Visiting Marrakech is a unique experience. It's a vibrant, fun, frenetic and totally addicting city. The eclectic mix of a quintessentially Middle Eastern culture, the proximity to Europe and an African touch, make the dynamics of Marrakech, a city that is interesting for everyone. Whether it's the sensory overload of the medina, the garish architecture and art, the fascinating history or the food, Marrakech is a city to explore.
History of the city
Marrakech gave its name to the kingdom of which it has long been the capital. It was founded in the middle of the 11th century by Yūsuf ibn Tāshufīn of the Almoravid dynasty. Surrounded by a vast palm grove, the medina of Marrakech is called the "red city" because of its buildings and its ramparts in rammed earth, which were built during the residence of the Almohads. The heart of the medina is Jamaa el-Fna Square, a bustling market. Nearby is the 12th century Kutubiyyah Mosque, with its 77-meter minaret, built by Spanish captives. The 16th century Saʿdī mausoleum, the 18th century Dar el-Beïda palace (now a hospital) and the 19th century Bahia royal residence reflect the historic growth of the city. Much of the medina is still surrounded by 12th century walls.
As soon as you arrive in Marrakech, mint tea will be offered to you on every occasion and the mixture of fresh mint and sugar is a delight. A cup is served upon arrival at accommodation, meals and at frequent intervals throughout the day and is an important part of Moroccan culture and hospitality. Also, a trip to Marrakech is not complete without ordering some freshly squeezed orange juice from a stall. During the day, the streets are jam-packed with brightly colored orange juice stalls, street performers, snake charmers and henna tattoo artists. Finally, there is a dish that almost certainly features on every menu in Marrakech: the tagine, a stew mixture of meat, vegetables, fruits and spices. Clay pots filled with this tasty tagine are bubbling up in all restaurants and stalls.
A traditional hammam
The Moroccan hammam is a traditional Middle Eastern bathing and purification ritual that ranges from hot to cold. It can vary from one hammam to another but usually involves a hot steam bath, a scrub and finally an immersion in cold water with optional massages. For the locals, visiting the hammam is a social experience, so it would be a sacrilege not to jump in.
From tanneries to stalls, leather is a very popular commodity in Marrakech and magnificent leather products adorn almost every souk in the city. If bags are your weak point, be prepared to come back with a lighter wallet. The maze of shops sells everything from souvenirs and leather goods to electronics.