48 hours, this is the time we dedicated to the discovery of Marrakech during our wonderful trip to Morocco.
The beating heart of the city is Jeema el Fna square, around the square there is the medina, a tangle of alleys, streets, squares, surrounded by 19 kilometer of city walls. During your stay you will pass by this square several times and you will see it in its many sides: sleepy during the day and busy-chaotic after sunset. The spetacle offered by the square is so unique that UNESCO has included it in the “intangible heritage of humanity” category to reward it.
Without Jemaa el Fna, Marrakech would be just any citye. Paul Bowles
During the day you can find snake charmers, monkey trainers, water sellers, ……. Be careful not to linger too long in front of these attractions if you don’t want to pay, as usual, despite being prepared, we fell for it. They put a snake around our neck for the photo and then they demanded to be paid for it ……
Around the sunset time, the square changes: countless “air-conditioned” street food kiosks open their doors and invite tourists to stop and taste the freshly cooked delicacies: tajine, grilled meat, fish and their super specialties: snail soup and sheep’s brains.
We haven’t tried it but, from the smell, all the plates looks very good. Furthermore, there are kiosks that sell fruit juices, we have tasted these several times: excellent.
In addition to the square there are many other attractions in this city, let’s go and discover them together.
Palais el Badii
El Badi, “the incomparable“, was built in the 16th century at the behest of the Sadian sultan Ahmed el Mansour to commemorate the defeat of the Portuguese in the battle of the three kings.
At the time it represented one of the most grandiose buildings in the entire Muslim world: the ceilings and walls were decorated with Carrara marble, mosaics, stuccoes and gold foil.
It was later plundered by Moulay Ismail to build his own palace when he decided to transfer the capital from Marrakech to Meknes.
Today the huge swimming pools, the gardens, the pisé walls remain. It is possible to visit the minbar, the ancient wooden pulpit from the Koutoubia, dating back to 1139 and representing one of the few Almoravid treasures still existing.
The visit costs 70 dirhams (about 7 euros) and can be visited every day from 9:00 to 17:00.
I suggest you go early in order to avoid the groups and enjoy the palace in peace.
Tip: climb the walls to enjoy the view of Marrakech!
Palais de la Bahia
The name of this royal palace means “the Golden One“, built in the late 19th century by order of Si Moussa, a former slave who became vizier, and his successor Bou Ahmed with the intention of building the most impressive palace of all time.
It took more than a decade to complete.
It covers an area of 8 hectares and in addition to the residence, consisting of 150 rooms, includes numerous gardens: the sultan lived here plus his 4 wives and 24 concubines.
Unfortunately, all the rooms are bare, when the vizier died it was burgled, but you can still see the wonderful decorations of the roof and the mosaics.
I preferred Palais el Badii.
If you are in the mood for some greenery, I recommend a visit to Jardin Majorelle.
It is a garden in which there are plants of various species: cacti, prickly pears, lemons, bamboo, bougainvillea, …….
Belonging to Jacques Majorelle, a French painter, who had his atelier here, they were later purchased by Saint Laurent who made them accessible to the public.
Here the whole blue color dominates, in a more intense and brighter shade of the sky. It is the shade created by the painter for which he became famous and which he used to paint the streets and walls of his estate: the “Majorelle blue“.
The visit costs 120 dirhams (about 12 euros), the price seemed a bit too high compared to what it offers.
As the gardens are very popular, to avoid the long lines at the ticket office I recommend you to reach the gardens early in the morning.
They are located in the north-west of the city, outside the walls of Marrakech. You can reach them by taxi, by carriage or, if you feel like walking, with a pleasant walk through the districts of the city, a bit long but nice.
We opted for the walk and we were very happy, you go through “real” non-touristic neighborhoods. The shops charge the real prices: 2 pastries with cream cost 2 dirhams. If you take the walk during lunch time and you are hungry, I suggest you stop in one of the many fish and chips located in the street that runs along the walls, inside the medina: 35 dirhams, cheap but very good.
You will see the difference between the neighborhoods inside the walls, chaotic and alive, compared to the neighborhoods outside the walls, well kept.
Mosquée de la Koutoubia
The Koutoubia mosque is the most important mosque in Marrakech and its minaret is the most famous symbol, built to be the tallest in Marrakech it is in fact visible from various parts of the city.
They say that it was inspired by the mythical Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Beautiful both day and night when it is illuminated, in the evening the gardens that surround it come alive.
As in all mosques in Morocco, access to non-Muslims is not allowed.
Il souk è diviso in settori, c’è il souk del cuoio, quello delle babbucce (pantofole in pelle di ogni forma e colore), quello dei tintori, dei fabbri, dei tappeti,……
The souk is located near Jemaa el Fna, it is a set of indoor bazaars
If I think back to the souk, what immediately comes to mind is the confusion: traders trying to get you into their bazaar to show their products, mopeds whizzing by a few centimeters, donkey carts, smells and colors.
Do not be fooled by the prices displayed, here the rule is to haggle: offer half of what they ask you and if you manage to win it, know that they will still have earned it.
The souk is divided into sectors, there is the leather souk, that of the slippers (leather slippers of all shapes and colors), that of dyers, blacksmiths, carpets, …….
Souk – Pay Attention
It may happen that a character comes to meet you and proposes to accompany you to see a particular sector of the souk, he tells you that he does it for free, that only that day is the right one to attend a particular processing of leather or fabrics, ……. . Refuse because he will take you to one of his “partners” who will show you his products and if you don’t buy something he will want to get paid for accompanying you. Despite we know it, we fall for it every time, he is stronger than us. And every time I walk away without giving him anything and my husband stops to explain that he doesn’t have to pay ………………
Do not even listen to those who tell you that a museum is closed or who wants to help you to reach a certain place.
The same recommendation applies to the tanneries, they will tell you that you are very lucky because it is the last day of the tannery opening, they will take you on a very short tour in a tannery where the smell is unbearable and then direct you to an affiliated shop where they will show you products made with skins. If you don’t buy anything they will ask you for the money for the tour and will not be satisfied with a few pennies.
How to reach Marrakech
If you land at Agadir airport, on leaving the airport, turn left. After a while the navigator will tell you to turn right onto an unpaved road, follow this advice, you haven’t taken the wrong road! It is a “shortcut” that will allow you to reach the highway a few kilometers ahead. Continue on the freeway which after a few kilometers becomes toll, the toll up to Marrakech is 72 dirhams.
Once in the medina, there are numerous parking. A good price 60 dirhams a day, if they offer you a higher price, bargain.
We stayed at Riad Al Wafaa: it was an excellent chosen.
The location is perfect: out of the hubbub of the souk but within walking distance of everything
The rooms are nice and spacious, ours was located on the second floor overlooking a terrace overlooking the rooftops of Marrakech. Equipped with air conditioning, essential if you visit the city in July and August, spacious and clean. The large bathroom with shower and hairdryer.
The fantastic breakfast, plentiful and delicious.
Fatima, the manager gave us great tips for visiting the city.
Where to eat
There are many places where to eat, both with typical cuisine and with international cuisine and if you really can’t do without it, there are also the fast-food restaurants of international chains.
We dined at cafè des épices and ate the best tagine of our entire trip, the place has a roof terrace overlooking the souk.
The second evening we went to the Café Le Meridian, a nice place overlooking the minaret and the busy street, you will have a lot of fun seeing the traffic jams that are created between cars, horse-drawn carriages, mules, …….
The third evening we went to Cafè Clock, we had read that it is possible to taste burgers with camel meat and we were curious: good but not very good.
At lunch we too succumbed to the lure of fast food and had lunch at KFC, but on the second day we tried fish and chips in a place frequented by locals: cheap and very good.
If during your visit to the souk you get hungry there are kiosks that cook burgers with vegetables at a low price, try them, they are cooked on the spot and very good.
During the day you will feel the need to drink, everywhere you will find shops that sell water, the large bottle costs about 6 dirhams.
The currency of Morocco is the Moroccan dirham, one dirham corresponds to approximately 0.09 euro cents, with 1 euro you get about 10 dirham.
In the city you will find numerous ATMs and numerous places to change. The currency exchange where the most favorable exchange rate is obtained without the application of commissions is the hotel Ali, a few steps from Jeema el Fna square.
Outside the walls there are shopping centers with supermarkets and shops.
The most present supermarket is Carrefour with all kinds of products, both food and non-food. Western products are more expensive than local ones which have very low prices.
If you are looking for accommodation you can use the map attached below, there are accommodation for all budgets, I recommend you to stay in a riad.