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About city What to see Gallery Where to stay

Marrakesh is sometimes called the Red City, or the Pearl of the South, and is considered to be the heart of the Moroccan East. There’s a reason why those who seek the real Morocco come here – Marrakesh, established in 1062 by the Berber leader Abu Bakr ibn Umar, has been the largest commercial, cultural and religious centre of the western part of North Africa for centuries. Many schools and mosques were built here. Andalusian masters from Córdoba and Seville helped decorate many of the city’s architectural structures. The old part of Marrakesh, called Medina, is surrounded by a 19-kilometre-long and almost 6-metre-high defensive wall made of chalk and red clay, and is equipped with 20 gates and 200 towers.

The most popular place in Marrakesh, and also its symbol, is the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. It’s one of the most famous market squares not only in Africa, but in the whole world. It shows how important the city was for the region at every point in history. As it became one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, the square got revitalized and is now a popular tourist attraction.

Busy square Djemma el Fna
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Busy square Djemma el Fna

Historically, the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square (sometimes used for executing the disobedient) had myriads of stalls built for merchants who have been coming here to trade from the surrounding desert and mountain regions for about 1000 years. Later, the central part of the city filled up with snake charmers, conjurers, dancing boys from different Berber tribes, and musicians playing bagpipes, tambourines and African drums.

Today, this square is quite the melting pot – aside from groups of tourists, here you can also see scores of those same snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, fortune tellers, musicians, monkey trainers, herb salesmen, story tellers, jesters, food vendors and even dentists. The fact that one should keep his/her wallet close in places like this should go without saying. If you decide on visiting the Jemaa el-Fnaa, we recommend you come early in the morning or late in the evening – that way you should avoid big crowds.

Snake charmer at Djemaa el-Fna square
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Snake charmer at Djemaa el-Fna square

Another important attribute of Marrakesh is the Berber market, which is one of the largest Oriental markets in the world. So if you’re after Moroccan souvenirs, exotic food or hand-made Oriental artefacts, we advise you dive into the thousand-stall market of Marrakesh. Just don’t forget to haggle, though: don’t make your interest in someone’s goods too obvious; make sure to visit more than just one stall; talk to neutral locals; learn a little French; don’t be either too aggressive or too gullible, and you should be able to get a decent price.

Marrakesh is charming not just because of its traditions, architecture and city parks, but also due to its cosmopolitan spirit, ethnically diverse population, many visitors, excellent climate and the Atlas Mountains looming in the background. One the other hand, one shouldn’t forget that it’s a male-dominated Arab city where locals always try to badger tourists for money. Don’t forget – short skirts here often elicit comments, and if you take a picture of a snake charmer, be prepared to pay for it.

In winter, the Atlas mountains typically are covered in snow and ice
Photo taken by Acp - wikimedia.org.  In winter, the Atlas mountains typically are covered in snow and ice

The most convenient means of transportation in Marrakesh is taxi – just make sure to stay vigilant in these too. If you want to avoid having to deal with “interpretations”, agree on a price before even getting inside the car and write it down on a piece of paper.

Marrakesh is surrounded by 180,000 palm trees, making it look somewhat like a fortress. A little further away you can see orange, olive, fig and pomegranate trees, the fruits of which fill the city market during the season.

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