Marrakech, Morocco - Stein Travel
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Traversing the alleyways and souks of Marrakech, particularly in the Medina (Old City), it is easy to believe you have been transported back in time or stumbled onto a movie set for a medieval 'Arabian nights' production. It is this enchanting, fairy-tale quality that brings thousands of sightseers to the most-visited of Morocco's three Imperial Cities, Marrakech. The heart of the Medina is Djemaa el-Fna, an irregular 'square' where everything seems to happen and the place to which tourists are drawn time and again to soak up the carnival-like environment. Tourism, though, has not spoilt the atmosphere: if anything, it has only added to it. The modern side of Marrakech (called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle), with its luxury hotels, banks and streets bursting with motor scooters, blends well with the past in a metropolis made up of people from the Berber Atlas tribes, Mahgrebis from the plains, and Saharan nomads.

Marrakech was founded in 1062 by Youssef bin Tachfine of the Almoravid dynasty, and his son perfected the city by bringing in architects and craftsmen from Cordoba to build palaces, baths, mosques and a subterranean water system. The city walls were raised from the red mud of the plains, with the snow-covered peaks of the High Atlas Mountains forming a backdrop for the city, though they are often hidden by the heat haze.

One of the many ways to soak up the sights and sounds of Marrakech is in one of the hundreds of horse-drawn carriages (known as caleches) that are for hire, but it is also necessary to take in the Medina's souks on foot, plunging into the hurly-burly maelstrom of passages where tradesmen ply various crafts, from cloth dyeing, copper beating, and leather working to herbalists, perfumers and slipper makers; and where shopkeepers cajole passing tourists into taking a look at their glorious array of colourful crafts.

Information & Facts


The weather in Marrakech is sunny nearly all year round, with pleasantly warm summers and mild winters. The hottest months of the year are July, August and September, but there is no humidity so temperatures are generally bearable. Winter can bring heavy downpours of rain, which leave the streets of the old town very muddy, and winter nights can be cold.

Eating Out

A melting pot of cultures, to say that the cuisine of Morocco is eclectic and exciting is an understatement and anyone eating out in Marrakech will learn this fairly quickly. An exotic mix of Arab, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and African influences, dining in Marrakech is an unforgettable experience for all five senses. Spices are a major part of Moroccan cuisine with cumin, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, coriander and saffron being the most commonly used. One cannot eat out in Marrakech without sampling a Tagine, a traditional lamb or chicken stew, which has been slowly braised in a clay pot resulting in delicately tender meat and an intensely aromatic flavour. Other popular dishes include harirasoup, couscous, jaouhara(fried phyllo pastry with a cream) and bastilla(phyllo-pastry pie with pigeon, egg and almonds). Visitors can sample street-side barbeques or dine out in style at upmarket restaurants throughout the city where palatial-style eateries can be found as well as top-class French, Asian and Italian restaurants. For a truly authentic experience, head to the Medina at sunset and watch as over 100 kitchens and stalls specialising in different dishes are set up in Djemaa el-Fna Square to become one of the world's largest open-air eateries.

Getting Around

Marrakech is easily explored on foot. The city consists of the Medina (old town) and the Ville Nouvelle (new city), approximately four kilometres apart. Beige-coloured petits taxisare cheap with metered fares and are a good form of transportation between the two destinations if it is too hot to walk. Taxis can be hailed on the streets. Public buses are a bit of a free-for-all, but they are cheap, frequent and cover the entire city. Driving in the city of Marrakech is difficult unless you know your way around and is not recommended, considering the narrow alleyways of the central urban medina area. The coach bus stations (CMS and Supratours) are situated in the new city and cover routes between cities and towns. Mercedes Benz sedans are called grands taxisand are another alternative for getting to neighbouring towns.

Kids Attractions

Marrakech may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of ideal holiday destinations for children, but for travellers keen on taking the kids abroad, Marrakech offers a uniquely exotic and spicy experience that the little ones will never forget. Start with a hop-on hop-off bus tour to discover the sights, sounds and smells of this bustling Moroccan city, and tell the kids exotic stories about the sights along the way, including Theatre Royal, Palais des Congres and Les Jardins Majorelle. If they can't stand the heat, your children will love you forever if you take them to Oasiria Water Park to cool off in one of the children's lagoons, ride on the pirate ship, or splash around in the wave pool - just don't forget sunscreen! The Majorelle Botanical Gardens provide plenty of space for the kids to run around and make for an ideal picnic location for the whole family; while the Olive Grove of Mariah, about an hour from Marrakech, provides a gigantic swimming pool, gardens and even a restaurant - a fabulous attraction for the whole family to enjoy. During the winter months (late-November to March), when heavy downpours can occur, make use of the French Institute of Marrakech's cultural activities programme, which include everything from circus shows to films and storytelling fit for children of all ages.


Arabic is the official language, but eight other languages are also spoken including Berber, French and Spanish. English is generally understood in the tourist areas, but French is the most widely spoken.


The unit of currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes. ATMs are available in the larger towns, but can be unreliable; currency can be exchanged at banks or official bureaux de changes, which are also widespread in major towns. Dirhams cannot be obtained or exchanged outside Morocco and receipts must be retained as proof of legal currency exchange, as well as in order to re-exchange money when departing. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger shops, hotels and restaurants. Travellers cheques can be used in tourist areas, but are not prevalent; they are best taken in Euros or Pounds Stirling.

Night Life

Nightlife in Marrakech is a unique combination of sophistication and tradition, offering everything from local storytellers and dancers to international festivals, lounge bars and the biggest club in Africa. Flyers and posters around town advertise upcoming events and venues. The best of 'old Morocco' can be experienced at Jemaa el Fna square with local musicians, storytellers and dancers entertaining visitors. In the medina, Café Arabe is a good place to start the evening and Kosybar, in Mellah, has a terrace with comfy lounges and a large wine selection. The Piano Bar often has Frank Sinatra renditions and in Guéliz, Le Grand Café de la Poste and Café du Livre are also good. Euro-Arabian dance music and exotic dancers can be enjoyed at Comptoir Darna, in Hivernage, and nearby Theatro is a popular club. Pacha Marrakech could be the biggest club in Africa and has a gigantic swimming pool, and Montecristo is the place to go for salsa dancing, though it can be seedy. For live music, Bo & Zin is great in summer when musicians entertain guests out in the garden. Afro-Brazilian music can be heard at Afric'n Chic, while classical music performances are hosted by the Institut Français in Guéliz.


Shopping in Marrakech is a world-famous travel experience. From the bustling labyrinth of the souks (an area of market stalls) to hand-crafted pottery, contemporary art, couture kaftans and priceless antiques, Marrakech is a treasure-trove of exotic goods.

From the souks, shoppers can purchase anything from traditional belgha(leather slippers) to magical potions; while La Porte d'Or is home to some invaluable antiques. The biggest souk in Marrakech is adjacent to the Djemaa El-Fna, while in Gueliz, Intensite Nomade sells trendy kaftans and contemporary art is available from the Matisse Art Gallery. The Gueliz area also hosts some very upmarket, boutique-style outlets. Akkal, in Sidi Ghanem, is renowned for its beautiful, hand-crafted pottery. Other popular souvenirs from Marrakech include 'cactus silk', spices, camel leather goods, and cashmere shawls.

In the souks, bargaining is essential (asking prices may be 5 times what the salesman will eventually take), and the attention of shop owners or staff can be overwhelming. When shopping in the medina with a tourist guide, his commission will be added to the price of the goods purchased. Most small shops are closed on Friday afternoons and on Sundays; the big bazaars are open everyday. Many shops close in August. There is no provision for tourists to reclaim any sales tax or VAT from goods purchased in Morocco.


With a rich and diverse cultural history and enough smells, tastes and colours to spark just about any traveller's interest, tourist attractions in Marrakech are second-to-none and it will take visitors a while to explore all that this enchanting city has to offer. With its ochre sandstone buildings, Marrakech (known as 'The Red City') is redolent of romance, exoticism and beauty.

Head to the Djemaa el-Fna Square where Berber merchants, travelling peddlers and entertainers such as snake charmers, musicians, fire-eaters and fortune-tellers can be found - a truly unforgettable cultural experience which can feel at times like a free carnival-show. History buffs will enjoy the countless monuments to be seen and should not miss out on the Saadien Tombs, Koutoubia Mosque, El Badii Palace and the breathtaking fountains of Echrab ou Chouf and Mouassine. The Majorelle Gardens are a botanical masterpiece, having been touched by the hands of Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and are one of the Marrakech's top tourist sights. Hop-on hop-off bus tours around Marrakech are readily available, and travellers will not be disappointed by the incredible array of attractions available to them to explore.

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