Marrakech is beautifully chaotic with a rich history dating back over 1,000 years to the days when mighty sultans ruled over the walled city. Today it is home to an incredibly pulsating energy that invites you to wander aimlessly in search of stunning architecture, a cup of sweet mint tea and maybe a spicy Tagine.
The best way to experience it is to get lost in the claustrophobic labyrinth of streets that comprises the medina – the old historic part of town with high stone walls.
It was night by the time we arrived in the city. We grabbed our bags and shouldered our way through the Saturday evening crowds in search our riad (a type of traditional Moroccan house). Over the next two days we headed out to explore all that Marrakech had to offer. Some of the experiences that stuck out were:
Jemaa El Fnaa
There is no missing this famous square which represents the beating heart of the city. Littered with stalls trying to sell you everything from a fresh fruit juice to a mouthwatering traditional dish. By night the square really comes to life and it makes for brilliant people watching from above as the muezzins call the faithful to prayer.
Constructed in the 12th Century the Koutoubia Mosque with its imposing minaret is the most iconic feature in the city. In fact, it is said it can be seen from 30 km away. Local laws prevent any new building projects from exceeding the height of the minaret.
It is a striking piece of architecture and though only Muslims are permitted to enter it is a breathtaking place to sit and enjoy the warm sunshine on your back.
The mighty gate of Bab Agnaou is one of 19 gates that are found in the Medina. Constructed in the 12th Century by the Almohad Dynasty, this giant horse-shoe shaped archway points south towards sub-saharan Africa. Today the gate is falling into a somewhat poor state of disrepair because of the poor building materials used during its construction but it is definitely worth a peek.
Exploring the Souks
Take a deep breath, then plunge into the exotic maze of streets and passages lined with souks. It’s an explosion of sound, colour and smell. From carpets to spices to antiques – it’s a complete sensory overload.
You will inevitably get lost but don’t panic, you will come out one side or the other, probably with a purchase or two wondering what made you buy them in the first place.
A graveyard of dynasties past that reigned over the golden age of Marrakech. It is an unashamedly opulent tribute to the rule of Sultan Ahmed el Mansour whose life was defined by war, murder and profit.
His rule shaped the city. It became a place forgotten after his death in 1603 only to be rediscovered in 1917 and gradually restored. Today it’s extremely popular with visitors hoping to catch of glimpse into history.
Moroccan leather is famous across the world and there is so much on offer for purchase in the souks. Yet the finished product is a far cry from how it is produced, a process that involves huge amount of pigeon droppings. The only way to find out is to visit one of the traditional tanneries.
Marrakech is a pulsating city. Its busy and chaotic, sometimes charming, sometimes a bit rough around the edges. It is a city like no other, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent exploring this vibrant medieval city.