Archive for the ‘Excursions Marrakech’ Category

The Place Jemaa El Fna

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Like most of Morocco’s cities, Marrakech has two sharply contrasting personalities, in the shape of the modern, commercial quarter of Guéliz and the original walled medina.

One of five Moroccan medinas included for their architectural richness on the Unesco World Heritage list, the medina of Marrakech, packed with grandiose monuments and an extensive souk, is built around the celebrated Jemaa El Fna, a thronged, pulsating square in the very heart of town.

Shoppers’ Paradise

Surrounded by labyrinthine alleyways amid tightly packed houses, Djemaa El Fna is the starting point for accessing the apparently endless maze of souks selling everything from cheap souvenirs and trinkets and spices to beautiful carpets and finely-crafted wood and metal artifacts, including traditional jewellery. All day long refreshments in the shape of freshly-squeezed orange juice and delicious Moroccan dates are available from a plethora of vendors in and around the central square.

Step back in Time

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Visit the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Amid the frenetic buzz of Marrakech one can still find pockets of tranquil serenity in sharp contrast to the heat and pace of the city all around.

One such oasis of calm is the Majorelle Garden, or Jardin Majorelle, one of the most popular visitor attractions in Marrakech. Named after its French-born designer, Jacques Majorelle, a French painter inspired by the Art Nouveau movement of the early 1900s, the garden in its modern form spans around two and a half acres blending nature and design.

Here, the sound of gently running water from marble pools, fountains and irrigation channels and the constant chatter of birdlife create an idyllic atmosphere of sub tropical exoticism as raised paths lead one through plantations of banana trees and bamboo, coconut palms and bougainvillea and an impressive collection of cactae.

Majorelle spent some forty years designing and sculpting his garden into a splendid piece of botanical art although, following his death in 1962, it fell into a state of neglect.

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Visiting the tanneries in Marrakech – why you should do it

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The ancient Marrakech tannery where the raw material for fine leather gods is produced is a magnetic draw for tourists because the experience is as fascinating as the smell is pungent.

Some might warn you away from this odiferous quarter of the city but that would be a mistake because, in several respects, the ancient process of producing leather from goatskin and fleeces, having changed little since biblical times, is an absorbing throwback to another era.

Tanners have been around since the city’s founding in 1062 and tanning itself, and the production of leather goods, has remained an important trade ever since. Today, as then, the archaic curing process involves an unpleasant cocktail of elemental liquids (a mix of cow urine, pigeon faeces and acids) in which animal skins are cleaned and cured.

You will see half naked men, standing up to their knees in clay vats filled with this evil smelling mixture, cleaning the fleeces before handing them over to be dyed in different vats filled with other, equally suspicious looking multi-coloured liquids. After this the coloured fleeces are set out to dry in the sun.

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The Saadian Tombs in Marrakech

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

If you’re looking to absorb some history on your visit to Marrakech, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions is the Saadian Tombs, the final resting place of the rulers and other members of the Saadi Dynasty, one of the best examples of Islamic art in Morocco.

The first known burial took place following the reign of Sultan Ahmed el Mansour (1578-1603), sixth sultan of the Saadi Dynasty which held sway from the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth century.

When Moulay Ismail (1672-1727) came to power he sealed off the tombs in an effort to remove all trace of his predecessors. They only came to light again in 1917 upon their rediscovery by the French following an aerial survey.

Because the tombs had been sealed for so many years they were found to be in a state of near-immaculate preservation and the Moroccan Beaux-Arts service has since restored the site itself to its original splendour.

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Marrakech to Essaouira: a day trip

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

If you’re visiting Marrakech for long enough to afford taking a day out of town, the ancient port of Mogador, the modern day Essaouira, is well worth the two and a half hour trip.

A small, picturesque seaport with a shipyard and important fishing fleet, Essaouira is unlike almost any other town in Morocco due largely to the fact that it was developed originally by the Portuguese, a heritage accounting for much of its character and charm. The walled town stands on a narrow peninsula sheltering a vast bay and crescent of fine sand.

A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is a fascinating example of 18th century European military architecture, notably its sea defences, constructed by the French and equipped with an impressive row of Spanish canons. From this fortified Scala there is a splendid outlook over the sea and Atlantic rollers crashing against the rocks.

A few yards from the busy fishing port, the medina features a large square and a couple of wide boulevards as well as a maze of narrow streets, all the more pleasant for being pedestrianised. (more…)

Five must-see architectural gems of Marrakech

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Founded in the 11th century, Marrakech is a city steeped in history, as evidenced by several of its most famous monuments and buildings. Here are five examples of Moroccan architecture in Marrakech that shouldn’t be missed.

1. Tombeaux Saadiens. Only a few hundred yards from Les Borjs de la Kasbah, these highly decorated tombs form one of the most important heritage sites in Morocco. One of the few remaining vestiges of the important Saadien dynasty, they date from the time of Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603) although were sealed off on the orders of Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail who wanted all traces of the Saadien dynasty to be destroyed. Untouched for more than two centuries, the tombs were uncovered in 1917 and restored by the national ‘Beaux-Arts’ service. Due to their intricate decoration, a clear indication of the opulence of the time and a perfect example of the beauty of Islamic art, the tombs are a major attraction for visitors to Marrakech and should be high on your list of “what to see in Marrakech”. Expect domed ceilings, intricately carved marble pillars, cedar wood ceilings  and, most notably, extensive use of exquisite mosaic decoration.

2. Mansouria Mosque. Built by Yaqub al-Mansur, the Mansouria Mosque is also known as the Kasbah Mosque, being just 100 yards from the monumental gate into this fortified southern part of the Marrakech medina, Bab Agnaou. Although access to the interior is not open to non-Muslims, one can admire the impressive architecture of the building now restored to its former glory following an extensive facelift.

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A brief history of the films of Marrakech and Morocco

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

The first film shot in Marrakech was by French pioneer Louis Lumière in 1897. Some Hollywood ‘big hitters’ followed after the second war, notably Orson Welles who filmed ‘Othello’ in Marrakech and Essaouira in 1949 (Palme d’Or winner) and David Lean, who shot desert scenes for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in 1962.

 Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ was also set in Marrakech. The opening scenes of the film were filmed in the souks and the main square, Jemaa el Fna, a location which has changed little since!

Hitchcock fell in love with Marrakech and spent a considerable amount of time here where he wrote the screenplay for ‘The Birds’ in Marrakech.

British agent 007 also made it to Marrakech, with Timothy Dalton playing Bond in ‘The Living Daylights’ in 1987.

Martin Scorsese was so impressed with the filmic qualities of Marrakech, notably the light, that he filmed two major motion pictures here, ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ in 1988 followed by ‘Kundun’ in 1997.

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Skiing in Marrakech

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Skiing in Marrakech?! Well not in Marrakech, exactly, but from a base in Marrakech, only a short hop away. You might be forgiven for questioning the viability of skiing in Africa yet the High Atlas Mountains, about 90 minutes south of Marrakech, offer a skiing experience like no other.

There is a number of small ski resorts in the Atlas, most of them unsophisticated by European standards and with limited infrastructure but well worth checking out: Ifrane, Djebel Bou Volane and Mischliffen in the Middle Atlas, Mount Tidiquin in the Ketama district and best of all, Oukaïmeden in the High Atlas.

Perched at an altitude of 3000m in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains, Oukaïmeden touts itself as ‘Africa’s Premier Ski Resort’.

Though many of the tallest peaks of the High Atlas are snow patterned for much of the year the ski season itself is limited to four months (December to March), the best snow being in January and February. Oukaïmeden has North Africa’s highest lift, a fixed-grip double chair to the mountain’s summit where you are treated to a 360º panoramic view.

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The Beginners Guide to Marrakech

Monday, December 19th, 2011

To start your Moroccan experience, you must first find a place to stay. There is a huge variety of accommodation in Marrakech and with such a large choice from large luxury hotels down to four to eight roomed riads and modern apartments, finding the right place can be hit and miss.

Our suggestion would be to go for the best of both worlds, i.e. the last word in modern comforts but with plenty of authentic local character added. Les Borjs de la Kasbah is one such, a 5 star luxury boutique hotel in Marrakech, well placed within comfortable walking distance of the centre yet far enough away from its hurly burly to be remarkably peaceful by comparison.

Having found your place to stay you’ll need some suggestions for things to see and do so here’s a short beginner’s guide to visiting Marrakech.

Visit the ancient medina and admire the 13th century walls that surround it. The souk, one of the largest in Morocco, is a tourist’s dream, such is the variety of artefacts and souvenirs you’ll find there. Take an official guide to show you round, with visits to a couple of palaces and museums included.

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Events in Marrakech: December 2011 through February 2012

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Marrakech Events December 2011

International Marrakech Film Festival 2011 – firmly established in the local calendar, this is the main event for December in Marrakech.  Attracting ‘A list’ stars, it is an important occasion for Morocco’s successful film industry, based in Ouarzazate, where the Atlas Studios have played host to countless films from Lawrence of Arabia to Gladiator.

Olive Festival 2011 – another major event, this charming festival takes place in the middle of the month in Rafai, in the Fez province. You can enjoy the traditional olive-picking ceremony, numerous ‘Diffa’ feasts and folklore events performed in a vast area of olive groves.

Marrakech Events January 2012

Marrakech International Marathon 2012more than 5000 international runners take part in the annual Marrakech International Marathon and Half Marathon for which the Pink City offers an exceptional setting for this gruelling athletic event putting it among the most attractive of all marathon circuits.

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