A few months ago I had the chance to travel to the impressive Morocco in North Africa. It is a country with an extremely intense oriental element. People are very friendly and there is always an intimate and congenial smile on their faces.
Dirham is the official currency of Morocco. Apart from the airport, currency exchange is also available at hotels or banks throughout the country. Even though there is almost always an additional cost using credit cards,these are accepted in the largest cities as well as in stores thereof.
Marrakech Airport is extremely busy due to its numerous international flights, apparently on a daily basis. As soon as you arrive at the airport, you will be subject to a standard passport controland fill in a few documents provided to you.
You can reach the city of Marrakech by taxi (you must be careful of an extra and, apparently, out of reason charge). In case though, the hotel, in which you will stay, may arrange your transfer from/to the airport, then it is strongly recommended to avail yourself of this arrangement. An alternative option I would suggest is renting a car for the main reason that the use of a car is exceptionally useful because of the lack of public transport, while simultaneously, is of great essence for your comfortable visit to the sights of Morocco, including, of course, other cities. Consequently, you will surely enjoy your trip more and you will explore Morocco better.
The city of Marrakech combines spectacular gardens with well-preserved palaces and traditional markets and old-fashioned Moroccan houses, named as riads. These houses are built around a central courtyard with windows facing inwards for the purposes of protecting privacy.
Best Things to See and Do in Marrakech
1. Jemaa el-Fnaa
It is worth visiting the famous central square of Marrakech, named as Jemaa el-Fnaa, and the mosque of Koutoubia, where believers are gathered and worship during Ramadan. Jemaa el-Fnaa Square will fascinate you with the Arab culture, which is pervasive everywhere, i.e. shops, restaurants etc. Taste the traditional Moroccan cuisine. Zaalook (eggplant smoked dip) is probably the most well-known and delicious food. You can also taste a traditional stuffed meat pie, the well-known b’stilla. In addition, try to taste couscous. Without doubt though, the most tasty dish is meat tagine, which is the Moroccan specialty. Specifically, this special dish is meat in the hull, which is served in a clay pot and accompanied with vegetables and nuts, all cooked in the meat broth.
Wandering in the huge Jemaa el-Fnaa square, you will see snake charmers, street vendors and carriages. It is also worth tasting the refreshing juices sold in the square. The special sounds and melodies render the square really vibrant and you will certainly love its intense liveliness.
2. Market of Medina (Old Town of Marrakech)
Jemaa el-Fnaa Square is located near the Medina (old town) market in Marrakech. It is worth wandering through the stalls of the market, where various spices with irresistible smells are on sale. However, you should take care of your personal belongings because of the presence of numerous pickpockets. You can buy traditional handmade products, such as leather bags, sandals as well as natural perfumes and oils produced in Morocco, such as the well-known argan.
3. Bahia Palace
Built in the late 19th century, Bahia Palace was the residence of the Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed, who was known as Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I. The interior decoration has been designed with great details. There are zellige tiles, painted ceilings and ornate wrought-iron features. The main courtyard in the center of Bahia Palace has been created using marble. Here, many visitors take photos.
4. Majorelle Gardens
In these tropical gardens full of cacti, painter Jacques Majorelle lived and created many of his artworks. He came from Nancy in France, but he decided to come to Marrakech for his health. As painter, he was very popular in Morocco. After his death in 1962, the famous French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent bought the house and stayed until his death in 2008. Except for the gardens, a museum that houses exhibits related to Yves Saint Laurent’s life has been built as well.
5. Ben Youssef Madrasa
Built in 1565, the Madrasa of Ben Youssef is the largest theological school in Morocco. The interior decoration is outstanding and the architectural design of courtyards is so impressive. It is one of the must-see sights in Morocco.
6. Saadian Tombs
Visit Saadian Tombs that dated back to 16th century. Here, sixty-six members of the Saadian dynasty (1524-1668) have been buried. You will feel so strange, when you will visit this place, because of its atmosphere.
Day Trips & Must Sightseeing Tours
1. Aït Benhaddou
Between the Sahara Desert and Marrakech, in a vast natural landscape, lies the earthen town of Aït Benhaddou, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is an impressive example of Islamic architecture. The intricate construction of this ancient city is named as Kasbah. Unfortunately, it is gradually destroyed by the rains. The houses are made of stones, reeds and soil, namely natural components that give to the whole town a characteristic red color. In the past, caravans coming from the Sahara used to passed through Aït Benhaddou in order to find shelter. Well-known films such as Jesus of Nazareth, Gladiator, The Mummy and much more have been filmed in the city of Aït Benhaddou.
2. Ouzoud Falls
Ouzoud Falls are located on Mount Atlas, near the village of Tanaghmeilt, in the province of Azilal, approximately 150 km from Marrakech. While approaching the waterfalls, you can find a local guide to help you reach them. Hiking on the mountains will give you the opportunity to come across the famous Barbary macaque monkeys. You can come closer to them in a friendly way by feeding them peanuts and taking a photo with them.
This picturesque city with 80,000 inhabitants is located on the oceanfront of the Atlantic Ocean. The inhabitants are mainly engaged in fishing and trade. Medina (old town) of Essaouira belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List. On the vast beach you can take a camel or horse ride and take beautiful photos of the Atlantic Ocean and surfers. A very interesting place is the picturesque port of Essaouira, where you can see how fishermen clean and paint their boats.
4. Safari & Desert Camp in Merzouga
Morocco provides you the unique opportunity to find yourself in the dunes of Merzouga region, which constitute part of the famous Sahara desert. You can have a safari and spend the night in a desert camp, literally speaking, in the middle of the desert. The experience is certainly unique and it will remain unforgettable.
Leaving behind the bustling Marrakech, you will start a journey of about eight hours, to reach the Chebbi sand dunes. The route is very interesting and the scenery will not let you get bored. After crossing the Atlas mountain range, you will come across small villages with palm trees, streams and rivers, afterwards you will pass through gorges, reaching finally the vast dune field of the Sahara desert.
To reach the organized desert camp, you will need an extra hour or so. You can cover the rest distance either on foot or on a camel. Arriving at the accommodation, you will find yourself in front of approximately ten tents, equipped with just the basics for your overnight stay.
Inside the camp there are carpets and wooden chairs. As per welcoming visitors, a hot drink is always offered. There are small rooms, toilets with shower and a tent under which a kitchen and all relevant equipment are set up. Each tent has a wooden sofa with a table and a single or double bed. This whole setting is so special and unique, while the only color that prevails around is the deep orange that makes the landscape more than enchanting and breathtaking.
The desert is endless and the silence of the desert is indescribable. If you have enough energy and want to relax a bit, you can try sand boarding using a board that slides on the sand, an activity very similar to snowboarding.
In the evening you will have the opportunity to try the traditional flavors that locals will offer you, and listen traditional music. Then you can enjoy the landscape and gaze up at the sky with the countless stars.
Where to Stay in Marrakech
If you want to stay in a luxurious hotel, then La Villa des Orangers or Four Seasons Resort Marrakech are the perfect accommodation places for you. These places provide all comforts. The old city of Marrakech is known as Medina. In Medina (old city), you can stay in Riad Dar Attika, which is an inexpensive place. It is a great choice, because it is close to the old city’s sights. Also, great accommodation choices for budget travelers are Riad Dar Thalge that located close to Jemaa El Fna as well as Riad Sadaka and Riad L'Orchidee. There are many choices of riads in Medina for low-budget travelers, who want to stay in a beautiful and affordable riad, which is a traditional Moroccan house. Click here and see the best budget riads.
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