The “Red City” welcomes visitors and traders to Africa’s busiest square with open arms. Jemaa el-Fnaa, “The Assembly of trespassers ”. It is this juxtaposition that makes Morocco’s fourth largest city just so charming.
Perhaps it is lost in translation, but there are no trespassers found here. Just a beautiful melting pot of traders from the surrounding deserts and Atlas mountains. You will find snake charmers, acrobats, mystics and musicians. Peddling their skills alongside herb sellers, rug merchants, leather craftsmen and lantern makers. No market place would be complete without the occasional haggling exchange.
Marrakech’s souk is where I have spent many hours searching stacks of Berber vintage rugs for the perfect one. You lose all sense of time in the mazes of stalls and alleyways. Suddenly the market takes on a different feel as the sun sets and eateries emerge. The streets become lively with locals and tourists alike sharing dinner and tea. If you find yourself in Marrakech and decide to skip out on the market experience for fear of the crowds, you are doing yourself a disservice. Even if you don’t buy anything, a visit alongside Jemaa el-Fnaa is a must.
After the hustle and bustle of the souk, you will need a place to put your feet up. The Majorelle Garden is an oasis in the city. Fountains and streams are shaded by palms and surrounded by vibrant mosaics. Home to many tropical plants, traditional architecture and a Berber Museum, it almost became a hotel, but was saved by Yves Saint Larent. You can relax and be inspired in the same place as the fashion icon.
Marrakech is home to seemingly countless mosques dotted throughout the city. The mosques are closed to non-Muslims. But that shouldn’t stop you admiring their beauty and grace. Many of the Mosques have a lengthy history, elaborate stucco and easily identifiable zellij or mosaic. The Kasbah Mosque is home to the Saadian Tombs where non Muslims are permitted to enter. The Saadian Tombs’ rediscovery reminds me of Morocco itself on the tourist trail. Sealed and hidden in 1659, they were uncovered in 1917. The final resting place of a murdered sultan, his son spared no expense importing Italian Carrara Marble, and using orantate gilding on the two magnificent mausoleums.
After a day of exploring, finding your way back to your Riad is another adventure in itself!
“I got lost in Marrakech” is a thing.
A riad offers a traditional place to stay. Riad means garden. Similar to the patios of Spanish houses, a riad is built around a central courtyard garden. There is an abundance to be found near the medina, ranging in price and included luxuries with many offering breakfast.