Marrakesh, the city of a thousand and one nights

Marrakesh is a city in southern Morocco, and was its capital during the Almoravid, Almohad and Alaouite dynasties, until the arrival of the French colonisers. The country was called the Kingdom of Marrakesh, which is where the name Morocco came from.

It is one of Morocco's imperial cities, a world-renowned city, regional business hub and major crafts and religious centre. Today it is a cultural city, a source of inspiration for artists, a trendsetter, a host of major events and, of course, a prime tourist destination.

Getting to Marrakesh

Marrakesh is the Moroccan city with the best air links. Marrakesh Menara Airport has regular direct flights from London, Stockholm, Dublin, Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris and Madrid, as well as many charter flights to all parts of Europe. Many low-cost airlines also fly to the city.

It is also very well connected by train. The train station is on Hassan II Avenue and once you arrive, the best way to get around is by taxi. There are trains from Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier.

 

What to see in Marrakesh

The city is comprised of the medina, the colonial city and the new neighbourhood of Hivernage, which is the most modern in Marrakesh. There are numerous attractions in the city and its surroundings.

The Medina

The medina is a conglomerate of narrow, bustling streets with many souks and squares full of life, crafts and tradition. It is encircled by 90 kilometres of adobe walls and has 10 gates.

Entering through Bab Al-Jdid Gate, you'll arrive at the Koutoubia Mosque and Jemaa el-Fna Square. The Koutoubia Mosque is one of the most impressive in the world. It was built in the Spanish-Moorish style and its minaret is the symbol of the city. It is reminiscent of the Giralda tower in Seville and is surrounded by palm trees and crowned by four bronze orbs.

Next to the mosque is the legendary Jemaa el-Fna Square, one of the most visited sites in Morocco. It is full of all kinds of stalls, sages, magicians, snake charmers, contortionists and even people who spontaneously join in the craziness of the square.

To the east of the Medina is the tanners' quarter, where you can find the best craftsmen in the country. There is also the Ben Youssef Mosque and Madrasa, the largest in the medina, and one of the most beautiful buildings of the city, as well as the Museum of Marrakesh.

To the south are the 12th century Agdal Gardens, a very peaceful place full of greenery, including olive trees and huge fig trees.

Entering from the Bab Agnaou Gate, you'll find the Mosque of El-Mansour, nicknamed the "Mosque of the Golden Apples".

Through the Bab Aylen or Bab Berrima gates, you can access the 16th century El Badi Palace, one of the marvels of the Muslim world, although today it is mostly in ruins. It is worth climbing its walls for views across Marrakesh.

The famous Mamounia Hotel, one of the most luxurious in the world, is also worth a visit. It is an ancient palace, where many international figures have stayed. Its original rooms are decorated with different motifs, and some have views of the Koutoubia Mosque and others the gardens.

 

Outside the medina

Outside the medina is the modern city, built during the French Protectorate and made up of wide avenues, with attractions such as Mohammed V Avenue, with its official buildings, banks, hotels and cafes. The centre of the modern part of the city is the great square, which houses the Majorelle Garden, an oasis full of fruit trees and flowers and the large central market.

There is also Hivernage, which is the most modern part of Marrakesh, with spacious, built-up streets. This is where you'll find the famous Pacha Marrakech club.

And on the outskirts of Marrakesh, you can visit the Palmeraie, an oasis with almost 150,000 palm trees.

 

Shopping in Marrakesh

Marrakesh is one of Morocco's shopping and crafts capitals, perhaps due to its large tourist influx. Typical products from the city include fabrics, such as carpets, leather goods, metal items and jewellery such as traditional Moroccan lanterns and items made of silver and copper. Carved jewellery decorated with gold is also typical.

The most interesting places to shop at are the health and beauty product stores. There are products made with argan oil and even improbable miracle cures.

If you want to shop in the medina, the souks are right in the middle of it. We recommend the Smarine fabric souk, the Figarine blacksmith souk and the dyers’ souk where wool of all colours is left out to dry.