Marrakesh or Marrakech is the foremost city in the northwest African nation of Morocco. It is one of the largest cities in the country; located in the west of Morocco at the foot of the High Atlas (high mountainous barrier in North Africa). The city lies in the centre of the fertile, irrigated Haouz Plain, south of the Tennsift River.
Marrakech gave its name to the kingdom of which it was long the capital. The name of the city is spelled in Berber “Merrakec”, in French “Merrakech” and in English “Marrakesh”, it came from the word “Amazigh” (Berber) which means “Land of God” and others interpret it as “The Land of Journey”. Marrakesh is one of the most important four former imperial cities in Moroccan history. It was founded in 1062 and inhabited by Amazighs people, Abu Bakr ibn Umar, chieftain and cousin of King Yusuf ibn Tashfin of the dynasty of the Almoravids. In 1269 Marrakech passed to the control of the Marīnids, whose preferred capital was the northern city of Fès (one of the 4 imperial cities). Although Marrakech flourished while serving as the capital under the Saʿdīs in the 16th century, the succeeding ʿAlawite rulers resided more often at Fès or Meknès (one of the 4 imperial cities).; however, the ʿAlawites continued to use Marrakech as a military post. In 1912 Marrakech was captured by the religious leader Aḥmad al-Ḥībah, who was defeated and driven out by French forces commanded by Col. Charles M.E. Mangin. Under the French protectorate (1912–56), Marrakech was for many years administered by the Glaoui family, the last of whom, Thami alGlaoui, was the chief instigator of the deposition of Muḥammad V in 1953.
During the reign of Almohads, many mosques including the world-famous Koutoubia mosque were built with Andalusian influence. The city is actually a large open-air museum with its large number of mosques, palaces, museums and markets. These establishments were built which foremost features were the carved domes and lobed arches. Surrounded by a vast palm grove, the Medina (old city) in Marrakech is known called as the “Red City” because of its rosecoloured tinted walls reflect the light like a rose quarts gem. By all means anyone must say that the old city walls contain a lot of sights.
The city is also known for its fascinating historical sites and other must see attractions such as:
Koutoubia Mosque, a landmark located near the Djemaa l Fna and the largest mosque in Marrakesh. It is famed especially for its magnificent minaret, one of the oldest of the great Almohad minarets remaining in the world.
El-Badi Palace, stands for “The incomparable palace”, it is built by the Saadian King, Ahmad al-Mansur in late 16th century. It is one of the most visited sites in the city. With so many historical buildings, the palace has not survived over the years. Its ruins are a cruel reminder of the destruction of war, and while walking through the ruins one is still able to get a sense of how magnificent the palace used to be.
Bahia Palace, translated as “Brilliance” built more recently, in the late 19th century, Bahia Palace and its extensive gardens was intended to be the greatest palace of its time.
Saadian Tombs, sealed up for centuries until their rediscovery in 1917. Occupying a quiet enclosure at the Kasbah, the tombs are magnificently decorated with colourful tiles, Arabic script and elaborate carvings.
Ménara Gardens, located to the west of Marrakesh, all can be relax in the gardens surrounded by several orchards of Palm trees, Olive trees and Fruit trees.
Agdal Gardens, translated as “Walled Meadow”. Together with the Medina (old city of Marrakesh) and Menara Gardens, the Agdal Gardens were listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1985.
Majorelle Gardens, designed by landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, who dedicated his life to creating an exquisite collection of cacti, palms and bamboo from around the world as well as many indigenous species in Morocco.
Jemaa el Fna, is a place that makes anyone so effortlessly involves and keeps coming back for more. This place is located in the exotic city of Marrakesh and is known to locals as the “Heart of the city”.
Marrakesh is a city unlike any other; this place will bring you to the best riad hotels and stylish romantic retreats. Considered as the riads’ “Mecca”, the red city has more than 800 guesthouses divided amongst its different districts. The majority of Marrakesh riads are located near the souks, in the middle of Medina, though some are also located outside the ramparts. Here are some of the list of riads having its own specific and unique architecture and decoration. Riad Kniza – a fabulous and utterly authentic riad home and guesthouse. La Sultana – modelled on the Bahia Palace, La Sultana channels a Moroccan maximalist style. Dar Attajmi – set snugly in a kink on Rue Laksour cosy and four-room riad. Villa des Orangers – a boutique hotel and gourmet restaurant in town that offers an exceptional service in a beautiful property. Dar Les Cigognes – once a wealthy merchant’s house and now a boutique and hotel that offers eleven well-designed suites and superb dining and set opposite the Marrakesh palace. Maison MK – a luxurious hideaway with fantastic restaurant in the heart of Medina – lives up to the definition of riad as “a little drop of paradise”. Riad al Massarah – a thoughtful, modern approach to luxury, putting the well-being of guests and the planet ahead of glitzy frippery. Riad Joya – is an elegant 7-suite luxury boutique hotel of timeless beauty and seductive atmosphere. Dar al Assad – a Marrakesh hotel offering sumptuous rooms, traditional Moroccan design, excellent breakfast, and great value for money, near Djemaa el-Fna. Riad Le J – the Moroccan home of two Italian furniture designers, Riad Le J is tucked behind the Mouassine mosque and combines smart interior design with Marrakesh craftsmanship.
Spring and autumn are the perfect seasons for exploring the old city and visiting the historical sites. Spring always fall starting from month of March until May while autumn is during September until November. During these seasons, the weather is very pleasant in Marrakesh. It may rain on a couple of days each month, but these short sharp showers are usually over very quickly. Summer temperatures in Marrakesh are blisteringly hot this will start during month of June until August. The heat is overwhelming to many. It’s important to stay out of the midday sun, to drink plenty of water and to allow yourself time to acclimatize. Winters can be surprisingly chilly in Marrakesh, particularly at night and most hotels do not have heating arrangement, so many may feel quite uncomfortable with this.
When travelling to Marrakesh, it’s important to know a few customs before you go. It will make your trip more exciting and enjoyable, and help you feel more comfortable as you meet the friendly locals and explore one of the busiest cities in Africa.
Staying in a traditional Riad is the ultimate in exotic accommodation. A riad is a large house that surrounds an inner courtyard. Many courtyards have a swimming pool and the four walls surrounding the pool are usually three stories high with a rooftop patio for dining and relaxing. Most riads were large homes and even palaces owned by rich families.
If you are lucky, you may be invited to a local family’s home for tea or dinner. When invited, it’s important to follow a few rules. Be sure to bring a gift of figs, dates or pastries with you, and when you enter anyone’s house, make sure to take off your shoes. Many Moroccans carry a pair of slippers with them to change in to, or your host will offer you a pair of their house slippers to wear while inside. Much of Moroccan food is eaten with your hands and before your meal, it is important to thoroughly wash with soap and water. Normally a washbasin is brought out for you to use. When you do eat, only eat with your right hand. That is a hard and fast rule.
Greeting people in Marrakech is much like anywhere else in the world. A handshake is customary between men. However, a man must never shake a woman’s hand until she extends her hand first. Once you know someone well, you will most likely greet them with a kiss on both cheeks.
Alcohol is not widely consumed in Marrakech and when visiting anyone’s home, do not bring it along unless you are sure that it is accepted in your hosts’ house. Instead, be prepared to drink a lot of tea. In Marrakech tea is a tradition and you will be greeted regularly with a cup of sweet mint tea to enjoy. It’s delicious and not to be passed up. Drinking tea together is a wonderful way to get to know each other.
And finally, learn a bit of the language before you go. French is widely spoken in Marrakech, but Arabic and Berber are the Mother tongue. Learning a bit of both is a great way to break the ice when meeting new people.
Marrakesh is a vital component to the economy and culture of Morocco. And, as the city has always served as the symbolic and physical link between north and south, mountain and plain, it is one of the best places to experience the true mixture of Moroccan culture.