Marrakesh is a fascinating city with a number of things to see and do. Some of the shopping is impressive, with some western brand name shops such as Zara available. For a more unique experience though, head to the Djemaa el Fna square. This large marketplace is typically quiet by day with the occasional shaded trolley selling orange juice or women offering henna to travelers, but by night it explodes into life and you can find almost anything and everything here. Snake charmers bring their cobras, people put monkeys on you for photo opportunities. Do be aware though that everything has a price, sometimes even photographs.
The square is surrounded by interesting things to check out – alley ways lead to interesting rooftop restaurants, and a great intricate maze of souks is nearby, where you can get lost in the heavy scents of incense, tea sets and men shouting about their spices for sale. People selling things can be very pushy and sometimes can grab your hands and almost pull you into their shops, but if you are firm and polite in your disinterest to visit their particular shop the matter goes no further.
Marrakesh has an impressive network of Saadian tombs that you can visit for a small price. They are intricate and beautiful and worth a walk around with some beautiful gardens although there are no names or labels on most things so having a bit of background knowledge of Saadian history may help you enjoy the site more. For a real treat be sure to book ahead and visit the Bains de Marrakesh, an impressive spa that offers traditional hammams in a spa-like setting with access to an icy swimming pool. If you’re brave, check out a “local” hammam, where the people of Marrakesh go. Although be prepared to be scrubbed down and massaged by a stranger in a towel, which makes it definitely an experience.
Marrakesh is also a gateway to the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara and trips out to the dunes can be arranged easily in the city. Trips range in length and price. A 3 day, 2 night tour with breakfast and dinners included is typically around 100 euros a person and is well worth the price.
Marrakesh is far away enough from any of the coastlines of the country to stop it from enjoying cooler winds and more rain, resulting in a semi-arid climate. This means that Marrakesh can be stiflingly hot in the summer months, sometimes being in excess of 35-40C. It’s not unheard of for it to reach even 45C. Record highs in the summer time have reached nearly 50C, so it gives you an idea of just how hot it can get.
Relatively speaking though, Marrakesh remains very warm year round. It often doesn’t go below around 15 degrees as a daytime high in the winter, but winter months can get quite chilly at night, sometimes below about 5 degrees. Winters are ideal for those who can’t stand extreme heat, but it’s advisable to bring a jacket for the cooler nights.
For those who like the heat, sun, and….well, sand, the best months by far are April and May and October to November when temperatures are still mid to high twenties, but they aren’t as high as July or August temperatures. June and September are good moths to go if you like it quite hot, with daytime highs exceeding 30C. Keep in mind though that these are guideline average temperatures, and it’s not unheard of for it to be even hotter.
Winters may be a bit on the rainy side, but overall not by much. Summers are dry with occasional storms, and high winds are common.
Marrakesh Airport is conveniently within walking distance to town – albeit a lengthy one. If your luggage isn’t heavy or you don’t have much of it, it could be a nice way to get to town, with the Menara gardens being along the way for a stop off. If not, taxis and buses are available. Petit taxis (city taxis) will, as anywhere else, try to inflate the price to the city centre, such as the Djema el Fna, so try to haggle them down. Otherwise it shouldn’t cost more than 60 dirhams to the city centre. The buses are significantly cheaper and stop at most hotels.
When getting into taxis, ensure you arrange the fare in advance. To avoid being ripped off, don’t admit that it’s your first time to Morocco (even if it is). This will discourage the drivers from trying to rip someone off who “doesn’t know how it’s done”. Play it safe and just fib that you have friends who live in Agadir, Fez or Casablanca.
It’s best to ask if you can take a photo before taking them, otherwise you may be asked for money (and sometimes even if you ask, you might be asked for a small concession). The people of Marrakesh know how to make money from travellers but it’s typically not done in a malicious way and if you know to expect it, it’s only a minor bother rather than a problem.
Marrakesh and Morocco on the whole is a predominantly Muslim country, so it’s a good idea for women to cover up, despite the sometimes intense heat. You will find you get hassled less and are well respected for covering yourself and may even get to experience other sides of Marrakesh, such as chats with the locals that you wouldn’t have otherwise. French goes a long way, but English is fairly widely spoken. Try picking up a bit of Arabic if possible, such as “Shukran” (thank you) and “Ne shukran”(No thank you). Ne Shukran will go a long way to stopping hassling in souks and markets.
Marrakech is a large city in the interior of Morocco. It’s located in the Atlas region and is a great location to base yourself from, particularly if you plan to head into the mountains or into the Sahara.
Marrakesh has been in existence for nearly a thousand years and has acted as the de facto capital for a number of groups that have seized power in the area over the centuries. It was founded in 1076 by the Almoravids, who used it as the capital of their empire. By 1147, the Almohad Caliphate had come in and taken control and used it as their capital as well. In 1269 the Marinids captured the city and instead of continuing to use Marrakesh as the capital, instead relocated the capital to Fez, but left Marrakesh as the regional capital of south Morocco. Marrakesh was again captured by the Saadians in 1525 and soon after became the capital again when the Saadians took Fez in 1549. Marrakesh then enjoyed a long period of development under the Saadians, who improved the city greatly and added many intricate decorative changes.
The Alwite Sharifs captured Marrakesh in 1669 but was not used as their capital consistently as the Sultans of the Alwite moved their courts between cities frequently. Over the course of the history of the city, it enjoyed periods of prosperity and development, but it was frequently sacked, faced famines, political upheaval, military disorder, and was eventually conquered by the French in 1912. It then became part of the French protectorate of Morocco until it attained independence in 1956.
To this day it remains a rival with Fez in terms of which is to be considered the capital city of Morocco. Eventually the capital was change to Rabat to try and compromise between Fez and Marrakesh to show that neither city was better than the other.