The Medina, an evocative but bustling maze of streets, markets and passages is a UNESCO Wold Heritage Centre. In addition to decadently lush Riads - traditional Moroccan guesthouses - you will find in the Medina the word-famous Djemaa el Fna square, the souks, the Kasbah, the Koutoubia Mosque, the Badi Palace and of course the ancient city walls.
If you've never traveled in Africa, be forewarned: you will see abject poverty but you'll also encounter smiles and advice that are completely genuine coming from folks who welcome you to their enchanting country. The principal language is Arabic but some Moroccans - particularly those in the tourist industry - speak English, French or both languages. Morocco is a Muslim Nation and you'll see many women wearing burkas, caftans and veils. Particularly when you venture into the Medina, dress respectfully and avoid tank tops, shorts and other clothing that is revealing. Be a good will ambassador and call attention to yourself in a positive way.
|Djemaa el Fna|
Continue to the El Badi Palace an evocative ruin on the site of a palace built by the Saadian Sultan Ahmad-al-Mansur in the late 16th century. The original structure was intended to be the most sumptuous in the city and boasted with more than 350 rooms, an immense courtyard and a huge pool, all fashioned from Italian marble and lavishly appliqued with Sudanese gold. The compound's design is based on that of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Sadly in the 17th century the Sultan Moulay Ismail ransacked materials from El Badi to adorn his new digs in Meknes, near Fes. Be sure to see the storks that have nested alongside the crumbling walls and terraces before leaving the El Badi ruins.
The different quadrants of the souks have different specialities including rugs, textiles, spices, food, ceramics and pretty much everything else under the sun. Favorite gifts and souvenirs include lovely embroidered babouches (slippers), Berber jewelry, pretty tiles and pottery, freshly groups spices, and, last but not least, carpets and rugs. It is easy to get lost in these narrow alleys but no panic, sooner or later you will end up again at Djemaa el Fna square. Bargaining is a must in the souks. It can be a bit overwhelming walking around here but if you want to buy some souvenirs, you are in the right place.
As evening rolls around, return to the Djemaa el Fna square, where you can engage a horse-drawn caleche for a carriage ride around the Medina's city walls. Yes, it's touristy, but you are a tourist, and there's a reason why the experience is so popular. The ancient walls glow red and ochre at sunset, casting a romantic shimmer on exotic Marrakech. If you're the more adventure type, you can also hire a bicycle and go on your own but the best way to experience the route is by carriage, which offers a slow-paced, bird's-eye perspective on the Kasbah action.
|Marrakech the gateway to the Atlas Mountains|
It's no secret that Marrakech swelters during the hight summer, when arid, high temperatures engulf the city. Try to visit during the spring or autumn months when the daytime highs are balmy and warm but the evenings nice and cool.
We passed through Marrakech on our way to the beautiful Atlas Mountains, where we did a 4-day Atlas Trekking. We started with an acclimatization hike through the Imnane Valley, followed by the 2-day ascent of Mount Toubkal and on our last day we hiked through the Berber Villages around Imlil. We only had a short break in Morocco this time but we definitely made the most out of it.
Freya - Holiday Nomad, a Travel and Photo blog