A visit to Marrakech, one of Morocco‘s jewels, would not be complete without a visit to the medina, with its ancient walls, over 20 huge gates and a central courtyard where people continue to live a traditional way of life.
There are plenty of things to keep you entertained in the medina; mosques to admire, palaces to excite, and souks to get lost in, but you won’t do justice to any of these sights in one day. And why would you want to?
Spend a few days getting to know the old city and absorb you into fun things to do in the medina of Marrakech.
Don’t let the unassuming entrance fool you, behind the gate; you’ll find a delightful surprise. Bahia Palace is a worthwhile visit for its incredible architecture and enchanting rooms with mosaiced ceilings and ornate stone carvings.
The palace, a haven when Marrakech weather is extra warm, is richly decorated throughout; the multi-colored tiles, green ceramic roofs, bright yellow and blue arches, and courtyard gardens full of jasmine and cypress trees are a photographers dream.
If you want to learn a little of the history of Bahia Palace, it would be a good idea to hire a guide who will be only too happy to relay his knowledge to you.
Ben Youssef Medersa
One of the most beautiful buildings in the city, Ben Youssef Medersa’s baroque designs and brightly colored zellij tiles and wood carvings will amaze you.
You can take your time and savor the peaceful atmosphere as you wander the many narrow corridors or take in the pleasing views over the central courtyard from the upper levels. Every inch of this stunning historical site has been richly decorated, and it’s one of the best examples of Moroccan decor and architecture around.
Explore the Ramparts
The walls surrounding the medina were built in the 12th century to protect the people who lived there. Most of the traditional Marrakech restaurants and hotels are inside them these days.
Nowadays, they remain as the icon of the city and cover 18 km with over 20 impressive gates which encircle the old city. A walk around the ramparts is a good way to see the distinction between the old and new parts of Marrakech. The walls are lined with hedgerows, gardens, and benches which are a fine spot to take a break.
If you prefer, a caleche, or horse-drawn carriage, will take you the distance, particularly pleasant as the sun sets and the color of the red clay walls change.
Djema El Fna
In the heart of the medina is Djemaa El Fna, the main square of Marrakech, a plethora of activity from dawn until late in the evening.
Be prepared for an onslaught of sights, from henna painting women, snake charmers and monkeys to acrobats and dancers. You’ll see locals selling anything from rugs and clothing to spices and herbs, tourists battling their way through the many stalls selling some traditional Moroccan dishes (these dozens or Marrakech restaurants are dismantled every day after dinner), like camel spleen, sheep’s head or liver sandwiches.
Don’t worry about the hectic atmosphere, dive right in there and soak it up.
The landmark of the city, Koutoubia Mosque is the biggest in Marrakech and its minaret, decorated with ceramic tiles and curved arches can be seen from miles around.
The mosque is surrounded by gorgeous gardens with roses, orange trees, and palms which provide shade from the midday sun. Non-Muslims are not allowed inside, but it’s still worth a visit, especially when the beautifully enchanting call for prayer rings out over the city.
Stop at the 19th century Marrakech Museum and embrace the peace and tranquility as you stroll passed arches and columns, beautifully decorated with colorful mosaics, and appreciate Moroccan art, both old and new. Don’t forget to have a mint tea at the cafe outside!
The Saadian Tombs, the place where over 100 princes and Ahmed el Mansour, sultan of the Saadi Dynasty, are interred here.
The marble stones of the graves are elaborately inscribed, and the tombs themselves are brilliantly tiled, with geometrical mosaics. The burial chambers are magnificent with domed chambers and subtle light from lanterns creating a serene atmosphere. It’s best to arrive first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.
Getting lost in the souks of Marrakech is all part of the fun, but if that feels like too much then hire a guide the first time you enter as that may help you to get your bearings.
If you want to navigate the maze alone, then a decent Medina Marrakech map will help you through the labyrinth of alleyways filled to the brim of colorful textiles and clothing, pottery and ceramics, jewelry and souvenirs, meat, fruit and vegetables, lanterns, slippers, I could go on. You’ll also get the chance to watch workers create their beautiful designs; head to the dyer’s souk to see them at work.
The sights, sounds, and smells of the souks will invade every pour of your being, but it’s an experience not to be missed.
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