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Marrakech, a city of a thousand and one experiences

On the one hand, the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas, which more than successfully simulated the drama of the Himalayas in the famous films Kundun or Seven Years in Tibet. On the other side, the magical dunes of the desert, which will take you on the back of camels to the sea. On the one hand, for the weaker characters, an almost frighteningly pulsating center, on the other hand, a quiet magical neighborhood on the outskirts, where few tourists grind. A city of so many contradictions and so many possibilities… What is it about? About Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in Morocco and the seat of the original African nations – the Berbers, who call themselves “the free ones”. And know that when the initial fright of all those contradictions passes, you will feel the same way here.

Do you want to go to Africa? But don’t you want to travel long and not spend much at all? Then Marrakech is the ideal choice, low-cost planes regularly come here to unload you here for a day, usually for five days (you fly there on Sunday evening, you are back on Thursday night) and it is an ideal time to get to know Marrakesh and its surroundings. .

The slightly scary Marrakesh “the must” square of Djama al Fna

But don’t let more advice, not even known or clever guides – maybe quite just this article… If you want to experience some of the real Marrakesh, know that this is an exemplary city where it is better not to listen to any tourist advice. And just go. And be. Here, you will pass by many agencies who offer the Morocco desert tours, it is where there are many tourists wamlk around.

If you would give general advice, it would look something like this:

Immediately upon arrival, you will head to Marrakesh’s “the must” – Djamaa al Fna Square in the old city, a medina that was rightfully inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. He is nicknamed the Square of the Dead after an ancient execution site, but the name is completely misleading. Nowhere else after dark does it live as right here. At first glance, you will be amazed by its size – but it is also the largest square in North Africa! Crowds of people flow all around you, it pulsates with the heat of bodies (at any time of year), but also with emotions.

Snake sorters armed with flutes and baskets with snakes (some twisting individuals hold hands), monkey tamers, singers, dancers in traditional Berber clothes, storytellers, women offering henna tattoos, sellers of argan oil, herbs, spices try to catch your eye. , sellers of fragrant orange juices and aphrodisiacs and, most of all, young people enticing you to their street restaurants – stalls with various Moroccan specialties, sweet juice juiced in front of you, nuts, fruit of all colors and aromas…

After a while, you start to get lost in it, your head shakes and you think of one thing: how to avoid it all…

For peace and great food to Jabal Tubkal

So here is one piece of advice to add, namely from the FB group Morocco: tips and advice for traveling (yes, the group is really worth reading and asking questions, because their members will answer you exactly what you need): Cheap food, peace of mind and the view from the half-covered terrace on Djamaa al Fna Square can be found in the Jabal Tubkal restaurant with lots of Moroccan specialties from various types of tajine – meat, vegetables and rice slowly stewed in a typical clay dish, after which the dish got its name, through a delicious Moroccan salad recommended great harira soup, in which you will find vegetables, meat and legumes, and beware, here they have it for only 5 dirhams (in March 2019 less than 12 crowns).

The first shock of one of the most civilized places in Africa is behind you, and believe me, during the day, Djamaa al Fna Square is replaced. Surprisingly clean, there is a peaceful market and the view from the ubiquitous cafes with terraces is breathtaking.

My personal recommendation? Experience both of his faces, just to see the abysmal difference is worth it…

Souks, souks, souks!

Do you like shopping? Then get ready for the best you will ever experience in this area in Marrakesh! Marrakech is famous for its souks (markets) and countless of them can be found in every direction from Djamaa al Fna Square. But beware: the streets here are so narrow and so intricate that it is definitely good to equip a map downloaded to your mobile phone in advance.

Even so, you will have something to do not only to not get lost, but above all to avoid all the motorcycles that run incredibly fast. It is the most common means of transport in Marrakesh, it is used by people of all ages and preferably in large numbers, so here on a motorcycle you will often see parents and at least one more child among them.

But Jamile will make you a little annoyed, completely engulfed by ubiquitous markets, one stall next to another, miniature oriental-decorated shops with goods displayed all around – in the north of Marrakesh they have tanners, so you will find beautiful leather handbags of all sizes, colors and shapes, typical pointed shoes, carpets, dishes, ceramics, jewelry, but also spices…

To jump to the Beber pharmacy

Don’t be afraid, the Berber pharmacy, although it has its name, has nothing to do with pharmacies in our view. Here you will find countless containers and beautifully displayed herbs, spices and various preparations, with which you will be healthier and more beautiful…

At least that’s what salespeople promise, who will be happy to show you everything in illustrative practice.

You will try how Berber cleans its teeth (surprisingly they are not popular herbal black pastes, but twigs instead of a brush), you can apply argan oil to all possible and impossible places (yes, it is really for everything), you buy amber cubes (they are said to be the best deodorant), skillfully throws herbs into a piece of cloth, binds and you have the best remedy for colds, coughs and even snoring… If you have little girls, they can’t resist the ceramic spinning top in which henna is hidden and yes: it’s the best lipstick in the world!

Plus, if you haven’t started in a souk, this is the perfect place to try a bargaining ritual. The seller will say his price, you will answer him with a third, so that after lengthy bargaining and bargaining you will be in the middle. Yes, it takes a lot of time and energy, and you might say it’s not worth it – but believe me, going through ritual bargaining at least once is simply necessary.

Palaces where you look

Many people head to Marrakesh for its famous sights. So which ones must we not forget? Everything can be found in the south of the city, where palaces, tombs and the famous mosque are located.

At least to look at them from the outside is worth it, after all, it’s a nice walk, when you’re heading to the really interesting districts of Marrakesh, where it lives a completely normal and therefore more than interesting life.

But let’s start at the beginning of it all. The history of Marrakesh began around 1070, when the famous warrior Yusuf ben Tasfin of the Almoravid dynasty settled here. The fortified city around the camp grew rapidly and became the center of all of Morocco. During the reign of the descendants of this conqueror, palaces, mosques and many spas were built here, in the construction of which well-known architects from Córdoba, Spain. The city’s water was brought by newly built underground canals and the city was protected by brand new red clay walls stretching for seven kilometers, which are a typical feature of Marrakesh to this day, and for which it is nicknamed the Red City.

After the Almodavirus dynasty, however, the Almohad dynasty came to power and plundered and devastated the city in an instant. Only Sultan Jacob al-Mansur stopped this, and one of the most famous gates of Marrakesh, Bab Agnaou, was built and the city became the center of world trade, where mainly oriental fabrics and art were traded. Famous poets and scholars were heading to Marrakesh, and among them was, for example, the most famous medieval philosopher Ibn Rushd. Definitely head to the gate, there are plenty of cafes around where you can soak up the atmosphere of this place.

It was during this period, around 1220, that the Kutubija Mosque and its minaret were built, a short walk from the Bab Agnaou Gate. The mosque is still the dominant feature of Marrakesh and can accommodate up to 25,000 people! But you can only see it from the outside – it will not let you in (unless you are a Muslim). But just the feeling that you are walking around the best-preserved mosque in the world is worth it. It was built in the Moroccan-Andalusian style and its minaret rises to a height of 70 meters, making it one of the three tallest in the world. It is set in beautiful gardens, free of charge, and if you buy a sugar cane drink from one of the street stallholders, well-being is guaranteed.

Your next stop could be the famous palace el-Badi, built in the 16th century by the great Saad warriors who conquered a piece of Africa. They invested the wealth in building the most magnificent palace of the time – using Italian marble, gold from Sudan, rare cedar from Atlas, precious stones, ivory and many other rare materials from India. Unfortunately, he kept his beauty for only one century before he was looted. Today, only ruins remain, and for the golden times you have to use considerable doses of imagination. Nevertheless, even in the remains of the stone walls you will find many attractions and near it you can dive into the underground corridors and embark on an adventurous expedition (ideally equipped with a headlamp).

The modern history of Marrakesh was also adventurous. Saads were followed by a decline again, said to be so great that the walls of the fortifications fell into disrepair so much that they could be walked through…

Nevertheless, even today you will find buildings that were restored after their destruction. This is the case, for example, with the Bahia Palace, which was built in the 19th century, but also experienced a very turbulent period. The huge palace complex belonged to Sultan Musay al-Hasan and is still used by the royal family, so only part of it is open to the public.

A queen who adorns the covers of fashion magazines

However, when we are already with the royal family, it is necessary to take a break from the monuments: about the current King Muhammad VI. his subjects speak with reverence to tenderness. As a descendant of the Alawit dynasty, which has ruled Morocco since the 17th century, he has very liberal views. It enacted women’s equality and amended the constitution to bring it closer to democratic principles.

And even further in his progressive mindset goes his wife Lalla Salma, a red-haired Moroccan darling. She appears naked in public, runs a household and works in a more masculine field here – she is a programmer. No wonder she is the one who most often decorates the covers of (not only fashion) magazines. You can find out about how the royal family spends their free time from their accounts on social networks, where they do not hesitate to give photos of their children…

For its relaxation, Marrakesh attracts young people from all over Morocco. However, the influx of inhabitants here began with immigrants from the Atlas, and in more modern times with the establishment of the university in 1978, when the city rejuvenated its character with student life.

Today, its turbulent history and unique atmosphere attract tourists from all over the world. Today, Marrakesh is rightly the most visited city in Morocco and the 5th most visited city in Africa. Surprisingly, however, it completely lacks a cosmopolitan character, it still remains African and Berber. And therein lies its charm.

You will discover the real life of Marrakesh in the suburbs

If the sights and the tourist center of Marrakech have not completely engulfed you yet, head to the neighborhood where it really and still lives quite authentically.

From the famous palaces, head to the Mellah Jewish Quarter, full of spices. Right behind the Kutubiya Mosque, the vibrant Arab Quarter of Kasba begins. If you ever have been with a Morocco Sahara trips itinerary. Here you will find workshops and shops where locals actually shop and you can have food with them – the restaurant right on the street will conjure up quickly by bringing up a table and a few chairs.

They usually offer you several types of meat, which they roast right in front of you on the grill, as an appetizer you will get great olives, Moroccan salad and often pickled lentils or tomato salsa and freshly baked bread. The food is mostly safe, good and most importantly: the experience of lunch or dinner with the natives is simply worth it.

But even here you should always think of the saying “another region, another morality”. While young Moroccans walk in the city center in short clothes, it is true for foreigners (even more so in the suburbs) that shrouded legs and shoulders are always better for communication.

You will have the same authentic experience in other neighborhoods, where few tourists go. Bab Sidi is more industrial, Marrakesh repairs cars in arid courtyards, has carpentry and other workshops here, but you will also find studios of artists and fashion designers here. After all, they have a harvest here. Moroccans often wear hijabs to cover their hair and torso, some even burqas, from which they can’t even look out. But when he puts off his scarves and coats, his eyes often shift. They hide really skinny jeans under them, sexy red dresses, expressive make-up and a perfectly groomed hairstyle…

The best way to get to know the lives of Marrakesh is when you mingle with some of them in these neighborhoods – at markets with fruit, vegetables, meat, fish or even in one of the clothing stores.

If, on the other hand, you want a little luxury with shopping of this kind, know that Marrakesh also has its modern district with cinemas, cafes, shops, bars and clubs. It is called Gueliz and can be found in the north of the city, next to the Jardin Majorelle gardens, which were charmed by the famous designer Yves Saint Laurent, who bought them and turned them into an oasis of calm in a vibrant African city.

Marrakesh really has a thousand and one faces – you will find in it a sweaty hecticness, an excess of voices, intrusions, but on the other hand you will find peace, peace… and in the end it will all merge for you. About the third day, you will simply stop being out of those smells, noise and everything else around the “scare”. Marrakech will somehow conquer you and you will merge.

After all, it is the same with the national Moroccan drink, which is Berber whiskey, or (surprisingly) mint tea. It is sweet for the first sip so that it cannot be drunk, but then you sip it in small sips and you feel better and better. And not only mentally, but also after the body, because you will appreciate it as a great healing digestive after all those Moroccan specialties and paradoxically, this warm drink will refresh you in the blazing African sun.

And you will suddenly feel lighter, freer, simply free. This is exactly how it is nicknamed the original African nations – the Berbers, who conveniently found their refuge in Morocco. So also loosen your reins and be Amazigh or Free…

– A small glossary of Moroccan goodies –

Be sure to try the olives, dates and oranges grown around Marrakech. There are many stalls in Djama el Fra Square for fresh orange juice.

And here are other specialties:
Tajine – the most famous Moroccan dish, without which you must not leave Morocco. In a clay pot with a pointed high lid, you will slowly find stewed meat, vegetables, potatoes or couscous.

Couscous – is a national side dish and you can find it here in all its forms, with meat, vegetables and in most families its members fast without meat on Friday, only with vegetables and couscous.

Harira – traditional Moroccan soup with meat, vegetables and legumes.

Salade maroccaine – a typical Moroccan salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and often with lots of delicious spices.

Pattiserie maroccaine – dense heavy but very tasty sweets, most often with honey and nuts.

Moroccan bread – reminiscent of our age, is sweeter, but has the form of flat pancakes.

Fig jam – is a Moroccan specialty and you often get it for breakfast with bread.

Mint tea – mint dominates every morning market, it must always be fresh and in large quantities. Even in tea, Moroccans do not skimp on it, as well as on sugar, which is more than a reasonable amount in it.

– Living in palaces –

Where to stay: Definitely in one of the riads, or palaces, ideally around the old fortified city of the medina. They used to belong to nobles and wealthy families, and they still hold a great charm of luxury to this day – whether they are hammams, swimming pools, romantic patios, gardens or terraces, from which there is a beautiful view of the whole city. We stayed in the center in Riad Nr. 10 for a very reasonable price.

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