Tour title: Marrakech express tour code: MEX
Marrakech is Morocco’s intoxicating city of duality. Streets are dotted with both ancient and modern buildings. Snake charmers sit outside refined palaces. Bustling marketplaces sell all kinds of wares, and the mysterious Medina (old town) contains nearly two miles of secret passages. Mopeds, mules and Mercedes dart around the city, yet time seems to have slowed down, and the locals pause to make connections with others. Musical events may not be formal and organized, but it’s easy to find yourself swaying to the beat of an impromptu gathering of singers and musicians in the square.
Marrakech has a sunny and warm climate. Average winter temperatures are near 22, though the nights can be cold. Spring and fall are the ideal months to visit, with pleasant temperatures and little rain. Summers could be very hot, but dry.
It is however a very pleasant place to make feel you safe despite the first impressions of chaotic city. Luckily, you can hide away in a Riad, fantastic harbours of peace and these days most popular choice of accommodation.
1. When you arrive at airport get some change before you ask for a taxi transfer’s prizes.
2. For those who plan to stay in Morocco a bit longer, buy a cheap mobile phone for local and national calls.
3. The daytime can be very hot and we would recommend bringing something cool and light to use as a cover up to stop your skin from blistering! For evenings out in Marrakech bring a long (but light) pair of pants or skirt in case it is cold. We would say a smart jacket or cardigan is also essential for warmth on cooler nights
4. Bring an extra suitcase, in case you decide to purchase a famous Moroccan room-size rug or other items.
MARRAKECH’S BEST VIEWS
• A day trip south to Imlil, the highest point in the Atlas Mountains, is quite rewarding and awesome.
• Atlas Mountains, outside fantastic drive away to Ourika, oukeimeden and Takerkoust lake
• A day trip to Essaouira for some fresh and breezy strolls on the beach, the squalla and the little fish market.
• A day trip To Ouzoud, Morocco’s highest waterfalls
WHERE TO PLAY
1. Cooking Workshops and before that an expedition into local markets.
2. Ethno art shop, around the souks and alleyways where craftsmen workshops thrive
3. Jemaa el Fna (Place of the Dead), the famous square and a stage for some voices, actions and fantastic night life
4. Quad bikes outside the palmeraie
5. Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret, the oldest in town and most impressive Almohads building.
6. Hammams and some scrub in a traditional way
7. Majorelle Garden (Jardin Majorelle), the city’s best preserved garden
8. Museum of Marrakesh, Place Ben Youssef most notorious coranic school or university
9. Marrakech Souk opening onto Jemaa el Fna
10. The Jewish quarter and the sole synagogue still in function
• The Bahia palace, formerly owned by a vizier is now open to show the best of Moroccan arts of mosaics, fountains, cedar ceilings and roofs. A building not to miss.
• The Museum of Marrakech is a restored 19th-century riad with stunning examples of zellij tile work. The museum houses art that you cannot buy, as well as historic artifacts. The centerpiece is the huge covered courtyard, which has traditional wrought iron and possibly the largest chandelier/lamp, at least, in the city.
• The Museum of Moroccan Arts (Dar Si Said) is a palace from the 19th century that serves as a good example of traditional Moroccan architecture. Inside, the museum displays artifacts from the private collections of former sultans and viziers.
• El Badi Palace’s main attraction would definitely be the storks; they seem to have taken over as the occupants on the palais instead of the Saadians from hundreds of years ago. If you go up the ramparts onto the roof, you can get a good view of them and the Atlas snow capped mountain in winter
• Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret is beautiful at night. Definitely worth taking pictures of the minaret and, if possible, to visit the mosque! The best in Marrakech is to rent one of those horse drawn caliches and tour the city ramparts and main outskirts by night.
• After dusk, Jemaa el Fna square comes alive with musicians playing drums, mandolins, flutes and a variety of other instruments. In particular, listen to a performance of Gnaoua, a Moroccan-bred genre of trance music that combines many African styles, watch the biggest outdoor restaurant impressive build up from scratch from the top terraces of one of those cafes around.
• Arsat Moulay Abdeslam Cyber Park, “eight hectares of ancient parkland that, despite its proximity to the bustle of the Medina, is quiet and refreshing! The park has had a 21st-century overhaul. Several internet booths were installed; they are very cheap, efficient and seemingly underused.
• Get lost in the maze of shops at the Marrakech Souk. A great shopping experience in the meandering alleyways of the medina! Be prepared to bargain, bargain hard and bargain with a smile. Take a handful of sweets to hand out to the children, and you will endear yourself to one and all.
• Escape the bustle of the Medina and take a camel trek or a 4X4 excursion. The Berber Valleys of the High Atlas Mountains are only about one hour drive from the city and you will find yourself amidst stunning villages, spectacular scenery and very welcoming people.
• The walk to the Marrakech Square is an adventure in itself. When you come out of the riad, there is a road with no pavement and you have to watch for donkeys overtaking people, bikes overtaking donkeys, motorbikes overtaking bikes, then taxis overtaking all of them—all at the same time.
• The royal palace of Marrakech, Dar el Makhzen, is located on the Place de la Kasbah, and houses a large collection of Moroccan art dating from the 17th century. The ceiling frescos, plaster sculptures and detailed mosaics are definitely worth a look, as are the luxurious silks and carpets on display
• A walk through the Medina of Marrakesh (old town) is a must. It’s probably the only way to explore the true Moroccan culture. It’s best to start at a fixed point in the Medina, such as one of the main gates, and head to one of the main sites, such as the Koutoubia, so that you can ask people for directions while also exploring
• Rejuvenate in the calm location at a Spa. The spa is an absolutely magnificent place where to relax—some of them offer very professional services.
• Marvel at the colorful tiles and relax in the outdoor gardens of the Saadian Tombs, hidden away down a tiny alley that opens out to a peaceful area with a nice sanctuary of very peaceful feel.
How to Get Around
• Get a certified and licensed city guide to show you around, explain properly the cultural sides of your tour and serve as a shield against the hustles of the market place vendors.
• The hop on hop off bus option is quite common to operate a tour around Marrakech, one ticket available all the way and can be used 48 hours.
• The Petit Taxis have meters but the drivers tend to forget using them with tourists. It is always good to negotiate the price in advance, but keep in mind that at night, the prices are 50% more than during the day
• In Marrakech, you will also find about 300 caleches, or small horse-drawn carriages. These provide a good way of seeing the city, and can be found most easily at the Square de Foucauld near the Jemaa El Fna. Again, it is a good idea to ask about the price of the ride beforehand.
WHERE to Eat
• A night at Dar Essalam. There is a band of three musicians playing excellent music during the night, and a couple of belly dancers added to the occasion, too.
• Kasbah La Rotonda boasts spectacular decoration, with very good live music and amiable, attentive service. Great quality and quantity for a good price.
• Dar zellij, magnificent Riad converted into a restaurant where you can savour some of the finest music and great food
• Chez Ali Fantasia is VERY touristy, but memorable. They serve big meals and have a unique mega show of dancers, horse riders and big fanfare.
• For a refined and elegant Thai dining experience in Marrakesh, I recommend Bistro Le Saveur. The indoor poolside section has a casual, yet cultivated Thai-Vietnamese style.
• Narwama is an excellent restaurant for that special occasion. The menu offers a marvelous fusion of traditional Moroccan dishes and Thai curries, plus an excellent range of desserts.
• Le Tobsil is almost impossible to find but well worth it when you do. This is an incredibly romantic restaurant—a covered courtyard with the tables set on two floors. There are musicians, candles, rose-petals and orange flower water sprinkled before eating
• At night, Jemaa el Fna metamorphoses into the largest open restaurant in town. Many stalls sell Moroccan foods all night long. You’ll like the ambiance
• Catanzaro is a great cheap Italian restaurant. Nothing special to look at on the outside, but full of locals either eating or ordering takeaway!
• Chez Chegrouni is not the smartest of places, but you can get a good view of the comings and goings of the square and eat fairly cheaply. I ate there twice last week and enjoyed the experience.
• Enjoy delicious vegetarian and vegan organic delights at Earth Café. It’s more than just a cafe. It is a comfortable place for guests to relax and enjoy. Chilled music, good menu and reasonable prices, generosity and a warm welcome
• At Riad Des Mers, enjoy fresh seafood and only seafood, including “the best oysters we have tasted in a long time
• Learn to make a healthy Moroccan meal for yourself! You can join La Maison Arabe, a beautiful farmhouse in lovely gardens on the fringe of the city, chat, drink wine and thoroughly enjoy yourselves. And you can manage to learn how to cook a two course Moroccan meal, which you will enjoy by the pool afterwards.
• Very close option to the medina is Dar Cheriffa; a sixteenth century Riad turned into a café literaire with a show room but organizes cooking lessons on request. Great location with a very smooth ambiance.
• With delicious food, live music and elaborate dancing, Comptoir Darna is a must do in Marrakech
• At Dar Moha after trawling the back alley for some time in the medina’s alleyways fabulous meal is at hand.
• The fantastic Yacout is a Moroccan restaurant deep in the Medina. The roads are only the width of the car, so don’t get worried and wonder where the taxi is taking you. It is a popular place, so booking as soon as you arrive in Morocco to find a table.
• The garden becomes a theater displaying vibrant color and abounding life during the Festival de l’Art du Jardin. From the Medina to the outer neighborhoods, green spaces and gardens will demonstrate the beauty of garden art, creating a city in bloom. (April 10 – 12)
• The international film festival of Marrakech is the certainly the biggest around the country and gathers some international celebrities each year around fall time creating an amazing ambiance and great movie shows.
• Haute couture meets Eastern elegance at Caftan du Maroc, an annual fashion show of the Moroccan caftan. Showcasing cutting edge interpretations of a traditional dress, the festival proves that the caftan is much more than a piece of clothing—it is a piece of art.
• From El Badi Palace to Jemaa El Fna and all of the souks and streets in between, Marrakech whirls into fervent life during the annual two-week Festival des Arts Populaires de Marrakech, featuring international and Moroccan performers, outdoor theater, poetry, traditional music, Gnaoua performances, Berber musicians, belly dancing and all things Moroccan. (July 13 – 28)
• Cultures come together to the beats of reggae, dub, hip hop, electronic, world and fusion music at the Festival des Calèches.
• Discover new music, or smashups of existing music, at this intercultural jam session. (August 1 – 30)