Archive for the ‘What To See In Marrakech’ Category

Ali Ben Youssef Medersa – A Must for Fans of Historic Architecture

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

A splendid place to admire traditional Moroccan architecture while unwinding from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Ali Ben Youssef medersa is a must for anyone interested in art, architecture and Islamic culture in general. A medersa, an intricately decorated school building as impressive in its way as any European university, is critical to the culture of Muslims.

A Brief History

Founded in the 14th Century by Abu al-Hassan, the then ruling Marinid Sultan, the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa is Morocco’s largest madrasa. In 1565, a reconstruction of the original building ordered by Abdallah al-Ghalib (Saadian Sultan 1557 to 1574) was completed. Restored again in 1950 before being closed to both the general public and the faithful in 1960, the madrasa was finally reopened to in 1982 following further restoration work to permit visitors to experience this exquisite master-piece of Moroccan architecture and art.

The Madersa

Featuring 130 dormitory cells for students clustered around a richly carved courtyard with its central rectangular pool and two bronze fountains, Ali Ben Youssef Medersa was one of North Africa’s largest theological colleges and was home to perhaps as many as 900 students at a time.


December 2015 Events in Marrakech

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

One of the year’s cooler months, December in Marrakech is still very pleasant, at least by comparison with much of the rest of the northern hemisphere. Daily temperatures range between lows of 9 degrees to highs of around 20 and you can reckon on around 7 hours of sunshine every day. There are several events and other attractions in Marrakech in December, the International Film Festival being the most notable.

International Film Festival – this year marks the 15th edition of this increasingly popular international event taking place from the 4th – 12th December, the jury president this year being Francis Ford Coppola. An important centre of film production over many decades, Morocco has welcomed some of the top names in the industry in recent years, not least Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese, Orson Wells and David Lean having made films here as far back as the sixties. Following the special tribute last year to Japanese cinema, this year’s festival celebrates Canada’s contribution to the film industry. As usual, several films will be screened on the main square (Jemaa el Fna) in the centre of town, as well as other venues.

New Year’s Eve – although not an official national holiday in a Muslim country like Morocco, which operates to the Islamic as opposed to Gregorian calendar, New Year is celebrated widely, as it is in most major, non-Christian tourist destinations, especially in hotels. At Les Borjs de la Kasbah a gastronomic gala dinner is laid on for guests preceded by cocktails around the pool. The hotel’s main patio becomes a tented dining venue for the evening with a variety of entertainment including music and belly dancing, fire eating display and magic performances at table. After midnight a disc jockey takes over as revellers dance their way into the wee small hours.


Marrakech in November – Events and Other Things to Do

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

With daily temperatures ranging between 11 and 23 degrees, November in Marrakech is very pleasant. Visitors can expect over seven hours of sunshine and little, if any rain (31mm per month). A number of events at this time of year are worthy of note:

November Events in Marrakech

The two main events in Marrakech during November are the Eid Al Massira Al Khadra on the 6th and Eid Al Istiqulal on the 18th.

Eid Al Massira Al Khadra, the ‘Green March’ Anniversary, commemorates the march of 27,000 soldiers and approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans to the Western Sahara’s border on the 6th of November 1975. Identifying with Islam through choice of the symbolic colour green and directed by King Hassan II, the march was undertaken to call for the return of the territory to Morocco.

Marked by varying festivities throughout the country, Eid Al Istiqulal is Morocco’s Independence Day, a National Holiday commemorating the return of King Mohammed from his exile in Madagascar and the subsequent declaration of independence from both France and Spain on this day in 1956.

Other Marrakech Events in November


October festivals in Marrakech & elsewhere

Monday, September 7th, 2015

As late summer moves towards autumn October in Marrakech is arguably the best time of year, although with temperatures still in the high twenties it is hardly cool. One can expect around nine hours of sunshine per day. Rainfall, after the drought of summer, begins to be a feature of the weather once again but, at 23mm, there’s not much of it. If there are fewer festivals in Marrakech now than at other times in the season there are still a number of noteworthy events to draw the crowds.

Fatih Muharram

Fatih Muharram is celebrated by Muslims all over the world on the first day of the Islamic Calendar’s new year which, this year, falls on the 14th October. On this day, Muslims reflect on the journey made by the prophet Mohamed and his followers to Medina in 622 of the Muslim Current Era.

Erfoud Date Festival

This famous festival, celebrated in Erfoud, a small Saharan oasis some six hours to the east of the former garrison town of Ouarzazate, is set to commence at the end of the harvest, usually at the beginning of October. The festival involves traditional dance and music with processions, dromedary races, feasting and the crowning of this year’s ‘Date Queen’.

Tissa Horse Festival

The quiet country town of Tissa, some 30 miles north east of Fes, holds its Horse Festival at the beginning of October (exact date still to be confirmed). At this popular, unique festival hundreds of horsemen and their mounts, decked out in elaborate, colourful, traditional costumes, show off their skills. In addition to equestrian events and competitions, the festival involves a good deal of energetic music, dancing and singing, traditional food and plenty of mint tea.

Tip of the Month

If you’re looking for one of the lesser known places of interest in Marrakech look no further than the Mellah, the historic Jewish neighbourhood. Still in comparatively excellent shape (unlike many Jewish Quarters in Europe), this area offers a one-of-a-kind experience and notable synagogue.

September Events in Marrakech and elsewhere in Morocco

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Morocco hosts a variety of events in September, including:

Marrakech Art Fair - designed specifically for those interested in contemporary art, this event sees collectors and galleries showing off some of their most original modern creations. Most of the best galleries are to be found in Guéliz, the post war commercial quarter of the city.

Latin Dance Festival – open to all, this exciting event, taking place at the Palmaraie Palace resort between 2nd and 8th September, is an exuberant tribute to latin dance and salsa. Pool partys will be held at the Hotel du Golf.

Moonfest Takerkoust – this three-day festival takes place beside the lake of Lalla Takerkoust, in a beautiful part of the Atlas just 35 km (22 miles) from Marrakech. The festival comprises musical gigs (including local and international rock bands) as well as cultural and tourist themed attractions, many of the attendees being housed in a tented village by the lakeside.


Notable Occasions in August in Marrakech

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Marrakech, like all other cities and regions in Morocco, celebrates three major public holidays during August. The first of these events, Allegiance Day, takes place on Friday, the 14th.

Allegiance Day

Zikra Oued Ed-Dahab, as this national holiday is locally known, is celebrated to mark the return, by Mauritania to Morocco, of the disputed region of Oued Eddahab.

Thaourat al-malik wa shâab

On August 20th the country celebrates ‘Thaourat al-Malik wa Shâab’, or ‘The King & the People’s Revolution’, an event commemorating King Mohammed V’s return to Morocco after exile in Madagascar. Mohammed V’s return set in motion the negotiations which eventually led to Morocco becoming an independent nation.

Eid Al Milad

Introduced mainly for the youth of Morocco (Eid Al Milad is often referred to as ‘Youth Day’), this public holiday, on 21st August, marks the official birthday of Mohammed VI. Ascending to Morocco’s throne following the death of his father, King Hassan II, in July 1999, King Mohammed is the Alaouite dynasty’s 18th monarch. Intended to reflect the harmonious relationship between the king and his citizens, Eid Al Milad sets the tone for a joyful, festive atmosphere throughout the country.


Visiting Marrakech – Top Tips for Maximum Enjoyment

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Intriguing, atmospheric and filled with a seemingly endless variety of sightseeing options, the city of Marrakech is one of the most tourist friendly destinations in North Africa and, unlike most of its neighbours in the Maghreb, it suffers from none of the political unrest seen in the Middle East, Egypt and Tunisia. There are, however, a few things you should know in order to get the most out of your visit.

Bringing Cash

It is difficult to find ATMs in most parts of the city’s ancient medina although they are numerous in and around the Jemma El-Fna, the city’s main square. They are also widely available in Gueliz, the modern commercial quarter. Many shops and restaurants accept credit cards, although by no means as many as would be the case in Europe or America. Shopping in the souks invariably requires cash, i.e. Moroccan dirhams, although quite a few traders are happy to accept euros. There are several bureaux de change at Marrakech Menara airport but you will be able to draw cash without much difficulty in many parts of town.


What’s Happening in Marrakech in July 2015

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

July 17th this year marks Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, a month of daytime fasting for all devout Muslims. Eid is celebrated by a day of feasting on a scale similar to the Christian Christmas although, unlike Christmas, the date of the festival of Eid changes every year.

Popular Arts Festival

This is also the first day of one of the major cultural events in the Marrakech calendar – the Popular Arts Festival. Scheduled to take place from 17th to 21st of July, this popular event is one of the city’s biggest and most colourful festivals. Performers, including seductive belly dancers, Berber musicians and international artists, magicians, snake-charmers and others will transform the city (and, in particular, the Djemma el Fna square and El Badi Palace) into a riot of colour and sounds. If you were able to experience only one Moroccan festival in your life this would be the one to go for.


Morocco’s Berber Culture

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

The core national identity of Morocco is based on its predominant twin cultures, indigenous Berber and Arab. Around 45% of Moroccans will claim direct Berber descent and about the same proportion Arab, although given the impact on the country’s history and culture since the arrival of civilisations from the Roman and Phoenician eras, and beyond, the origins of many Moroccans today are more complicated than that.

About the Berbers

The native Imazighen or Berber people of Morocco can be traced back as far as 4,000 years and some of their myths, legends and connections with other parts of Africa go back even further. The strength of the Berber identity is firmly rooted in its unique language and culture, both of which combine Mediterranean, European, Oriental and other international influences. During the seventh/eighth century steady migration from the Middle East and Maghreb introduced Islam and the Arabic language to the country, the two most dominant features of Moroccan culture today.


Visit the Enchanting Valley of Roses

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

While in Marrakech you should consider setting aside a day to visit the fortified village of Kalaa M’Goun (or Kelaat M’Gouna) in the picturesque, aptly-named and fragrant ‘Rose Valley’.

Kalaa M’Goun and the Rose

Appreciated as a departure point for walks and treks into the High Atlas, Kalaa M’Goun is the rose capital of Morocco. Here, the rose is the symbol both of hospitality (guests are given roses before and after meals), and of purity as distilled rose water is used for ablutions.

The Valley of Roses

Tours through the Valley of Roses start at Kalaa M’Goun and end some 30 km away at Bhou Thrar, location of the impressive, fortified village (ksar) that overlooks a beautiful oasis of calm. Distilleries which convert rose petals into rose water (one litre of rose water from no less than seven tons of rose petals) as well as soap and various other related products can be visited throughout the year. Rose derived products may be purchased on site. [M1] [M2] [M3]