Travel tips, hotels, food, sightseeing in Marrakech

Travel tips, hotels, food, sightseeing in Marrakech-

Marrakech (مراكش) (also known as Marrakesh) is a city in the south of Morocco.

Image:Katoubia Mosque Marrakech.JPG
Understand
The town of Marrakech is divided into two distinct parts: the Medina, or the historical city, and the new city with two principal districts that are called: Gueliz and Hivernage. Gueliz is thus the European modern district of the town of Marrakech. Its name comes from the French word “église” some say, because the first monument that was built there was the Catholic Church Saints Martyrs. But some tend to affirm that the name is rather Berber and comes from the hill of Gueliz.

Get in
By air
Marrakech is served by an international airport which is located around 10 minutes away from the city by taxi. Plenty of low cost companies now fly to Marrakech. Some companies fly to Casablanca additionally where a plane change for the 45 minute flight to Marrakech can be made.

The best way if you do not have too much luggage with you is to take a new bus (line 19) that goes over the main points of the City (Place Djemaa L’Fna, Bus station, Gueliz, hotels…). It costs 20DH one way, 30 DH with return included. You avoid one of the worse moments of a traveller, the hassle of the taxi drivers when you arrive to a new country.

If going from airport by petit taxi, make sure to have the driver use his meter or agree on the price beforehand. As you exit the airport terminal, there is a sign which actually gives you an idea of how much the taxi ride should cost. As to whether you can convince or bargain with the driver to use these prices is another matter however. It depends on the number of taxis and potential passengers around. Essentially, you should pay no more than 60 dirham from the airport to the centre of the city during the day and 90 dirham at night for a petite taxi. If you press the drivers, these prices are easily obtainable. However, be aware that you might have to accept a higher price. In this event, dont pay more than 100 dirham in the daytime and 150 at night.

If you are traveling from the airport to somewhere further afield (e.g. Essaouria), your hotel or guest house may be able to arrange a grand taxi to pick you up at the airport, and charge a fixed price for the journey (see #Getting around). Grand taxis are generally more expensive than petit taxis, but more comfortable especially when you have luggage. It also avoids hassle, as it’s not always easy to haggle with a taxi driver after staggering off a long plane journey half-asleep.

As a guide for using taxi services in Morocco, you should approach the taxi, tell the driver where you want to go and how much you will pay. If the driver doesn’t accept, just move onto the next driver.

You can fly from several European cities direct to Marrakech on Atlas Blue which is an offshoot of Royal Air Maroc.

British Airways fly from London Heathrow and London Gatwick to Marrakech.

Easyjet began fly to Marrakech from Madrid and begin flying from Gatwick airport in the UK in July 2006.

Ryanair announced in August 2006 that they will begin direct flights from London Luton to Marrakech. (sometimes for under £40 return).

Thomsonfly travel from Manchester for under £60.

Money exchange in the airport 
The Arrivals hall at Terminal 2 has a money changing outlet and an ATM. Terminal 1 has two money changing outlets in the Arrivals hall and one in Departures. So if you find the money changing outlets are closed when you arrive, it’s worth taking the short walk across the car park to the other terminal.

By train
Trains arrive from Casablanca around every 2 hours, and regularly from other destinations such as Rabat. The train station is located in the recently developed ville nouvelle. Frequent local buses leave from just across the street into the medina and modern tourist area. Petit taxi drivers will also be quick to offer their service, but pay no more than Dh 10 – 15 for this short ride during the daytime up until 8pm. After this time, taxi drivers will charge the daytime rate plus 50%.

For those wishing to travel by train from Tangier, the cost from Tangier to Marrakech is currently 180 Dirham 2nd class and 280 dirham 1st class. The journey is an excellent one for sightseeing, so, if you can, try and do this journey by day.

During the daytime, you will need to change train for a connection halfway through the journey and this makes a welcome break for about 30 minutes. The night trains which leave for Marrakech from Tangier travel straight through to Marrakech without the need for a connection.

The night trains do have sleeper cars on board, though you will need to pay extra for these if you want a bed.

There is currently no train line further south than Marrakech in Morocco.

For train timetables visit [5]Don’t expect much else from the site apart from timetables and the fares.

By bus
There are many long distance bus companies operating within Morocco which serve Marrakech and other cities.

The usual reccomended bus companies for tourists are CTM and Supratours. Other companies do exist, though these two companies are usually your safest options.

Most ALSA (local destination bus company) and private bus lines arrive at the long distance bus station near Bab Doukkala, a 20 minute walk (Dh 15 – 20 by petit taxi) from Jema el-Fna. It’s the place to take the buses from the small companies, that go directly to small destinations.

CTM has another small station at the Gueliz, at Zerktouni street. It’s better to take them there, because you can buy the tickets for advance (you’ll find place) and the buses that leave from Bab Doukala go directly there and stop for half an hour and even change the bus. Besides, the CTM’s offices there are better, and there’s no people trying to push you to their bus comany.

Supratours and Eurolines buses, however, will arrive at the bus station which is located next to the train station.

Get around
Once in the medina, everything can be seen on foot, though you’ll be doing a lot of walking. For exploring more of the city, buses and petit taxis are plentiful. Almost all buses stop at Jema El Fna and Place Youssef Ben Tachfine and fares range from Dh 2 to Dh 5 depending on the distance. Important municipal bus lines are:

No 1 – Towards Gueliz
No 8 – Stops at the central train station
No 10 – Stops at the long distance bus station
No 11 – Will drop you off at the gardens of Menara
An alternative and romantic way to travel is by caleche – pronounced kalesh – a small horse-drawn carriage. They can be hired at Square de Foucauld (the small park at the bottom of Djemma El Fna). It’s wise to agree a price before setting off. As a guide price, you should pay around 80 Dirham per hour, per carriage.

There is an open-topped City Sightseeing bus that will take you around the outskirts of the city, with commentary provided via headphones (supplied with your ticket) in any of 8 different languages. The best place to catch it is from the coach stops by Square de Foucauld. Tickets cost 130 Dh each and are valid for 24 hours from the time of issue, no matter how many times you get on or off. However, check the timetable carefully, as the buses can stop running earlier than you might think.

See
While not considered as well preserved as other Moroccan cities such as Fez, Marrakech offers several historical and architectural sites as well as some interesting museums.

Djemma El Fna is the highlight of any Marrakech night. Musicians, dancers and story tellers pack this square at the heart of the medina, filling it with a cacophony of drum beats and excited shouts. Scores of stalls sell a wide array of Moroccan fare (see the Eat section) and you will almost certainly be accosted by women wanting to give you a henna tattoo.
The souks (suuqs) or markets of Marrakech, just adjacent to Place Jema El Fna, is where you can buy most anything. From spices to shoes, jalabas to kaftans, tea pots to tagines and much, much more. Undoubtedly, being a foreigner will still mean you will end up paying a higher price for whatever you are buying than a native would, but be sure to bargain nonetheless.
Koutoubia mosque – Just adjacent to Djemma El Fna. It is said that the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is to Marrakech as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. The minaret is visible from Gueliz which is connected to the Medina by Ave. Mohammed V.

Majorelle GardensMajorelle Gardens – in Gueliz. With entrance fee of 30 dirhams, it is more expensive than other attractions but provides an excellent respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. The park boasts a collection of plants from across the globe, including what seems like every cactus species on the planet. Inside the gardens is also the Museum of Islamic Art, for which an additional entrance fee is charged.
Musee Dar si Said – a museum 5 minutes walk from Djemma El Fna, and a little tricky to find, on Rue Riad Zitoun Jdid. Set in an old palace, and houses many different artefacts from Morocco through the ages, such as wood carvings, musical instruments and weapons.
Ben Youssef madrasa
El Bahia palace
El Badi palace – the view from the terrace is majestic

Do
Yoga has become increasingly popular in recent years as visitors come to the city either as individuals or with organized trips. Although it’s been slower to take off than in other parts of the world, Marrakech is Morocco’s yoga center.

Hammams
There are 2 types of Hammam across Morocco. The first is the “tourist” Hammam, where you can go and be pampered and scrubbed by an experienced staff member. These usually, as they are promoted only to tourists, the more expensive option with pricing usually around 150 Dirham for a Hammam.

The second option is to visit a “Popular” Hammam. Popular Hammams are the places where the Locals go. At the popular Hammams, you Do it all yourself. To make the most of a popular Hammam, you need to take a scrubbing mitten (available for cheap in the Souks) a towel and some extra underwear. Men & women have either separate session times or separate Hammams. Nudity in a popular Hammam is strictly forbidden. Whilst in a popular Hammam, you may be offered help and a massage from another person. It is essential to remember that this massage is nothing else but a massage, with no other intentions. Indeed sexual contact or presumption of sexual contact does not occour in these places. If you accept a massage, be prepared to return the favour. The average price (even for a tourist) in a popular Hammam is around 50 Dirham

Medina
Les Bains de Marrakech, Derb Sedra, Bab Agnaou (same building as Riad Mehdi); tel +212(24)38-14-28. Tourists-oriented in good sense: couples can have hammam together in a private room. Extensive list of massages and spa treatments, from 30min to a full day. Reception and attendants proficient in English; scrubbing and massage personnel speak only very basic vocabulary; understand even less.
Dar Si Saïd Museum. iDedicated to the Moroccan craft industry of wood, gathering a very beautiful collection of popular art: carpets, clothing, pottery and ceramics… All These objects are regional, coming from Marrakech and all the south, specially from Tensift, High Atlas, Soussthe, Anti Atlas, Bani and Tafilal.

Buy

Spices at a Marrakech market are along with the major souk adjacent to the Djemaa el Fna, there are a plethora of smaller souks throughout the city where any number of products can be bargained for. Keep an eye out for a wide array of hand-crafted candle-holding lanterns, as well as spectacular displays of local spices. Marrakech is home to a large tanning industry, and leather goods of high quality can be bought here cheaply. Check out camel leather items especially – jackets, round poufs, and handbags. Also of interest would be items made of the local cactus silk, which is apparently made from weaving cactus fibres mixed with a small amount of silk, and dyed with vegetable dyes. On offer are scarves, handbags, tablecloths, bedspreads and throws in stunning colors. Be sure to wander round the potters’ souk, and look for brightly colored platters and bowls, as well as tajines in all sizes

Bargaining
Remember that bargaining in the souks is expected. It is not really possible to give an accurate indication of how much to start the bargaining at in relation to the initial asking price. Prices are set on a daily, even, hourly basis, depending on how much has been sold on a given day (or period of hours), while also reflecting the vendors personal estimation of the potential client. The souks are often a good reflection of the basic economic principles of supply and demand, particularly with regard to the demand side. If a lot of products have been sold by a particular merchant he/she will raise the price, and may refuse to sell any more products for the rest of that day (or for days) unless the price is much higher than usual. If there are many tourists around prices go higher, and bargaining even small amounts off the asking price becomes quite difficult. In addition, the seller will generally inspect the client, whose dress and possessions (particularly if the potential client sports an expensive Swiss watch, camera, tourist trinkets of obvious poor quality etc) are usually the main indication of how high the price may be set above the usual. However, the potential client’s attitude is also taken into consideration.

Taking all this and other factors into account (such as the time of day, day of the week, season etc), initial prices may be up to 50 times or more in excess of what would normally be paid, either by a local, or a patient and well-instructed tourist, especially for more expensive items, such as carpets. Carpets, however, are a very specialized item, and it is necessary to have at least a cursory understanding of production techniques and qualities, and if possible an ability to distinguish between hand-made and machine-made carpets, hand-dyes and the like, if one is not to be utterly duped. Western visitors would be surprised, for instance, how beautiful a carpet can be appropriated by a skillful negotiator inside of 50 euros.

Bargaining is an enjoyable experience for most vendors, and they prefer clients that don’t appear hurried and are willing to take the time to negotiate. It is most often actually necessary to give reasons for why you believe the price should be lower. The reasons you might give are limited only by your imagination and often lead to some very entertaining discussions. Common reasons may include: the price of the item elsewhere, the item not being exactly what you are after, the fact that you have purchased other items from the stall/store, that you have built a rapport with the vendor after discussing football or whatever etc etc… On the other hand, if there is little movement in the price after some time, the best advice is to begin leaving, this often has the result of kick-starting the bidding anew, and if not, it is likely that the merchant is actually unwilling to go further below a given price, however absurd. In fact, the best general advice is simply to go to several merchants selling similar products and weigh their collective prices and attitudes. Revisiting a merchant at a later time may or may not allow you to bargain a given product more effectively. In one respect, to return puts the ball back in the vendor’s court, as it is obvious that he/she has the product you want at the closest price, but in another respect, if some time has passed between visits, and business has been slow in the interim, and your return to the store is interpreted as a gesture of fidelity, the price may miraculously plummet. Many of the vendors can be very charming themselves, and a little charm may also go a long way. Nevertheless, this should not entail conceding to a vendor at an unacceptable price. That, of course would defeat the point. Rather, charm is just another tactic that may or may not be effective in reducing the price of a given item.

It is also important to show a genuine interest for the workmanship of the product for sale, however disinterested you may actually be in what you are buying. This does not, however, mean that you should appear over-enthusiastic, as this will encourage the vendor to hold his/her price. Rather, it is important to project a critical appreciation for each article/object. Any defects are either unacceptable, or a further opportunity to bargain the price down.

Caution should be taken never to begin bidding for unwanted items, or to give the vendor a price you are unwilling or unable (with cash on hand) to pay. Try to avoid paying by credit card at all costs, and in the event, never let the credit card out of your sight, and demand as many receipts as you can possibly get your hands on. There is typically a credit card carbon copy and an official shop receipt. Never tell a vendor where you are staying (unless it is a backpackers), and never tell a vendor how much you have paid for any other items that you may have. Just say that you got a good price, and you want a good price from him/her too. And, above all, never be afraid to say ‘No’.

It must also be said that, as for us buyers, not all sellers are actually very good at what they do. A vendor that is completely disinterested or even aggressive is unlikely to give a good price. Move on.

All in all, a good negotiation can be a fun experience. Also remember that Marrakech is the only place visited by such a large quantity of tourists, so prices can be higher than elsewhere, although not necessarily so. If at all possible, look first at the prices and qualities of items in other cities by way of comparison.

Otherwise, if you buy sweet cakes, avoid to buy them in the Magasins were the balance is hidden. In one of the main streets of the Medina, there are two that often take adantages from that.

Eat
The main night market at Djemma El Fna is definitely worth a visit, and the food is priced on menus. In little back streets the ambience is more quiet, although the price is higher and the quality may vary a lot. In the square itself there are some locals such as:

Chez Chegrouni: Near the main entrance to the market. Tagine 35 DH, Harira 15 DH. Maybe the best cheap restaurant in the square.
Cafe Alhamra: On the edge of the square, serves up salads, pizza and pasta as well as a tagine of the day. Their rooftop is a good place to have a late night coffee and pastry while watching the events in the square below.
Cafe Agrana: On the edge of Djemma El Fna. Try the pastilla – a sweet/savory pie (either chicken or, for the adventerous, pigeon) that melts in the mouth.
La Makarechi: opposite the market and adjacent to the newspaper stand. With two main courses and wine running at around 300 Dh, this is one of the poshest restaurants in the square. The food is not necessarily better than elsewhere, but it is one of the few restaurants that serve alcohol. It also has a completely enclosed upstairs terrace, which is ideal for views of the square when the weather is bad.
Take care eating the offered food on the main market place Djemma El Fna and the other cheap restaurants. Many of the dishes, including goat heads and bowls of local snails (hot and tasty) may seem too adventurous for the Western palate, but the main problems are salads, which can cause diarrhea.

Vegetarians will find that there are few options outside the ubiquitous Tagine avec Legumes.

For more upscale eateries, and especially for non-Morroccan cuisine, you will have to go outside the Medina to Ville Nouvelle.

How to eat (well) in the Djemma El Fna
If you want to eat well in Marrakech, do what the locals do and eat at the food stalls in the Square. It is a common mis-conception that these stalls are here for the tourists. Actually, they have been in existence long before Marrakech became a tourist destination.

All of the stalls can be regarded as perfectly safe to eat at. They are strictly licensed and controlled by the government…especially now as it is a usual destination for tourists.
Image:Marrakesh spices.jpg

Some tips:

There is no such thing as a “Touristic food stall” in the Djemaa.
Prices tend to vary a little. Depending upon how hungry you are, you can pay anything from 10 Dirham for a Bread filled with freshly grilled Sausages or perhaps a bowl of Harira soup to 100 Dirham for a full 3 course meal with salad, bread, starter, main course and tea.
Try harira (great soup, good for veggies) and the fried aubergines. Don’t be afraid, try the lamb head: it’s really tasty. Also, give a chance to the “bull stew” (beef stew), on the same stalls
Don’t miss the tea! There is a row of Tea sellers along the front of the food stalls who each sell tea for 1.5dh each. Most of the tea at these stalls is actually Ginseng tea with Cinnamon and Ginger…most delicious and welcoming.
Drink
Hot sweet mint tea is served in all restaurants and cafes.

Street vendors offer fresh orange juice (jus d’Orange) by the glass for 3 Dh. Try it with a dash of salt like the locals, but be wary of vendors who try and water the juice down with tap water.

All stalls at Djemma El Fna (and some stalls elsewhere?) display the price on a sign, making it less likely you’ll be overcharged.

However, pay attention when you buy as they offer 2 types of orange…the blood orange juice costs 10 Dirham per glass and a misunderstanding on what you want to drink could occour.

Wine and beer will rarely be found outside of restaurants catering to tourists.

However, Hotel Tazi in the Medina of Marrakech does have a public bar, serving beer and wine at not too expensive prices.

Sleep
There are three main zones to sleep: Medina, Guéliz (also known as Ville Nouvelle) and the surroundings of the city. The Medina has the highest concentration of very cheap hotels and riads or small palaces.

Guéliz is much more quiet, and most of the hotels are mid price (including showers in the room, breakfast service…).

Going to the medina from the Guéliz by taxi costs about 10-15 DH and can take a long time at busy periods (evenings and weekends)

The surroundings have all the huge touristic hotels, the ones that usually come with the travel agencies offers. They can be far, but have big swimming pools, restaurants, and many services.

Medina Hostels
The Heart of the Medina backpackers hostel http://www.marrakech-hostel.com  email: reservations@marrakech-hostel.com ; 47 Derb Ben Aissa ,Dabachi).

Newly opened on 1st March 2007 is the first ever backpackers hostel to be located in the Marrakech Medina. The hostel is located literally 1 minute walk from the Djemaa place and offers guest kitchens, rooftop terrace, free hot showers and comfortable surroundings in rooms with no more than 6 beds to a room. Breakfast is included in the price as are bed linen & towels and from 1st April 2007 free internet and free wifi will also be included in the rates. You can expect to pay 8 euro per person, per night during the low season and 13 euro per person, per night during the high season if booked in advance via email or via the hostels website. The Heart of the medina Hostel has no lockouts, no curfews and is open 24/7 365 days each year.

There is a clean youth hostel (Tel: (0)44 7713, Rue Mohammed el-Hansali) near the train station with dorm beds from Dh 45, it has an 11.30 pm curfew, an obligatory wake up call at 8am and a daily daytime lockout. It is fair distance from the action in the heart of the medina. A taxi can cost about 15-20 DH.

Riads
The Medina is packed with Riads (old grand houses converted into hotels and inns). While more expensive, these are a wonderful place to stay to get a feel for life in Marrakech.

Riad Zara, 294 Derb Ben Salek,  +212-24-44-29-40; mobile +212-62-81-70-00 (riad.zara@menara.ma), [7]. Friendly and helpful owner Monique and her assistant Hassan. Rooftop terrace with authentic views of real Medina and cozy cane chairs–for lunch, mint tea or just reading a book. Traditional meals like tajine can be served any time of the day. Breakfast is full with jams, amlou, pancakes and mint tea; time can be as flexible as 7am if you need. In the evening, candles are light and guests gather around a small pool in salon in the center of the riad–listening live music by Hassan and enjoying wine. It’s still unintrusive if you don’t feel like it. If you arrive by car, ask the hosts to help you find your way from parking lot.

Discount hotels 
The budget conscious will have more luck in the streets and alleyways south of Jema El Fna, which are packed with discount hotels offering singles from Dh 50.

Popular options with backpackers include:

Hotel Smara is very clean, friendly people, nice rooms. (77 sidi Bouloukat ,Tel:+212 24 44 55 68). Near Jema Efna. Dh 50 and doubles Dh 80.
Hotel Essaouira (Tel:443805, 3 Derb Sidi Bouloukat) has singles with shared bath from Dh 50 and doubles from Dh 80. It’s more or less like the others, but it’s all painted in the traditional way which gives some charm to it.
Hotel Imouzzer (Tel:44.53.66, 74 Derb Sidi Bouloukate) Near Hotel Essaouira; very friendly and clean and has a pleasant rooftop terrace cafe. Singles / doubles with shared bath are Dh 50 / 100, hot showers Dh 5 and cash-strapped travellers can sleep on the terrace for just Dh 25.
Hotel Ali http://www.hotel-ali.hostel-marrakech.co.uk , Rue Moulay Ismail. Offer beds in ensuite, Dorms and rooftop terrace mattresses for 60 Dirham per person, per night (about 6 euro) including cooked breakfasts served with OJ and fresh coffee. They have seen a price rise (about 10 dirham) due to their somewhat justified popularity. Dorm guests can use the internet cafe for 5 Dirhams per hour. They have all the amenities a traveller could ask for, including a laundry service and free internet access for private room guests, money exchange, a terrace restaurant with views of Jema El Efna and even a downstairs hammam. Private rooms are available with a maximum per person price of 250 Dirham per night inc b/fast, free internet and a daily traditional Hammam. The secure credit card reservation on web site is experiencing problems, so there is a link which can be used to email an enquiry to them.
Riad Dar Mimouna [8], Sidi M’Barek n°151, Sidi Mimoun, tel +212 44 38 40 78, fax +212 44 38 40 79. A few minutes walk from Place Jemâa El Fna and the Koutoubia Mosque. Breakfast is included and is served at the terrace. There is also a hammam at the terrace, free for use by guests and you would just need to tell them in advance when you would like to use it.
Riad Kalila [9] (Tel: +212 24 39 16 82, Derb Snane n° 65-66) Beautifully renovated Riad in the heart of the Medina. Chill in the coolness of the inner patio or soak in the morrocan sun on the upper terrace’s lounge chairs. Enjoy views of the snow covered Atlas peaks from the tastefully furnished rooftop terrace. Riad Kalila is located just a short walk from Place Jemâa El Fna, La Koutoubia, and many other must-see sites.
Riad Rahba http://www.riad-rahba.hostel-marrakech.co.uk  . Offers private, ensuite rooms & a main dorm for backpackers in the heart of the Medina. The Riad combines the traditional Moroccan atmosphere with the comforts of a modern hostel and hotel. The rates include breakfast and it is fast becoming a favorite with backpackers and independant travellers alike. Beds in the main dorm cost around 6 euro in the low season and 10 euro in the high seasons – all including breakfasts. The private ensuite rooms are available from 18 euro per single ensuite room per night.
Riad Selection http://www.riadselection.com/uk  . Offers a selection of a very nice Riad in Morocco.

Guéliz (also known as Ville Nouvelle)
Résidance Goumassine (Tel: (0)44 433086, Fax: (0)44 4333012, 71 Blvd Mohammed Zerktouni). Residence with different kinds of rooms for about 300DH the double room with either kitchen or Moroccan saloon. Don’t expect to reduce the price if you stay there many days. It has a small swimming pool and a bar that can serve (quite expensive) breakfasts.
Get out
Marrakech can make a good base for exploring the Atlas Mountains or for organising one to four day Sahara treks. While there are countless agencies on Ave Mohammed V that will organise such tours for those seeking the comfort of an air-conditioned 4×4 and have money to spare, budget travelers may want to check out the Marrakech stalwart Sahara Tours (Rue Bam Marme et Mouahidine, Tel (044) 42-79-77 / 42-97-47. fax (044) 42-79-72)

Hostel Marrakech Adventures in Morocco offer information and secure reservations for many tours and excursions departing from Marrakech at http://www.hostel-marrakech.co.uk

Included in the range of tours available are day trips to Essouaira, Imlil, the Ouzoud cascades and 2, 3 and 4 day tours to the desert (including Zagora and merzouga). Other options include

Hostel Marrakech offers secure, online reservations powered by a thawte secure credit and debit card server powered by hostelsclub.com in addition to email reservations.

The impressive 110 meter waterfall, the Cascades d’Ouzoud are about 160km away and are well worth a day trip visiting.

By air
Marrakech is connected by air to other domestic destinations such as Agadir, Casablanca (daily), Fez (daily), Ouarzazate, Al Hoceima and Tangier. Contact Royal Air Morocco http://www.royalairmaroc.com  (Tel: 43 62 05; 197 boulevard Mohamed V) for more details.

By train
Train connections are available from the train station (Tel: 44 77 68; Avenue Hassan II) to Casablanca and Rabatand Tanger, which connect on with most domestic rail destinations in the country. There is a train hourly during all the day. First and second class differ in the seating comfort and with the amount of people and that seats are not reserved in second class, but since Marrakech is the first station, you’ll find place if you arrive with time to the station.

Tickets between Tangier and Marrakech and vice versa cost around 18 euro one way for 2nd class and 28 euro one way for first class. The journey between Tangier and Marrakech is a very scenic and eye opening one, especially for those visiting the country for the first time. The whole journey takes around 10 hours.

Some advice for the train journey would be to stock up on some bread, eggs and cheese in advance and remeber to bring plenty to offer to share with locals in your carriage – this is received well and will result in a return offer and lots of conversation. Additionally, there is a snack trolley which does the rounds on the train about once per hour serving coffee, Cappucino, tea, sandwiches and chocolate snacks. Be aware though that you will pay tourist prices, though in the end the difference is not much.

The Tangier to Marrakech route is definitely recommended as a way to see Morocco and best taken during the daytime, for this purpose.

By bus
From the long distance bus station, CTM and private bus companies service destinations such as to Agadir, Safi, Casablanca, El Jadida, Essaouira, Fez, Meknes, Ouarzazate, Rabat and Taroudant.

From the Bus station next to the Train Station you will fine the government operator “supratours”.

Fares: Average fares on the bus networks are: Marrakech to Agadir: 90 Dirham.

The Marrakech to Agadir bus by CTM usually departs from Marrakech at 08:30hrs and 11:00hrs. You are advised to check with CTM for up to date timetables.

Stay safe
Scams
Aside from the usual scams listed on the Morocco page, watch out for tourist touts that offer to take you to the medieval dye pits which, unlike the popular dye pits in Fez, are not worth the visit. Note that the touts work in pairs. The first takes you to the dye pit (which you could probably manage with a map) and then introduces you to his “friend” to guide you round the pits. They both expect to be paid, and are prepared to follow you incessantly for a very long time if you do not give them enough money.

There are often people in Djemma El Fna offering henna tattoos, which are popular with locals and tourists alike. But among the many genuine traders are one or two scam artists. They appear very charming and trustworthy while you choose a design, but will then cleverly divert your attention. Before you know it, you’ve got the beginnings of a rather poor henna tattoo, and a sudden thought that you haven’t agreed on a price yet. The scam artist later demands massive payments, in whatever currency you have (Dirhams or not). After emptying your pockets, if they consider you can afford more, they will demand that you visit a nearby ATM. Always agree a firm price before work starts. If you can’t do this, insist that the operator stops immediately – then go to another (hopefully more reliable) operator to get your design completed. Most Moroccans are tourist-friendly, so sometimes making a fuss in public can generate unwanted attention for a scam artist, and shame them into backing off.

Day Trips
In addition to all that the city itself offers, Marrakech can also be used as a base station for various day trips into the High Atlas mountains. The following are a few of possible day-trip destinations.

Amizmiz
With one of the largest Berber souks in the High Atlas Mountains every Tuesday, Amizmiz is well-worth a morning trip, especially for those travellers wishing to experience the less urban, less touristy mountain towns of the High Atlas.

Asni
A lovely rural village in the Atlas mountains. Hostel Marrakech provides day trips to this beautiful location

Known as “the Red City,” or again, “Pearl of the South,” Marrakesh is a fascinating city, bewitching visitors with its contrasting colours – the ochre sandstone of its buildings, the green of its countless palm trees and the white of the snow-capped Atlas mountains – as well as its remarkable monuments and immense gardens. Berbers and Arabs mingle there, nomads and mountain folk converge there and a wealth of products and handicrafts is on offer there – to say nothing of the palaces, casinos, hotels and golf courses, which all go to make any visit an unforgettable experience. Marrakech is indeed true capital of the Moroccan South!

Attractions in Marrakech

Bab Aguenaou

Bab Aguenaou is one of the most imposing and beautiful of the city’s gates. Located inside the Medina, near Bab Errob, it gives access to the Saadian Tombs. Local legend has it that in olden times the heads of executed criminals were displayed here. It once served as main entrance to the city, through which the sultans gained access to the nearby palace.

Ben Youssef Mosque

The entire Marrakesh Medina is centred around this majestic mosque built in the 12th century in honour of Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, one of the seven patron saints of the city. Restoration work carried out in the 16th and 19th centuries has left virtually nothing of the original structure. Its stone minaret towers 40 metres above the varnished tiles of the city’s rooftops.

The Dar Si-Said Museum

This sumptuous palace, in one of the Kingdom’s most beautiful cities, houses a quintessential collection of Moroccan arts and crafts.

On the ground floor are displays of clothing, beaten copperware, and Berber weaponry and jewellery, while the first floor, decorated in Hispano-Moorish style houses a fine collection of woodwork.

The Marrakech Royal Theatre

The Marrakech Theatre Royal on Avenue de France is a marvel of architecture, with a 1200-seat open-air theatre and an 800-seat opera house. Inaugurated on 19 September 2001, the Theatre Royal is a creation sure to enhance the red city’s reputation as mediator and focal point for intellectuals the world over. It also constitutes a cultural and artistic centre in the heart of the Pearl of Southern Morocco, with shows, receptions, concerts and exhibitions being held there throughout the year.

The Bahia Palace

This sumptuous residence was built at the end of the 19th century by order of Ba Ahmed. Set in an immense eight-hectare garden, the property contains a haphazard succession of luxurious secret apartments opening onto patios. A thousand craftsmen, in the most part from the Fez region, took part in its construction which took over seven years. The building of the palace reintroduced the techniques and decorative materials of traditional architecture and, as in former times, carved wood and sculpted plasterwork and stucco adorn its interiors and exteriors.

The Koutoubia Mosque

The Koutoubia is one of the largest mosques in the Western Islamic world, perhaps even the most beautiful in the harmonious unity of its design. It is a shining and permanent example of the Hispanic-Moorish art of the Almohad era, allying apparent simplicity with marvellous dexterity and discreet luxury. The “booksellers’ mosque” owes its name to the manuscript souk whose shops were attached to its walls during the Middle Ages, a practice common in Arab Muslim towns. Its renowned minaret, a jewel of Hispanic-Moorish architecture, has cast its protective shadow over the city for more than eight centuries.

The Mamounia

Built in 1923, the Mamounia Hotel, one of the most luxurious palaces in the world was completely revamped in 1986, under the auspices of the late King Hassan II. Laid out in the 16th century by Saadian Sultan Sidi Mohammed, its grounds with their immense olive grove, numerous orange trees and many other species of plants, stretch over a surface area of 13 hectares. The edifice derives its name from the Saadian Sultan who gifted the palace to his son, Mamoun. Numerous celebrities, including Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Winston Churchill and Orson Wells, have stayed in this legendary hotel, with its setting out of the Thousand and One Nights.

The Menara

The park, extending over 90 hectares and planted with olive trees, is encircled by an adobe wall and has at its centre an immense artificial lake dating back to the 12th century. It boasts the first known example of a system of canalisation and water distribution. At one end of the lake stands an elegant Saadian pavilion, completely restored in the nineteenth century, which, as night falls upon the beautiful pyramid of its green-tiled roof, glimmers golden in the rays of the setting sun. The Menara once served as a royal venue for romantic trysts and is now a perfect spot for a quiet stroll against a background of snow-capped mountain peaks.

The Saadian Tombs

In 1591 work was begun in the south of the Kasbah on the Marrakesh Necropolis with the building of the first koubba (dome), which was to contain the tombs of the ancestors of the Saadian Sultan, Ahmed El-Mansour. Saadian princes had been buried here as early as 1557, mausoleums having been built in the 16th century to house the sepulchres of thirteen sovereigns. The delicacy of decoration, in perfect harmony with the purity of its architectural lines, makes the mausoleum a truly exceptional work. When Moulay Ismael took the city in 1677, he had protective walls built around the tombs and the mausoleums were not rediscovered until 1917.

Bab Ahmar

Bab Ahmar, or “the Red Gate,” stands behind the largest cemetery in Marrakesh. Built by the Alaouites, in the 18th century, it was exclusively used by the Sultans to get to their nearby palace. When the King is not staying in Marrakesh, the gate is now in public use giving access to the Mechouar square adjacent to Dar El-Makhzen.

Dar El Makhzen

Originally built by the Almohads, Dar El Makhzen was enlarged and embellished by numerous sultans of successive dynasties. The most recent major restoration work took place at the beginning of the reign of His late Majesty, King Hassan II, it being a favourite residence of his where he often stayed.

Jemaa-El-Fna

This vast square, alive in the morning with fruit and spice sellers, Guerrab (water sellers) with their leather water skins and metal cups, barbers, and a host of other hawkers and peddlers is transformed in the afternoon: Gnaoua (dancers of Guinean descent), musicians, story-tellers, snake charmers and monkey trainers mark out their halqa, and the entertainment begins.

The Agdal Gardens

In an attempt to escape the heat of the desert, the Almoravids laid out this vast shady garden in the 12th century. Hundreds of fruit trees, planted over an area three km in length and one and a half in width, are still irrigated by a network of ditches dug at that time. The Agdal Gardens were enlarged several times in the days of the Saadians, then revamped and encircled by ramparts in the 19th century at the behest of Moulay Abderrahmane. This splendid site also contains artificial lakes, the larger of which dates from the time of the Almohads. Its waters reflect Dar El-Hana, a ruined palace from the Saadian era. At the heart of the garden stands a summerhouse whose columned walls let in the sunlight upon a splendidly decorated ceiling.

El-Badi Palace

The building of this vast and sumptuous palace was ordered by Ahmed El-Mansour in 1578, following his victory over the Portuguese at the famous Battle of the Three Kings. Designed to host magnificent receptions and banquets, it counted three hundred and sixty rooms arranged around a large inner courtyard adorned with a pool and blooming flowerbeds. Pillaged in 1696 by order of Moulay Ismael to provide decoration for his royal palaces in Meknes, only the shell of this once resplendent edifice remains.

The Majorelle Gardens

This enchanting spot, planted with bougainvillea, coconut palms, banana trees, bamboo and palm trees, was created in the 1920s by the French painter, Jacques Majorelle. In the heart of all this lush greenery, the painter built a large studio, pergolas and arbours all painted in vivid blue. Following the painter’s death in 1962, the property was abandoned, being restored to its former glory a few years ago by French couturier, Yves Saint-Laurent who now uses it as a second home.

The Medersa Ben Youssef

One of the most beautiful buildings in Marrakesh, the school was completely restored around 1565 by order of the Saadian Sultan, Moulay Abdellah, and went on to become the most important Koranic University in the Maghreb. Its Andalusian- influenced architecture is characterised by a harmonious blend of mosaic and stucco, and of marble and zellij. In the inner courtyard, on either side of a white marble pond, are two galleries supported by pillars and carved wooden transoms. The prayer room is subtly lit by openwork gypsum windows topped by stalactite cupolas, while the upper floor contains over a hundred soberly decorated students’ rooms opening onto small inner courtyards.

The Mosque of the Golden Apples

The street just to the right of Bab Aguenaou, leads into the Kasbah, to the El-Mansour Mosque, which was built in the 12th century during the reign of Sultan Yacoub El-Mansour. Following the explosion in 1569, the mosque was restored bit by bit and was renamed the Mosque of the Golden Apples in the 16th century. Legend has it that, like their counterparts atop the nearby Koutoubia, the globes crowning the lantern of its minaret, were fashioned from the jewellery belonging to Sultan Yacoub El-Mansour’s wife. Beautiful and grandiose at the same time, the layout and decor of this majestic mosque have remained a model of classical architecture down the centuries.

The surroundings of Marrakech

The Ourika Valley

The Ourika valley is a delightful landscape of patchwork fields and sandstone villages clinging to the mountainsides. Starting from Setti Fatma, you can enjoy a stroll, visit the Jbel Yagour rock carvings or make an excursion to the Oukaimeden massif. The valley is of extraordinary depth and through it run the churning waters of the river of the same name, flowing through the foothills of the Atlas, to irrigate the valley and keep its orchards and terraces green all year round.

Comments

comments

Tags:

Add a Comment