Archive for the ‘Marrakech Tourist Attractions’ Category

One hump not two – a dromedary ride in Marrakech

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

If on a quest for the exotic and evocative you simply cannot pass up the opportunity to ‘sail’ through the Marrakech desert on one of its most mysterious ‘ships’.

Located in the north-east corner of Marrakech, La Palmeraie is a palm-filled oasis shaded by thousands of trees and the perfect sanctuary from the heat and madness of the inner city.

Riding through the Palmeraie is a great way to explore the rural outskirts of Marrakech. Tours last from 20 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how much time you have, and most will include a halt en route for a cup of mint tea and Moroccan pancakes.

If you fancy the idea of experiencing something rather special, indeed unique, here are a couple of tips:

1. Wear long trousers and long socks – the motion of the camel will cause your trousers to creep up (and camel hair is itchy), so wear long socks to save you from sun, sand and scratching!

2. Don’t forget your sunscreen – even though the Palmeraie is mostly shady. A hat and sunglasses may also be a good idea.

3. Be confident – animals pick up on your attitude so if you’re comfortable, your camel should be too.

Five more places to visit in Marrakech

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Last month we published a selection of five of the best-known buildings in Marrakech illustrating different periods of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Here are another five buildings, monuments and gardens which should also be included on one’s list of ‘what to see in Marrakech’.

1. The Musée Dar Si Said. This museum of Moroccan Art is situated in a 19th century palace built for Si Saïd ibn Moussa, the Minister of War, in the mid 19th century. It surrounds a splendid courtyard, full of flowers and shady cypress trees, with a gazebo and fountain.

The exhibition rooms around the courtyard display a wide range of items from the long history of arts and crafts including carved doors, extraordinary stucco artistry and mosaics, plus jewellery, rugs, wedding costumes, leatherwork items and pottery. One can also visit the domed reception room and the former harem quarters.

2. The Ben Youssef koranic school. Situated close to the centre of Marrakech, this fascinating building is a former Islamic college where students came to learn and study the Koran. Founded in the 14th century, it was rebuilt in the 16th century during the Saadian Dynasty. Student cells and other rooms are disposed on three floors around a central courtyard dominated by a large pool in which students carried out their ablutions. The larger reception rooms are notable for their beautifully decorated and carved cedar beamed ceilings, marble floors and intricate plaster stuccowork. Wall and floor tiles, set in geometric patterns, bear inscriptions and quotations from the Koran. The school closed in 1960 but was restored and opened as an historical site in 1982.

3. The Palais des Congrès (conference centre). This contemporary building, resplendent with Islamic decorative overtones, is the city’s principle exhibition centre, home to major events such as the International Film Festival, numerous conferences and trade fairs. The space, which can accommodate up to 5,500 people, is located in the elegant Hivernage district on Boulevard Mohamed VI, home to many of the smartest hotels and residences.

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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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5 alternative activities in Marrakech

Friday, February 1st, 2013

A hive of activity year round, Marrakech fizzes along with its varied menu of delights to tourists from the world over. As we have covered a number of these in previous posts we thought it would be useful to mention a short selection of alternative attractions, most of them outside the city of Marrakech itself.

1)     The Berbers of Morocco. The Berber Cultural Centre offers a glimpse into the history and culture of Morocco’s indigenous people (Arabs began to arrive only in the 8th century) comprising around half of the population today, most of them in the south-west and the mountainous areas of the High and Middle Atlas.

This fascinating centre reveals the full colourful history and customs of the Berber people from pre-Arab times to the present day.

2)     Jetski in Marrakech! Why not?! Just 30 minutes from Marrakech, at the foot of the High Atlas, snow capped in winter, you’ll find Lake Takerkoust, home to Atlas Jet and a private beach. Here you can ‘max out’ on thrills thanks to the latest Yamaha jetskis.

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Events in Marrakech February and March 2013

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Events in Marrakech February 2013

The Dakka Marrakchia Festival 1–28 February 2013

This annual festival of traditional Marrakchi music, which has taken place in one form or other for hundreds of years, is the opportunity for local people, professionals as well as enthusiastic amateurs, to express their musical talents.

At several street venues the air is filled with the sounds of Berber and other traditional music and frenetic rhythmic drumming.

Events in Marrakech March 2013

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Uncovering the culture of Marrakech

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

The culture heritage of Marrakech can be soaked up in many places throughout the city’s famous medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The heritage is diverse, not just in terms of Arab, Berber and Muslim influence but historically, best exemplified by monuments associated with centuries of ruling dynasties in the form of tombs, traditional architecture, palaces and kasbahs.

It is in and around the Marrakech medina that most of its historic treasures are to be found, often hidden in the maze of its twisting alleys and narrow streets.

 Founded in 1070, Marrakech was for centuries a major political, economic and cultural centre of the western Muslim world, its influence extended, notably, to Andalusia.

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The fashion boutiques of Marrakech – Where to shop and what to wear in Marrakech

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Marrakech is well known as a shopper’s paradise! Haggling in the labyrinthine souks with their myriad of coloured slippers, hand-stitched leather bags and woven baskets is still an essential part of every Moroccan holiday.

However, these days there are plenty of other, more sophisticated boutique shops that blend traditional styles with modern Western couture, one reason no doubt why stars like  Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker have been seen recently in the elegant stores of Marrakech, a number of which are listed below.

What to Wear in Marrakech

A long silky kaftan or loose top and harem-style trousers would be most appropriate for ladies relaxing in their riads or shopping in the medina where it’s best to ensure that one is suitably covered, this being a Muslim country. Leave heels at home and opt for sensible walking shoes or jewelled sandals for the evening.

A Bedouin tunic is an ideal purchase when in Marrakech. Go for full length, covered in bright pom-poms and embroidery, perfect for throwing over your bikini.

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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 Music of Marrakech and Morocco

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Wherever you travel in Morocco you’ll hear music, the basic expression of the country’s folk culture. Traditional Moroccan music is an important part of everyday life, evident at every celebration, and is most often heard at celebrations of births, marriages, funerals, religious gatherings and festivals.

Ancient Berber music can be found in villages of the mountainous regions while in the cities the Arabic tradition is more evident, through instruments and music brought by Arabs from the east and Andalusian Spain.

Since the 1970’s Morocco has spawned indigenous pop (chabbi music), ranging from protest songs to dance music – these are often the sounds you’ll hear throughout Marrakech, in taxis, bus station PA systems and in shops, cafes and restaurants.

Video of musicians in Dejmaa el Fna

Visit any souk and the chances are you’ll find musicians playing. Festivals are best for discovering the wide variety of Moroccan musical styles such as Berber,Gnawa, Jajouka, Chabbi, Griha, Moroccan Rap, Sephardic and Sufi.

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