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Marrakech: A detailed guide to a unique Moroccan city

Do you know how to bargain? Where to stay and where to eat in Marrakesh? Get ready to travel to Morocco with our detailed guide to one of the most beautiful Moroccan cities.

Arrival

Transportation to Marrakech, and to Morocco in general when it comes to travelling in Morocco, is very easy and affordable, because in addition to the classic national carriers (eg Air France or Lufthansa), you can also get to Marrakech by European low-cost airlines . For departures from the Czech Republic, I recommend Ryanair on the route Brno (or Bratislava) -Milán Bergamo-Marrakech, or Easyjet, with which you can get from Prague with a transfer either again in Milan (this time the main airport Malpensa), or in Lyon. Sometimes there are cheap fares with the Moroccan branch of Air Arabia Maroc (flights from and to Bergamo).

The airport is located about 6km from the city center (medina). The easiest way to get to the city – to get to the famous Jema el Fna square, take the express bus number 19, which runs every 30 minutes. A collective taxi (petit taxi) is also worth considering if there are more of you. You can always negotiate the price. And the last alternative is to walk. Wherever you can see it very easily, just stick to the Koutubia minaret, which rules the entire medina and can also be seen from the airport.

If you arrive by train (eg from Casablanca), go straight on Avenue Hassan II and when you reach the big roundabout, continue on Avenue Mohameda V.

Transport around the city

Although Marrakesh has an agglomeration of over 1 million people, you will not need local transport except for airport transfers (although this is not essential). An exception may be a visit to various parks and gardens, but even here you can walk a beautiful walk.

Orientation

Orientation in Marrakesh is a chapter in itself. The whole city, like everyone else in Morocco, is divided into an ancient medina , where you will definitely get lost , and a modern French part. The French part is full of wide boulevards, roundabouts, alleys, branded shops and especially hotels of higher price categories. Although these parts are also worth a visit, you will still spend most of your time in the medina. The reference point is the Koutubia minaret, which will always show you the right direction.

The main square of Djemaa El Fna is again a classic gathering place. Here you will probably start and end your wanderings through the media. Be sure to indulge in Arabic charm and, in addition to visiting the many sights below, indulge in aimless wanderings through the media. It doesn’t matter that you get lost. You will get to know the real Arab life when you suddenly find yourself in the “backyard” in the winding narrowing streets and you see poor little children running around with a ball and calling you in broken English. If you are a woman or more, you should rather give up aimless “smuggling” if you do not want to be exposed to various whistling and sexual suggestions .

What to visit

There is definitely no shortage of monuments in Marrakesh . Although the city is actually located in the desert (or at least in a barren wasteland), you will find an inexhaustible number of well-watered and well-kept gardens and parks. Add to that beautifully decorated palaces, the atmosphere of medieval souks (markets) and the main square with snake sorcerers and jugglers, and you will have fun.

Jema el Fna – the main square of Marrakesh. An excellent starting point for wandering around the city. During the day you will find sellers of orange juices, you can have a henna tattoo, buy a plethora of goods and souvenirs, take pictures with a cobra or other snake (I recommend not taking pictures of jugglers with snakes, if you really do not want to immediately give you a snake by the neck. you have a phobia of snakes like me, don’t make this fatal mistake J). Many of the agencies of travel offer the 4 days tour from marrakech to merzouga as a unique experience to do here in the square.
In the evening, this place becomes truly magical. In the middle of the square you will find one stall with snacks after another (more in the catering section), around the perimeter of the square traditional souks, where you can buy really anything. In addition, various musicians, jugglers, storytellers, fortune tellers, etc. gather in the square, giving the city a truly medieval touch. I definitely recommend going to one of the side cafes, which have a terrace on the floor overlooking the square and indulge in a wonderful view with a drink of Berber whiskey (excellent mint tea).

Koutubia Mosque – this is the largest mosque in Marrakesh. Its minaret dominates Marrakesh and you can see it from almost anywhere. Although it is not possible to go to the mosque ( tourists are not allowed to enter the mosques in Morocco – with the exception of the famous mosque in Casablanca ), the exterior of the minaret itself is a wonderful spectacle. This is a typical Moroccan version of mosques, which is completely different from Asian (Iraqi, Iranian and Pakistani) buildings, as well as Turkish ones. Koutubia has become a model for the minaret also in the capital Rabat or Sevilli.

Sadské mausoleum dynasty (Saadian Tombs Mausoleum) – magnificent mausoleum Sadské dynasty that ruled Morocco in the 16th and 17th centuries. You will be most amazed by the beautifully carved mosaics and ornaments. The cedar wood interiors are magnificent and typical of Moroccan architecture. The tombs were not discovered until the 20th century, which also contributed to the preservation of everything original.

Museum of Moroccan Art Dar Si Said – Museum of Moroccan art, typical Berber clothing and traditional instruments. Definitely worth a visit to get a better picture of Moroccan culture. On the ground floor you will find various typical clothes, weapons and Berber jewelery. On the first floor you can admire, for example, hand-woven carpets from the Sahara or cedar wood furniture.

Madrasa Ben Youssef – one of the largest medresa (Islamic college) with the mosque of the same name is another example of classical Moroccan architecture. Although tourists are again forbidden to enter the mosque, not to the madrassa, and therefore it is definitely worth seeing and taking a few photos with sleeping stray cats on the ledges of the madrassa.

Bahia Palace – another magnificent and rich mosaic modern palace from the 19th century, which was supposed to be the largest of its kind in the world. Today, it is popular with tourists, but there is no danger that you would be crammed with many others. It also includes beautiful gardens, where you can relax from the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh and pick a banana from several of the banana trees present.

El Badi Palace – The ruins of the former sultan’s palace are worth a visit for several reasons. On the one hand, you can go through various nooks and crannies here, but most importantly, from the roofs of this palace you will have the whole of Marrakesh in the palm of your hand. As the palace is located at the end of the medina towards the Agdal Garden, you will have a wonderful view. In addition, you will see a stork on a stork here, so there will be no shortage of interesting photos.

Gardens

Marrakech offers many great parks and gardens, both for walking and admiring the subtropical flora, and for relaxation. I definitely recommend visiting at least one garden.

Majorelle Garden – 12 acre garden with lots of flora from around the world. Definitely worth mentioning are the beautiful cacti.

Menara Garden – a beautiful garden with a very photogenic Islamic pavilion and a view of the often snow-capped peaks of the Atlas. The garden is located in front of the airport, so if it is possible to combine its visit with arrival or departure.

Agdal Garden – by far the largest garden in Marrakesh. Together with Menara Garden, it is inscribed on the UNESCO list.

Boarding

You will definitely not have a problem with eating. You may open your wallets all too often, because if you pass all sorts of treats and typical delicacies on the way to the markets or wanderings through the media, it will be hard to resist. I will not recommend anything specific here, as it is almost impossible to give a specific address in the media, and I will find it difficult to describe a particular stand that may have moved in the meantime.

In any case, the Jema el Fna square is again a focal point . During the day, you will come across stylish cars with sellers of freshly squeezed orange juice. You will see a lot of these cars and the prices are the same, so there is no need to choose long. In the evening, the center of the square is lined with food stalls. Again, they offer very similar dishes for almost the same prices, so you’d better figure out what to eat. The advantage is that prices are listed on the menus. Just be careful not to bring you another appetizer, which they will then charge dearly. Follow the rule that it is always necessary to clarify the price in advance, and at best to pay in advance (this applies to the entire Arab world). If you pay in advance, they will hardly want a “supplement” from you.

Be sure to try the local soup with lamb , tajine , couscous or good fish . In the evening, be sure to visit a local café with a terrace overlooking the square. Mint tea is a matter of course. Here I have to recommend a specific restaurant – the famous Restaurant Argana, where you will find in addition to amazing views and a first-class menu . (Unfortunately, in March 2011, it was the target of a terrorist bomb attack, killing several tourists). The restaurant is reopened, but I mention what happened here to make you familiar.

As for snacks during the day, you can buy everything you need directly in the medina. Whether delicious and fresh bread in the form of pancakes (often taken straight from the oven), lots of cakes, treats or drinks. Just be careful and buy only bottled water.

Accommodations

As for accommodation, it is the same case as with catering. If you want to live in luxury, or at least of a higher European standard, choose one of the many chains in the French part (eg near the train station). But if you want to get to know the real Morocco, definitely stay in the  medina . You will certainly come across various chases and children who will try to “recommend” you guaranteed cheap and good accommodation. Definitely do not give them to them, as they have the promised commission from the hotelier and, in addition, will often “recommend” very expensive accommodation. Insist that you already have accommodation.

From  Jema el Fna, take Rue Raid Zitoun el Kdim (one of the main arteries) and try the side streets. Always look at where you leave the main street (remember, for example, a characteristic sign, shop or ATM, so that you can find a place next time). Then just wander the alleys boldly and look. Be sure to go around at least 3 hotels and show the room. And then you will definitely choose a nice one. It can be obtained really cheaply and in style. For example, in the yard, with a terrace and a cafe on the roof.

Shopping

Once again, the starting point is the Jema el Fna square, where you will find many souvenir shops , etc. Head from here to various souks (markets), where you will see the possible and the impossible. Be sure to buy some local spices that are really strong and will definitely come in handy when cooking. I also recommend quality handmade ceramics or other souvenirs.

As in any other Arab country, you will usually find a sectoral arrangement, so you will have an aisle of stalls with the same or similar goods. Prices are always contractual, literally. Those who do not bargain will leave with up to 10 times overpriced goods and, in addition, will “offend” the merchant. Bargaining is a local sport. Those who can’t do it are on track. Personally, I can buy interesting artifacts for a fraction of the original price. I enjoy it, and I will ” leave ” several times so that the trader comes for me and starts offering a lower price again. Then, for example, I will buy a stylish African drum for 100 CZK . Although the merchant will tell you in broken English what a rogue and a cheater you are, and that he has suffered and that his children are suffering, do not believe it.

Remember, he would NEVER sell anything without making money. He always has the upper hand over you. And he can easily invite you for mint tea after these words and he will be happy to talk to you. If you adapt to the local color, Moroccans will appreciate it and you will also feel comfortable and happy to return.

And that’s what the whole Arab world is about.

Morocco is a beautiful country full of exotics, but ladies, for example, should be careful and respect local rules of dress and behavior. If you don’t feel like it, choose an organized  holiday in Marrakech . For example, last minute tours to Morocco are easily accessible.

Filip Krejčí is studying international relations and European studies at FSS MU in Brno, now I live in the Estonian capital Tallinn as part of the Erasmus program. His biggest hobby is traveling. He visited many European countries and from non-European countries he toured the USA, Russia, Iran and Morocco. However, he is most interested in the Arab world and events around it, both from a travel and study point of view.

 

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