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.
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.
This well-known traditional circus complete with clowns, acrobats, illusions and animals comes to Marrakech; the venue is at the city gate Bab Jdid.
The Marrakech Marathon 27th January 2013
Recognised as one of the fastest marathon circuits in the world, the Marrakech course is planned to take in some of the city’s best-known landmarks as it wends its way around the leafy Hivernage quarter and along the main boulevards both in and outside the city.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All year round, Marrakech is a hive of activity and a sensual mix of sounds, scents and scenery. As we like to keep you updated with what is happening in Marrakech on a monthly basis, here are a couple of Marrakech events occurring in November and December 2012.
Marrakech events November 2012
Archery Tournament: 9th -11th November 2012.
Using the theme “Arrow of Friendship”, the ‘3rd Marrakech International Indoor Archery Tournament’ offers something a little different. Archers from all over the world (7 countries were represented by 51 competitors last year) are invited to participate in this unusual event at the Zerktouni Hall, Marrakech, which comprises both an open competition for accomplished archers as well as a cultural programme for all participants.
During turbulent times in volatile countries overseas there are moments when the interests of many of us are not best served by the world’s news media.
To judge by numerous headlines, one could be forgiven for imagining that political unrest is rife not only throughout much of the Middle East but right across North Africa too and that, as a result, travel to these countries, for Americans and Europeans especially, should be discouraged. How often have we been asked over the past year or two “Is Morocco a safe country to visit?”
The question is not surprising – people don’t know the facts because they are not well informed. Well, the good news is that, as far as this north-west corner of Africa is concerned, Life goes on as normal, the political situation being entirely calm as, indeed, it has been throughout the so-called Arab spring.
Apart from a couple of minor, well disciplined demonstrations in Casablanca and Rabat, no social unrest has taken place and the country is as safe to visit today as it has ever been. Read the rest of this entry »