Marrakesh is the fourth largest city in Morocco but it also might be the top tourist destination. Meaning “Country of God” or “Country of the sons of Kush” in other translations, the city is a great blend of modern and traditional. Berber, Arab, and European cultures blend together in a mesmerizing way. There’s a lot to do there that goes beyond this list but for brevity’s sake, here are five things to do in this great travel destination.
1. Party Like It’s 1999
(Photo via javool)
Marrakesh is well known as the city for nightlife in all of Morocco. Head to the ville nouveau, or the new district, to find plenty of chic clubs and lounges. They start to get busy around midnight and can go on till the wee hours of the morning so be prepared for a long night of fun. Some good places include Le Comptoir, the Rose Bar, and Pasha Marrakesh (advertised as the largest nightclub in Africa).
2. Shop at the Souks
(Photo via dailymail)
These traditional markets are a sight to behold. Stalls are connected to each other, as paths and alleyways intertwine all around them. Entering the back of a vendor’s stall, you’ll often find a labyrinth of hidden chambers. You can dedicate a whole day to navigating and surveying the scene. You will find plenty of necessities and luxuries from towels and hooded robes to ceramics and carpets. Most of these products are hand-made in the traditional style, and you will find many appealing purchases. Before you go though, be prepared for a day of bargaining! Bargaining is really the national sport here so even if you’re not used to it, try to have some fun. The vendor will normally give you a really high price for everything and you are expected to respond in a similarly deceiving fashion until you both meet in the middle. If you are really good, you can try to bring him down to the cheapest he/she will go, and then reward him for his loss with a tip in the final transaction. Souks you ought to visit include Mustapha Blaoui (lanterns, shawls, cabinets), L’Art du bain (handmade organic soaps made with local flowers and spices), and Herboriste Avicenne (oils, fragrances, herbs, and spices).
3. Check out Jemaa El-Fnaa
(Photo via amtravelite)
This square in the medina quarter (old city) is a UNESCO (get ready for a mouthful) Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Let’s just call it a UNESCO heritage site is much easier. The square is essentially a traditional city square containing orange juice stalls, youths walking their barbary apes (that I want to see. And now I wish I owned one), and snake charmers. As the day turns to night, the entertainment shifts to Berber dancing-boys, story-tellers, sellers of traditional medicines, and magicians. As night falls, food stalls pop up for the hungry. While it’s great to plan a day to spend there, do line your pockets with plenty of change. All of these attractions depend on tourist money so you may often be badgered for tips. At the same time, be prepared to say “NO” or “LA’” (Arabic for no) if you feel the badgering is too much. Being too nice will only encourage certain people; don’t feel too badly about being upfront about what you will and won’t buy.
4. Visit the Koutoubia Mosque
(Photo via discovering)
The mosque is named after the booksellers in the nearby souk. The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque was built in a traditional Almohad style and topped with four gilded copper globes. It’s visible from near and far. There are multiple legends about the origins of the orbs, but I’ll just share the funniest one. Legend goes that there were originally three globes made of pure gold and that the fourth one was donated by the wife of Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur as penance. She supposedly had her golden jewelry melted down for the fourth globe after breaking her fast for three hours one Ramadan evening. I wonder what she ate exactly? Anyway, check this mosque out during your visit! Since it’s still used by Muslims for worship, tourists might find it a little difficult to enter. At the very least you can get a good view of the exterior and if you manage to sneak in, you can enjoy the architecture and atmosphere on the inside as well.
5. Relax at a Hammam / Public Bath
(Photo via trekking)
Some good ones to visit are Dar Karma, Les Deux Tours, and Les Jardins de la Medina. If you are adventurous and want to check out the local ones, there’s the Hammam Bab Doukkala. There you’ll get a traditional experience. Be prepared to get pretty close to naked and to be scrubbed down with various oils and creams. You’ll get touched in places you’ve never been touched before by a group of Moroccan ladies (if you’re a girl) and dudes if you’re a dude (oh man). Not for the faint of heart.
Which of These Attractions Are You Most Looking Forward to?