Marrakech is quite possibly one of the most renowned cities of northern Africa and for this particular reason, it is one of the most visited as well. Sure, other juggernauts like Tunis and Cairo mitigate the constant flow of tourists but no one can deny the fame of the Daughter of the Desert. Boasting with a metropolitan population of over 1 million, Marrakech is the fourth largest city in the Kingdom of Morocco (beaten only by Fes, Tangier and Casablanca). However, there is a mid-south-western area called Marrakech-Safi to which it serves as capital. A major financial, economic and cultural centre, Marrakech has a history reaching back nearly 1,000 years (it has been founded in the year 1062 by Lamtuna Berber Tribe leader Abu Bakr ibn Umar).
Marrakech is located within the bounds of the hot semi-arid climate zone and thus it does not suffer from heavy temperature fluctuations. Temperatures vary between 12 degrees Celsius and 35-45 depending on the season. As shown above, winters are cooler a bit than summers in the metropolitan area but they are by no means cold. For this particular reason, if you are not a fan of the midsummer heat, you might consider visiting the city in the November-March interval. Winters are a bit wetter than the rest of the year but Marrakech still doesn’t receive enough precipitation to warrant a Mediterranean climate classification.
The Daughter of the Desert is served by the eponymous Marrakech Menara Airport. Handling more than 4 million passengers each year, it is the second-busiest airports of its parent country (not to mention the fact that it is in constant growth). What’s important to know about it is that it has countless European flights attached to its name. This makes it a prominent gateway into Africa and, of course, into Morocco. Flights to the Arab world are numerous, obviously, and they are reliable. Marrakech serves as a Focus City for the Royal Air Maroc airline (the largest and most used Moroccan airline).
Africa generally prefers trains over cars when it comes to long distances. Marrakech directly reflects this prospect with its massive Station Marrakech. Serving more than 4 million passengers each year, it boasts with 16 daily direct trains. These direct destinations include other major cities such as Fes and Casablanca. If you plan on hitting the rails and exploring Rabat or Tangier, you have to go to Casablanca first and take trains from there. Subsequently, you can find other major links from the Casablanca Voyageurs station as well. What you’ll be happy about is the fact that the rail system in Morocco is extremely affordable. To give you an example, you can get from Marrakech to Casablanca for 11-17 USD.
Although the presence of taxis is notable, we recommend that you never enter one that is devoid of a metre. Also, if the cab that you take does have one, make sure that the driver starts it as soon as you embark. If that doesn’t happen, make sure you encourage them to do so lest you be ripped off. Most people in Morocco are talkative and honest, though, so crimes are not common, but it never hurts to be cautious.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
You cannot visit Marrakech and avoid the beauty that the Majorelle Garden encompasses. Nearly 5 hectares in size, the botanical garden even contains the Islamic Art Museum designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and the 1930s. What’s interesting here is that the blue colour with which most walls and fountains are coloured is currently known as Majorelle Blue. Its distinctive tinge can easily be discerned and it blends in well with the rest of the edifice. The aforementioned museum contains a North African textile collection pertaining to Saint-Laurent, pottery, jewellery and even some paintings by Majorelle himself. Oh, and let us not forget about the unparalleled cactus collection that can be found within the bounds of the garden.
One of the most prominent landmarks of Marrakech is arguably the renowned Koutoubia Mosque – the largest and most imposing mosque in the city. Also known as the Mosque of the Booksellers, it was designed by Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur and it adheres to the Almohad architectural style. It possesses only one minaret but what it lacks in numbers, it makes up in height – the minaret soars at 77 metres. Made primarily of brick and sandstone, the mosque does see some ceramic tiles added to its body as well. Consecrated between the years 1184 and 1199, the Koutoubia is located in the southwest medina quarter of Marrakech. Do not forget the general rules that apply to visiting mosques: no eating, no shoes, no mobile phones and, of course, no visiting during prayer time.
Next up, you should definitely go and see the Bahia Palace. Its name directly translates as “Brilliance” and its scintillating garden covers 8,000 square metres. Built in the 19th century, the edifice was intended to be the largest and most imposing of its kind. What’s interesting about it is that it was used by the grand vizier Si Moussa and that it has a harem section with a central basin. Capturing all essential elements of Islamic architecture, the palace is most indubitably the crown-jewel of Marrakech.
We recommend that you read our article that explains adequate conduct in Muslim countries for a better understanding of their culture and their customs. Many things that western people consider normal are deemed disrespectful there, so always be on the lookout for guides such as our “11 Things to Know before Travelling to Muslim Countries”.
Marrakech is like an oasis that invites travellers to explore its glory. It has everything that one might expect from such an iconic city: mosques, medina squares, stalls, hagglers and pristine Islamic architecture. Take your time to know the place and you will be left with an unforgettable memory! Safe travels!