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Stacey Chillemi

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The Djemma el Fna is really the heart of Marrakech. It is a large central square in the old city (Medina) and during the day it's a perfect place to grab a freshly-squeezed orange juice and a handful of dates. At the end of the afternoon the Djemma el Fna transforms into an entertainers paradise -


Djemma el Fna

The Djemma el Fna is really the heart of Marrakech. It is a large central square in the old city (
Medina) and during the day it's a perfect place to grab a freshly-squeezed orange juice and a handful of dates. At the end of the afternoon the Djemma el Fna transforms into an entertainers paradise -- if you're in to snake charming, juggling, music and that sort of thing. Snack stalls are replaced with stalls offering more substantial fare and the square comes alive with entertainment that hasn't changed much since medieval times.

The Djemma el Fna is surrounded by cafe's overlooking the square so you can just relax and watch the world go by if you're tired of jostling the crowds below. Be prepared to be asked for money when you take photos of the performers and stop to watch the entertainment.

The souqs are basically undercover markets that sell everything from chickens to high-quality crafts. The souqs of Marrakech are considered to be among the best in
Morocco, so if you like shopping and bargaining you'll enjoy yourself tremendously. Even if you don't like shopping, the souqs are a cultural experience you wouldn't want to miss. Souqs are divided in to small areas that specialize in a certain good or trade. The metal workers all have their little shops clustered together, as do the tailors, butchers, jewelers, wool dyers, spice merchants, carpet salesmen and so on.

The souqs are situated north of the Djemma el Fna and finding your way around the narrow alleyways can be a bit tricky. Guides are plentiful in Marrakech, so you can always use those services, but getting lost in the chaos is also part of the fun. It's often more interesting to peek in to souqs where local wares are being produced, than to be taken to yet another carpet shop by your guide. If you get lost, just ask for directions back to the Djemma el Fna.

Majorelle Gardens and the Museum of Islamic Art
In the 1920's, French artists Jacques and Louis Majorelle created a stunning garden in the middle of Marrakech's new town. The Majorelle gardens are filled with color, plants of all shapes and sizes, flowers, fish ponds and perhaps the most pleasing aspect, tranquility. The designer Yves Saint Laurent now owns the gardens and has also built himself a house on the property. The building that gets most of the attention however is the bright blue and yellow building the Marjorelles used as their studio and which now houses the
Museum of Islamic Art. This small museum includes some good examples of Moroccan tribal art, carpets, jeweler, and pottery.

The gardens and museum are open daily with a 2 hour lunch break from 12-2pm.

Saadian Tombs

The Saadian dynasty ruled much of southern Morocco during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour created these tombs for himself and his family in the late 16th century, 66 of them are buried here. The tombs were sealed up rather than destroyed in the 17th century and were only re-discovered in 1917. Consequently they are beautifully preserved and the intricate mosaic is stunning. Despite being situated in the heart of the somewhat hectic old town (medina) the tombs are surrounded by a nice peaceful garden.

The tombs are open daily except Tuesday. It's advisable to get there early and avoid the tour groups.

The Ramparts of Marrakech

The walls of the medina have been standing since the 13th century and make for a wonderful early morning stroll. Each gate is a work of art in themselves and the walls run for twelve miles. The Bab ed-Debbagh gate is the entry point for the tanneries and provides an excellent photo opportunity full of vivid colors from the dyes used. It is a little smelly though.

Palais Dar Si Said (Museum of Moroccan Arts)

A palace and museum in one and well worth a visit. The palace is opulent and beautiful in itself with a lovely courtyard where you can relax and take some pictures. The museum's displays are well laid out and include jewelry, costumes, ceramics, daggers and other artifacts. The museum is open daily with a couple of hours break for lunch.

Ali ben Youssef Medersa and Mosque

The Medersa was built in the 16th century by the Saadians and could house up to 900 religious students. The architecture is beautifully preserved and you can explore the tiny rooms where the students used to live. The mosque is adjacent to the Medersa.



El Bahia Palace

This palace is a wonderful example of the best of Moroccan architecture. There's lots of detail, arches, light, engravings and what's more it was built as a harem's residence, which makes it even more interesting. The palace is open daily with a break for lunch although it is closed when the royal family visits.

Getting Around Marrakech

The best way to see Marrakech is on foot especially in the medina. But it's a sizable town and you'll probably want to make use of some of the following options:

·        Taxis are readily available throughout town and probably the most efficient way of getting to the main sites. Grand taxis are old Mercedes cars that carry up to six people for a fixed fare. They usually keep to specific routes and you'll find them at the bus station, Djemaa el Fna and the main Post Office in Gueliz (new town). Petit taxis are a little more expensive but you get it to yourself and they'll take you anywhere you want to go. The meters aren't always used so either asks the driver to switch it on or bragain for your fare before you hop in. Ask your hotel staff what a reasonable fare is if you know where you're going. Petit taxis in Marrakech are usually beige and you can just flag them down.


·        Caleche is a horse-drawn carriage and a popular way to get around Marrakech. There are set prices for the more common routes, around the ramparts for example, but for other routes you'll have to bargain with the driver. Set the price before you hop in. You can catch a Caleche in the garden square between the Koutoubia Mosque and Djemaa el Fna, El Badi Palace and the more expensive hotels.


·        Buses within town are frequent and cheap but can get crowded. The central bus station, Place El Mouarabitene is just outside Bab Doukkala on the northwestern edge of the old city. You can pay the bus driver directly. The no 8 will take you to the train station; the no 10 to the central bus station and the no 1 travels between the Medina and Gueliz (new town). Most buses will stop at the Djemaa-el-Fna


·        Moped or Bicycle is also a popular way to get around Marrakech and you can cycle within the medina which is handy. Hotels in Marrakech

Where to Stay in Marrakech


One of the most sought after accommodations in Marrakech is a Riad, a traditional Moroccan house situated in the Medina (old town). All riads have a central courtyard that will often have a fountain, restaurant or a pool. Some riads also have rooftop terraces where you can eat breakfast and look out over the city. Click here for a comprehensive list of riads in Marrakech which include photos and prices. Riads are not all expensive, check out the Maison Mnabha, Dar Mouassine and the Hotel Sherazade where you can stay in style but pay less than $100 for a double.

There are two Riads in Marrakech that have made my Top Ten Places to Stay in Morocco, they are:


Marrakech has lots of luxury hotels available including the popular chain hotels like the Le Meridien, Sheraton, and Sofitel. These hotels are often housed in historic buildings and retain the Moroccan character and style. The most famous luxury hotel in Marrakech is La Mamounia which Winston Churchill described as "the most beautiful place in the world".

Budget hotels are also plentiful and Bootsnall has a decent listing of hotels ranging from $45-$100 per night. Since many of the smaller budget hotels won't have web sites or online booking facilities you should get a good guide book, like the Lonely Planet and follow their recommendations. Most budget accommodation is situated south of the Djemaa el Fna.



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