say the least.
While wandering around the Djemaa at any time of day stay alert to cars, motorbikes and horse-drawn-carriage traffic which whiz around the perimeter of the plaza.
Also be on guard against pickpockets and rogue gropers who are known to work the crowds particularly after sunset. To nab prime seats on makeshift stools (women and elders get preference) around musician circles, arrive early in the evening.
Open until midnight every day
Historically, all souks were divided and laid out according to separate commodities being made and sold, with the most valuable products (gold, manuscripts) positioned in the centre of the main souk area and lesser goods radiating out from there. Today, little has changed. Each souk is still named after the product being sold and, aside from allowances for modern tastes, the goods are similar to how they would have been a thousand years ago.
The souks thread north from Jemaa el Fna and continue in a winding labyrinth until they hit the Musée de Marrakech. Open from around 9am to 9pm, the best time to visit is in the cool of morning, or in the evening when the sun seeps through slatted roof shades, illuminating a million golden dust motes.
The main artery of the souks is Souk Semmarine, a broad, covered alley that begins with pottery and pâtisserie and moves into high-quality fabric and textiles shops.
They sell everything from kaftans to pashminas.
There are also huge, expensive, tourist emporiums full of antiques, carpets and jewellery.
About halfway along, Souk Semmarine forks. On the right is Spice Square and on the left is Souk el Attarine, bright and gleaming with copper and brass lanterns, mirrors, candlesticks, silver teapots and lamps, as well as spices and perfumes (for which it was traditionally known).
Souk Smata is unmistakably the shoe souk, featuring brightly coloured, sequined babouches (Moroccan slippers).
Leading off Attarine is Souk el Kebir and Souk Cherratin, the preserve of leatherworkers and the place to go to buy bags, belts, wallets and purses.
To the left of Souk el Kebir are the kissarias, covered souks selling clothing and fabrics.
There are some great little shops here, too, with chic lanterns, glassware, baskets and antiques.
To the right of Kebir is the jewellery souk, Souk des Bijoutiers.
Nowhere is Morocco’s living craftsmanship better illuminated than in the working carpenters’ and blacksmiths’ souks – Souk Chouari and Souk Haddadine, at the northern edge of the souks.
These fragrant, noisy alleys are refreshingly untouristy.
To the southwest of this main cluster of streets is Souk Sebbaghine or Souk des Teinturiers – the dyers' souk, where rich iridescent skeins of wools and silks coloured with indigo, saffron, mint, poppy and rose blaze against the sky.
Music lovers should explore Souk Kimakhine, where traditional Moroccan and Gnaoua instruments are sold.
OUTSIDE THE SOUKS
Government sponsored handicraft centre
Fixed price shopping and can see artists at work
When I've been to these in other countries they can be a good place for window shopping and to get an idea of what things should cost before hitting the souks
Open 9.30-12.30 and 3-7pm Monday-Saturday
Walking distance from our Riad
Ben Youssef Madrasa / Merdersa Ben Youssef
Former Islamic College that was founded in the 14th Century
Closed in the 60's and now open as a historical site
Open 8am - 5pm, entrance fee is approx $3 Aud
Gardens & Berber Museum
Open 9-5 during Ramadan month
Admission to garden: 70Dhs / Museum: 30Dhs (100Dhs = approx $14Aud)
A Museum to YSL is being put together as well
A short taxi ride north from our Riad to the Jardin
Le Jardin Secret
Le Jardin Secret is opening its doors to the public for the first time in its history. The origins of the complex date back to the Saadian Dynasty, more than four hundred years ago.
Rebuilt in the mid-Nineteenth century at the behest of an influential kaid of the Atlas Mountains, Le Jardin Secret has been the home of some of Morocco and Marrakech’s most important political figures.
Today you are able to fully appreciate it, thanks to the recent renovation; Le Jardin Secret is part of the great tradition of stately Arab-Andalusian and Moroccan palaces. As a result visitors can discover its gardens and buildings, which are outstanding examples of Islamic art and architecture.
Open from 10.30am to 8pm
Located at Rue Mouassine 121, Inside Marrakesh medina and not far from our riad
The Bahia Palace is located in the medina of Marrakech along the northern edge of the district Mellah or Jewish quarter. Although the exact dates of the construction of the palace are unknown, the building was in use between 1859 and 1873 and was completed by 1900. The palace was built in two stages by two different men, a father and son who has served in grand viziers Alawite Cherifian.
Open 8-5 everyday
Admission price is €1 / 10Dhs
Located next to the mosque of the Kasbah, Saadian tombs are the one of the only remaining vestiges of ladynastie Saadian who ruled the golden age of Marrakech from 1524 to 1659. In the early 18th century, Sultan Moulay Ismail had indeed decided to remove all traces of the magnificence of this dynasty demanding the destruction of all remaining vestiges. He dared not, however, commit the sacrilege of destroying their graves and ordered that one mature entry of the necropolis. The secret remained closely guarded until 1917, when the rediscovery of the location of the Saadian tombs. Although this royal necropolis was used from the early 14th century splendor dates back to the 16th century with the burial of Prince Mohamed Cheikh in 1557. His son Ahmed El Mansour, also known as Ahmed "the golden," said enlarge and beautify the location by the build koubba "Lalla Mesouada" the name of his mother. Lalla Messaouda was buried there in 1591 and the three successors of the sultan. The most prestigious mausoleum is the room of the twelve columns. This room houses the tomb of Sultan Ahmed El Mansour son. The ceilings of cedar and stucco are finely crafted, there are the graves of Carrara marble. Some tombs feature a poetic epitaph. Zorha that of the princess is beautiful, "This is the tomb of the noble lady, new moon, wonder of virtues."
Opening hours are 9am to 6pm everydat
Admission is €1 per person