We had four days to visit the city, but we ended up giving up half of them to explore the desert. So, in only 2 days we had to see everything that was essential in Marrakech, even tough the first few hours we were lost and didn’t find anything…
MONDAY 26th JUNE (2017)
We arrived in the morning and took a taxi from the airport to the medina. We could see along the way the amount of minarets of mosques that were everywhere, especially the Koutubia. Unfortunately, it can only be seen from the outside, because as in the rest of mosques, the entry is forbidden to non-Muslims.
The taxi took us to the center of Marrakech, and after leaving our suitcases at the hotel (which took us a long time to find), we started to explore the city. We first went to the famous Jemaa El Fna square, looking for an exchange house, and finally ended up exchanging the euros at the Hôtel Ali. Once we had our dírhams, we walked around the square and ate in one of its terraces. The prices of these restaurants overlooking the place are more expensive than the rest, but it is worth it. At least having a drink during the sunset is a must!
The square changes as the hours pass by: during the day it is full of juice and spice stalls, snake charmers and monkey trainers (ANIMAL ABUSE!), but at night it becomes the scenenary of street music and shows, and it fills with very cheap food stalls for dinner.
Although it wasn’t a must in our list, we also visited the Tanners (we ended up there a little deceived, because we were looking for another place but the locals told us it was closed and took us there instead). It was a lie that the other place was closed, so we payed the hazing spending 50 MAD on a guide (which the locals surely knew and probably would take commission).
The guide explained us the production process of the leather, that includes washing the animal fur with a mix of pigeon excrements and ammonia… You can imagine the stink. He offered us a mint bush to smell during the visit, otherwise it was unbearable. Finally, the guide took us to the top of a building to see the views from above, and after taking some pictures we ended up in a store where there were rugs, moorish slippers and leather accessories such as handbags or purses. We knew it was another trap, but at least the seller who attended us was very kind and we were invited to a tea while he explained us stories. Altough he insisted that we shouldn’t feel compelled to buy, in the end we leave there with a wallet…
TUESDAY 27th JUNE (2017)
The previous day we didn’t had time to see much, so we really only had one day left to do all the sightseeing we had planned. We woke up in the morning with a clear route in mind and with the conviction that we shouldn’t let anyone guide us, unless we wanted to end up in other places.
We took a taxi to the Majorelle Gardens, which are approximately 10 or 15 minutes by car from Jemaa El Fna. Although the entrance is expensive compared to other places in Marrakech (70 MAD per person), it was worth it. That place, created by the artist Jacques Majorelle, was acquired and restored by Yves Saint Laurent. In addition, what had been the artist’s workshop is now the Museum of Islamic Art (which we decided not to visit because we already had in mind to see the Museum of Marrakech in the afternoon).
The gardens are in the Guéliz quarter, the most exclusive and modern part of Marrakech. We could see something from inside the taxi, although we decided not to visit it, because we had little time and preferred to get more involved into the Moroccan culture than into what’s similar to Spain. That is, there you will find shops like Zara and restaurants like McDonald’s. So it’s a good place to go if you get tired of Moroccan food!
When we left the gardens we took another taxi to the Saadian Tombs. They are close to the Jewish quarter, and it’s not recommended to walk around there at night to avoid conflicts (we didn’t have any problem, but we went during the day).
We paid 10 MAD per person to visit the tombs, and although the site is not very large, the decoration is impressive. You can see the tombs where the warriors of the Saadian dynasty are buried, decorated with lots of mosaics. In the main mausoleum lies Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and his family.
When we left there, we walked to Jemaa El Fna looking for something to eat, and we passed by the Moulay El Yazid mosque, which is right next to the tombs.
After lunch we find the Almoravid Koubba, the oldest monument in the city, but we only saw it from the outside because we didn’t want to distract from our objective: we were heading to the Museum of Marrakech, which was right next to it.
We also had to pay 50 MAD per person to visit the museum, which is a palace where Sultan Moulay Abdelaziz’s Minister of Defense lived. The truly impressive thing in that place is not the exhibitions (collections of ceramics, weapons, rugs and other traditional objects) but its architecture. The main part of the museum is the courtyard, presided by a large lamp and fountains.
Leaving the museum on the right, we walked a few meters until we reached the Ben Youssef Madrasa, which is the largest one in Morocco. A madrasa or medersa is a Muslim college of higher studies, specifically religious ones. The austere look of its 130 cells (that allowed the accommodation of aproximatelly 900 students) contrasts to the incredible courtyard that has on the inside. The entry costs about 20 MAD per person.
When we left the madrasa it was almost 6pm (the time when most touristic places close), so we couldn’t visit much more. We decided to get lost in the medina and buy some souvenirs in the Souk, because the two days we had left were our roadtrip to the desert, and we probably wouldn’t find any other time to do the shopping.
The souk extends from the north of Jemaa El Fna, and is a labyrinth of narrow streets full of stalls and shops to buy clothes, spices, food and typical products. The artisans are grouped in guilds and they love to bargain (the trick is not to pay more than a third of what they ask at the beginning). You can see all the money we spent here.
Sellers love to talk, and although some of them are annoying because they won’t let you leave, there’s also kind people who just wants to invite you to tea and explain their story. For example, I bought a key-chain that looked like a dagger, but it turned out to be a fibula that the Berber tribe used to hold their clothes. Women also used that brooch to secure the clothing that held their babies when they were carrying them on their backs.
In conclusion, we were able to visit all our essentials in one day, although we had to renounce to other places less important to us, such as Bahia Palace and Badi Palace, among others. We didn’t visit the Jardin Secret or the Menara Gardens neither, but we were already satisfied with the Majorelle Gardens.
RECOMENDATION: Most of all, be well informed about the schedules of each place, because they usually close soon (around 6 pm).