City Guide To Marrakesh

Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara

22. Sep 2022
by Punita Malhotra

The millennium-old caravan town of Marrakesh is synonymous with sultans, slave traders, spice souks and snake charmers. Heaving with relentless activity and age-old craftsmanship, Morocco's kaleidoscopic old imperial capital, is the ultimate Saharan fantasy. 
 
Under the azure blue skies, on the edge of the Sahara Desert of northwestern Africa, stands an iconic city of the Maghreb. Seeped in a millennia-old legacy, Morocco's former imperial capital is deeply evocative of the faraway exotic. Its blush-pink rammed earth palaces showcased against the earthy browns of the High Atlas Mountains are a sight for sore eyes.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
The magnificent High Atlas Mountains


Technicolour souks, ornate mosques, paradise gardens and tile-splashed riads create a timeless tangle of intoxicating sights, sounds and smells in a UNESCO-Heritage tagged medieval centre. Beyond the maze of ancient artistry, hip neighbourhoods beckon with trendy nightclubs, inventive restaurants, chic boutiques and contemporary galleries.

Dive right into the swirling chaos of Marrakesh, where vibrant hues of Europe, Africa and the Middle East concoct a melting pot of cultures that is luxuriously relaxed and sensuously simple.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Marrakesh pink - visible throughout the city


Let the enchantment kick in at sunrise with a hot air balloon ride over the Red City. Drift over sandstone sprawls, majestic mountains and desert dunes, spotting speckles of Berber villages, shimmering streams and splashes of palm oases. Back on ground level, hit the home ground right away at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Medina, where 19 kilometres of salmon-pink rammed-earth ramparts enclose an Arabian Nights dream world of ochre-dusted lanes.

Thriving souqs overflow with thousands of stalls stocked with leather babouches, twinkling lamps, aromatic spice cones, plush carpets, decorative ceramics and rich textiles. Soak up the luscious kaleidoscope of colours in the palette…from cobalt to jade, crimson to burgundy and citrine to turquoise.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
"Souq means market"


Later, launch your bedazzled self into the vast square of Djemaa El Fna, where food vendors whip up beguiling and bizarre gastronomic treats in a nightly carnival. Start slow with aromatic Harira soup, tagines, couscous and smokey grills. Then rise to the challenge of a bowl of snails or a freshly cooked sheep head amid constant entertainment by fortune-tellers, healers, herbalists, spiritual musicians, henna tattooists, acrobats, acrobats, jugglers and comedians.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Djemaa El Fna


Continue the tryst with the past at the 16th-century Saadian Tombs adorned by imported Italian Carrara marble and a gilded honeycomb ceiling. The monumental ruins of Sultan al-Mansour's Badi Palace are worth exploring for the eye-popping views of the city from the Koutoubia's original prayer pulpit. Hop into the nearby Bahia Palace to ogle at exquisite tilework and painted-wood ceilings. Then, depart from the obvious at the old Jewish district to stare at the Lazama Synagogue and the Miaara Jewish cemetery.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Bahia Palace


Head outside the Medina walls to the Ville Nouvelle (New Town) to soak up the Frenchy vibe of wide leafy boulevards with outdoor cafes, stylish boutiques, modern art galleries and speciality restaurants offering Japanese, French, Thai, Lebanese and Italian cuisine. Finally, seek solace from the bustle in the Jardin Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent's green sanctuary. Limpid pools, dense bamboo groves, cobalt-blue Art Deco architecture and two fabulous museums come together to make an idyllic afternoon. End the day with an ancient cleansing and purification ritual at a traditional hammam.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Jardin Majorelle


Shopping

Medina: For a quintessentially Moroccan experience, spend a morning wandering through the labyrinth of souks within the Medina. Colourful spices, embroidered rugs, leather goods, silver trinkets, embroidered textiles, leather babouches or Aladdin lanterns, there is enough to keep you hooked wherever you choose to tread. Venture to the Souk des Teinturiers (dyers' souk) for epic photographer moments of a million colours blazing against the brilliant blue skies. Music lovers can gloat over traditional Moroccan and Gnaoua instruments at the Souk Kimakhine.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Medina shopping


Sidi Ghanem: A former industrial quarter morphed into a chic designer enclave is a one-stop shop for all kinds of treasures your heart craves. Hunt down pottery sets, hand-painted vases, bed linen, contemporary kaftans, light fixtures, frames and an array of accessories to take back home with you.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Buying Moroccan pottery is a must


Rue de La Liberte: Hit up Gueliz ("Little Paris") for some of the best homegrown designer flagship and concept stores. Give in to the lure of original creations from handbags, men's tailoring, applique garments, footwear, embroidered kaftans to cushions. Then shop some more till you exhaust your retail instincts for the day.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Little Paris


33 Rue Majorelle: Fulfil your high-end shopping fantasies at this two-level concept store opposite the Majorelle Gardens. The sleek interiors are full of Moroccan-designed gifts, fashion, and housewares by nearly 100 independent artisans. Loosen up those purse strings for quality home accessories, fashionable outfits, beaten-brass jewellery, handbags, tribal rugs, wool baskets and cactus planters. Splurging is no sin.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
33 Rue Majorelle - near the Yves Saint Laurent garden


Museums & the arts

Dar Cherifa: A restored townhouse with carved beams, stucco work is the venue for a literary caféand gallery space for regular exhibitions by local and foreign artists. You can also catch performances by Gnawa and Sufi musicians here from time to time. The small library on the premises is worth a glance.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Dar Cherifa


Musée de Marrakech: Located in the heart of the Medina, this museum has been converted from the grand, early 20th-century Mnebhi Palace. The gorgeous Zellige (colourful geometric mosaic tilework) in the central courtyard is hard to miss. The theme of the rotating exhibits is Moroccan and/or Islamic art forms, including the exquisite Fez ceramics and textiles typical of the region.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Musée de Marrakech


Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden: Marrakesh's flourishing art scene has a permanent home in this traditional, rammed-earth building enclosing 900 square metres of exhibition space. You can find over 2,000 original artworks by young African artists showcased in the museum's private collection, and the sculpture park is a bonus.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden


Berber Museum: Located inside the verdant 2.5-acre Majorelle Garden, this intriguing gallery is your gateway to the history and culture of Morocco's indigenous inhabitants. Pore over the massive collection of jewellery, artefacts, and outfits and flip back the pages of time.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Berber Museum


Yves Saint Laurent Museum: The second museum in the Majorelle Garden pays homage to one of France's most celebrated fashion designers, who bought off the vibrant botanical garden in the 1980s. Carefully curated exhibits include haute couture clothing collections spanning 40 years of creative work by the French designer Yves Saint Laurent are a must-see for fashionistas.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
The stunning Yves Saint Laurent Museum


Sports

Football: The city's most popular sport is football, and the best place to catch the game fever of local team Kawkab Marrakech is Stade de Marrakech. The newly constructed stadium is located just 9 kilometres north of the city and has hosted several home games already.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Stade de Marrakech


Horseback riding: Trip to the national stud farms of Marrakech to get up close and personal with an age-old Moroccan ritual. Indulge in a horseback ride on an Arabian thoroughbred in this equestrian paradise.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
A horseback ride through the High Atlas Mountains is superb


Golf: Tee off at The Royal Golf Marrakech located at the gateway to the Atlas Mountains, dotted with cypresses, palm trees, eucalyptus, olive trees, orange trees and apricot trees. One of King Hassan II's favourite courses has hosted celebrity players in the league of Winston Churchill and Eisenhower.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
The Royal Golf Marrakech


Mountain biking: Get off the beaten path for an adrenaline-filled day of mountain biking on the best ATV trails of the rugged Atlas Mountains accompanied by an experienced guide. Pedal along dirt roads, tackle steep climbs and negotiate challenging downhills while passing quaint Berber villages. The tour includes a picnic break before returning to Marrakech.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Mountain biking:


Restaurants & Bars

Al Fassia: This all-women establishment produces simple and classic Fez cuisine to win diners' hearts with refined flavours and textures. Some of the recommended dishes are the leg of lamb and the pigeon bstilla. Other hot sellers on the menu are chicken tagine and beef with almonds, shallots, and rice. There is an extensive choice of Moroccan wines.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Al Fassia


La Grande Table Marocaine: Located at the Royal Mansour, this elegant diner scores high on traditional Moroccan dishes like seafood pastillas, seven-vegetable couscous, lamb couscous, and amlou ice cream. The stunning interiors sport high ceilings, original artworks, ornate filigree metalwork and designer linen. One of the highlights of a meal here is the soft live music.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
La Grande Table Marocaine


La Villa des Orangers: Located in a Relais & Chateaux hotel at the heart of the Medina, this classy restaurant specialises in Mediterranean and traditional Moroccan cuisine with a contemporary twist. The candied lamb shoulder with orange peel and spices or the roasted gambas with eggplant caviar and piquillos juice with preserved lemon are great options to experiment with.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
La Villa des Orangers


Le Marocain: Book a table on the terrace or one of the indoor private lounges to surrender to the temptations of modern Moroccan gastronomy. Order the Fes-style spiny lobster tagine and Mrouzia-style rabbit with pear confit.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Le Marocain


Nomad: This modern eatery is spread over several floors, with multiple indoor and outdoor spaces. The Mediterranean menu is decked with Moroccan flavours to deliver fresh favourites like sardine tart, vegetarian pastille and grilled lamb chops.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Nomad


Exclusive experience

Enrol in a tile workshop with local artisans to learn a primitive pottery tradition dating 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. Craft your own sample of Moroccan Zellige (translated “little polished stone”), those beautiful polished clay tiles that line the courtyards, walls, floors, pillars, tables, pools, and fountains in the city. Made with clay and water, hand-chiselled, dried and then baked, each tile is a unique explosion of colour and complex geometry shapes.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Moroccan Zellige on a wall


Must-buy souvenir

Scavenge the markets for a handmade Moroccan rug to stamp a corner of your home with a memory of Marrakesh. Their bold geometric designs and warm colours spell a classic appeal that is hard to resist. The first love of interior designers and home decor nerds, Moroccan rugs represent the signature folk art of the country. Contemporary or vintage, there will be enough choices to trap you in an endless cycle of delirious dilemmas.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
A Moroccan rug can sit in any home


Side trip

Hopping across to the lively fishing port of Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast is a breeze with a three-hour drive west of Marrakech. Blue-and-white coastal scenes, fresh ocean breeze and a promise of pure argan oil are just a few of the lures of this delightful getaway. Boardwalk strolls, sunbathing siestas, souk trails and camel rides on the beach will keep you wanting for more.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Essaouira


Nightlife

Get to the top of the nightlife circuit with the original Marrakech cabaret at Theatro. Brace for elaborate live performances by troupes of musicians, dancers, fire-breathers, acrobats and jugglers. The circus-like vibes, breathtaking scenography and flawless direction promise an evening of glamour and magic every time.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Theatro


Hotels

There are so many hotels to choose from in Marrakesh - from the riads (coverted traditional houses with courtyards to boutique hotels) to the luxury groups Four Seasons, Aman and Mandarin Oriental and the superb independent hotes including the legendary La Mamounia. 

Read the BusinessClass.com guide to The Best Luxury Hotels In Marrakesh

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara
Four Seasons Marrakesh


Getting around

Most travellers fly into Marrakech Menara Airport, located about 8 kilometres southwest of the Medina. Taxis, rideshares and airport shuttles are available to reach the city centre. You can navigate the atmospheric streets on foot or by horse-drawn carriage or tourist bus.

Destinations Articles - Marrakesh - Ravishing Red City of the Sahara

 

BusinessClass.com searches hundreds of travel sites simultaneously to help you find the best premium flight offers to and from Marrakesh.  BusinessClass.com also compares all the major hotel suppliers to give you the very best prices in the finest hotels. 

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