Marrakesh is a hive of activity, an organized chaos. The city sways in the sweltering heat and sings with items for sale and surprises to share. Marrakesh is loud, vibrant and busy. Even when the call for prayer is melodically heard echoing the dusty streets and sand coloured walls, the air still hangs with excitement and buzz. Marrakesh is not a place to tip toe one self into the culture, you are thrown head over heels in, learning from your mistakes and gasping for air when appropriate.
Marrakesh is perfect for losing track of time and meandering through the maze like medina, bartering with pleading eyes and cheeky smiles, sipping gorgeously sweet yet fresh mint tea on a street corner, and exploring beautifully adorned mosques. Feeling as if an extra from Arabian nights, immerse yourself in the celebrated confusion of days and Marrakesh’s balmy nights.
I find the best way to get to know a city is by getting lost in it. So do so. Marrakesh has a number of sights that highlights the city’s splendour and beauty to all unknown to it; highlighting the incredible traces of architecture, the years of blood soaking history, and the Islamic culture. Sights are hidden amongst and around the city walls, nestled within souqs and standing on street corners.
Koutoubia mosque centres the bustling square, and centres many of the population’s religion. Like the British to a football match, the cry of the mosque entices all around, encouraging all to flock to this religious site and connect with his holiness. It is a beautiful site to see, although the action of going to prayer is even more beautiful.
If you would like to learn more about the culture and people of Marrakesh head over to the Musee de Marrakesh. The stunning architecture of the building is a monument in itself, with its vast swooping domes, porcelain tiles with intricate designs that pave the floor and strong pillars that hold this wondrous sight up. It is a museum dedicated to the decorative objects, contemporary arts, and mystical daggers.
Another beautiful architectural vision is the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa building, which used to be a a theological college throughout the 14th Century, and is another fine example of Marrakesh’s geometric mosaic design. It acts as a perfect recluse in the centre of the heaving sweaty souqs of the city, a place where one can rest and be with ones thoughts.
There are so many tombs around the world that are awe inspiring, ones to ironically, die for, and the Saadian Tombs are one of these very tombs. Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi made sure his tomb was an artistic masterpiece and spared no expense in doing so. The honey coloured columns and pillars inside the dark depths of this tomb are breathtaking and line the area with symmetrical order, unlike the loud and colourful mosaics that swarm the interior.
My favourite sight of Marrakesh and one to most definitely not be missed, is the Jardin Majorelle. It acts as an oasis of calm and nature inside the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh city. Yves Saint Laurent bought this eccentric blue house with his partner, restoring its natural splendour and giving it as a gift to the city of Marrakesh. Take a relaxing stroll through the hanging palm leaves that graze your skin as you wonder past, prickling your fingers on the odd number of cacti there are on display, and admiring the large variety of foliage on view. The streams and pools tinkle in the background, creating a soothing and calming effect whilst you finger large soft petalled flowers and admire lavish designs of tiles and canopy’s. Stop for a coffee here to really take in the perfectly balanced ambience.
Now a trip to Marrakesh, is no trip without an adventure into the unknown: the labyrinth of souqs that the city has to offer. Find yourself stumbling under canopy’s of hanging wool, glitzing past a mirage of colour, sights and sounds. Walk slowly taking in the swarming environment around you as shopkeepers cry for your attention, wanting to make a sale. Smile encouragingly, but don’t halt too long, as you allow yourself to wander deeper and deeper into the disarray and disorder of the souqs: a bargainers dream, a shoppers paradise. Make sure you take the time to explore the metal workers souq and the leather workers souq, thus you can see the variation in products and their environment, the glistening pots and the smell of tanning hide wafting up your nostrils.
End your journey at the focus and heart of Marrakesh, Jemaa el-Fnaa, where a collision of worlds, religions and heritage awaits you. Acrobats; snake charmers, dancers, story tellers, animal holders, conjurers, magicians and artists all gather here, sharing their passions, their magic and their story. At night, this place really comes alive. Instead of the lonely orange juice stalls that are here in the day, the square is teaming with life, tourists and locals gather together to be blown away by people’s talents. Try find a restaurant that overlooks the square, where you can observe the starry night sky smother the mad crowds below, where you hear shrieks of laughter and joy, where the smell of barbecued lamb on the pits below overpowers your nostrils from afar, and where you can eat a sumptuous meal of lamb tajine, in a more relaxing atmosphere.
Spa’s are a popular activity here in Marrakesh, and with the vast amount of plentiful treatments and packages in luxurious hotels on offer, it is quite difficult to turn down a cleansing facial or deep tissue massage. Do some research before choosing your spa, or out of convenience, before booking your stay, double check if your hotel has a high quality spa.
I was lucky enough to be staying in such a place which not only had professional spa’s and welcoming hospitality, but a number of pools, delicious restaurants and astonishing interior. Hands down, the only place you should stay in Marrakesh is: Les Jardins De La Koutoubia. This hotel seems an incredibly well kept secret, and if not a hotel, I am sure it could make a marvellous mansion for someone filthy rich. I implore you to take a brief look at their website if you are planning to travel to Marrakesh and are looking for luxurious and stylish accommodation, (not my usual backpacker kettle of fish), as it is a welcoming treat to return to after a day of adventure in the heart of medina.
Coming here for a brief city escape with my mum, although I am unsure ‘escape’ is the right word, as this is not a place of relaxation and solitude, but a comfortable readjustment of yourself into ancient history and authentic culture. We found the place, hot, humid and sticky, so I do advise staying here for 3 days. If you do plan to stay longer, take advantage of the surrounding nature and landscapes around Marrakesh where you can ride along sand dunes or camel ride into the vast empty plains of the desert.