The word Marrakesh comes from the union of the two terms love And kush. And the meaning is Land of God. Nothing else is needed to explain the beauty of this great city which, and it is not a way of saying, leaves those who discover it with the desire to return. To dive back into the labyrinth of its streets, into the crazy magic of its square and into the magical atmosphere of the medina, the old part. To begin to understand what to see in marrakech let’s start with some practical information: the third largest city in the Morocco – after Casablanca And Fez – is located at the foot of Atlas mountains and close enough to the desert of the Sahara.
The city, then, is divided in two: the modern area known as Ville Nouvelle or Gueliz and the historic part of the city, the Medina. And given the differences it seems to be faced with two completely distant and separate cities. The Medina is a seemingly inextricable labyrinth of alleys and narrow streets with small shops and stalls, a lattice full of life noises and smells. In the new part of the city, however, they are found modern restaurants, name brand stores and fast food chains like the ones that are rampant in other parts of the world. But this is not a city like any other.
What to see in Marrakech: the red city
This premise to say that summarizing the things to see in Marrakech in a few lines is not easy. Why the “red city” has many faces and many secrets. It is a place that fills all the senses with colours, sounds, spicy flavours, splendid palaces alongside sordid shacks and where, at times, such a wealth of stimuli can become almost tiring and excessive.
In the souksthe market you will find yourself surrounded by people and merchants, objects and perfumes on all sides while the large square Djemaa El Fna it is difficult even to tell with its endless catalog of stalls that come with dark while during the day it is the reign of snake charmers and fascinated and bewildered tourists. From here it’s off to perhaps the most extreme shopping experience of your life where you’ll learn the complex art of negotiation. But there’s not only this and that’s why to the question “What to see in Marrakech?” the answer can only be: “Marrakech in all its forms”.
The magical Djemaa el-Fna square
The central square and the space dedicated to Street food in the heart of the city it is called Djemaa el Fna. And once you see it you will never forget it.
In past centuries it was the site of public executions (and that is why according to some the name means “assembly of the dead) but today it is a place 24 hours on 24, seven days out of seven. This huge square is a cauldron of activity with ever-changing colours, scents, sounds and scenes. During the day the large square is frequented by snake charmers, monkey trainers, improbable healers selling water, street dentists and vendors of stalls of all kinds.
But it is when the sun goes down that the square really begins to explode with life. From every corner come hand-pushed carts that transform into offering stalls food of all kinds. And at that point the question becomes: what to taste?. The sky fills with fumes and vapours, the noise of the generators mixes with the din of voices and tourists and locals rush about, women offering drawings with henna, musicians. In short, a lot of life and that’s why they are also there pickpockets, scam artists and beggars.
A heritage square for all
But it matters little in a square that for theUnesco is a treasure of oral and intangible heritage of humanity. You go around, taste grilled kebabs and juice, eggs and, if you want, boiled goat heads while the night goes on and the square becomes an almost surreal image. Symbol of a unique city and country.
The Koutoubia: a pity to see it only from the outside
When you are in the square Djemaa el Fna you will not fail to notice the neighbor mosque call Koutoubia the most important of the city and also for this fundamental voice of every guide of the city. But not only that: it is truly beautiful and is one of the best examples of Almohad architecture, splendid for its proportions. The name seems to mean it’s there Booksellers mosque because once upon a time books were traded here and it was the place of public scribes.
All good but there is a problem: i non-Muslims cannot enter to visit the interior. And this is really a pity. On the other hand in Marrakech you don’t find the Arabian wonders that ogle everywhere like a Seville or Cordovaor the pearls of Istanbul e Cairo where you can fill your eyes.
That 70-meter minaret
Or rather: there are. But almost always they can only be seen from the outside, perhaps passing through the gardens as, precisely, this is the case of the Koutoubia of which, even without having seen it, we know that the structure, begun in 1150, it has 16 parallel naves and a larger central nave with 112 columns. The mosque is also very recognizable thanks to its minaretthe oldest of only three Almohad minarets still standing in the world, almost 70 meters high which stands out above the buildings of the city.
The shape of the minaret is the one found in later structures such as the Hassan Tower And The Giralda in Spain. The minaret features tile decoration with colorful purple, blue and white decorative patterns and pink stone walls.
Marrakech and its Medina
The historic center of Marrakesh is called Medina. And this is the area where it is probably worth spending most of your time also because most of the most important monuments of the city are located in this area. which is a world heritage siteUNESCO.
The Medina is the old one fortified city of Marrakesh and the 12th century walls have survived. I’m pink walls who run for 19km and have decorated gates and towers. Shopaholics will appreciate the markets in Old City, each focused on a particular product. And then it will be a triumph of slippers, carpets, metal articles and lamps. North of Jemaa El Fnastarting from rou Laksour opens wide the souk real. And this is where trade has reached levels unknown elsewhere. In the heart of the old city then there are the oldest buildings and riador houses with the classic internal courtyard.
Some are now hotels of great charm where to stay in peace, even if a stone’s throw from the life of the Medina.
To the south of the square there is one of the other areas that cannot be overlooked if you want to find out what to see in Marrakech: here are concentrated some important palaces often, however, surrounded by areas that are perhaps a little decayed and besieged by traffic.
Museums and palaces
The first is the museum Dar Si Said which is located in a house of the chamberlain of the sultan and which houses the Museum of Moroccan Art and Crafts. The house showcases traditional products but is an attraction in itself being a opulent palace and one of the rooms recreates the traditional wedding reception hall with cedar furniture and a small bedroom so that visitors can have a meaning of life in Marrakech in the late 19th century.
Among the exhibits a trunk that belonged to a chamberlain of the Umayyad Caliphate which dates back to 1002, beautifully carved wooden doors, carpets, copperware and traditional Berber jewelery
Our guide on what to see in Marrakech then continues with the palace and gardens of Bahiaof the largest palaces of its time, built in the first part between 1859 and 1873. The palace has a harem with a large courtyard with a central basin, the decorated rooms and pavilions with gardens in succession.
One of the largest parts of the new section of the building is the marble courtyard which measures 30 meters by 50 meters divided into quadrants by white marble paths with colored tiles and glazed pottery. The gardens are huge and beautifully manicured and the palace is still sometimes used by the royal family.
The tombs of the lords of Morocco
Finally, continuing the tour of the city, we arrive at the tombs of the dynasty Saadi who reigned from 1554 to 1659 on Morocco. The tombs house the remains of sixty members of the dynasty and the last burials date back to 1792 while the structure was reopened only in 1917.
Since then the tomb complex it has been restored and the tombs are famous for their decoration and intricate details. There are elegantly carved Arabic inscriptions, colored tiles and other decorative elements which are repeated in the two mausoleums and in the tomb of El Mansour which is located in a domed room. The sky over Marrakesh it’s always surprising. Even when it’s man-made.