A DAY IN THE RED CITY - MARRAKECH
Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls (the medina), bordered by modern neighbourhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic centre and tourist destination.
There are many Mosques in Marrakech, the most famous being Koutoubia on the south west corner of Jmaa el Fnaa, the Square, and the call to Prayer can be heard across the city 5 times a day.
Breakfast in you Riad will generally be croissant, fresh juice, jam and honey, maybe yoghurt with fresh seasonal fruit or Baghi pancakes. Most Riads have a terrace where you can dine. Arrangements can be made before you leave you Riad for the day to have your evening meal prepared for you and also if you require washing of clothes, that can be done while you tour the city.
There are many places to visit in Marrakech so it’s always best to have a plan. If you are using a tour company, your driver will help you choose the sites you would like to visit and have knowledge of where there is a guide needed (e.g. Jmaa el Fnaa), and the most direct routes. If you are going alone, then locating the sites will of course take longer and you will need maps and directions from the locals. Driving yourself in Marrakech will not be easy, there is a lot of traffic at all times of the day, permanent rush hour, and you will need good nerves.
Taxis are a good option for travelling in Marrakech. You will need to hail a ‘Petite Taxi’, which in Marrakech is yellow. Grande taxis, usually old Mercedes, are to travel outside of Marrakech to other cities. Always ask for a price to travel before you get in. I have only come across one driver who tried to charge me too much in Marrakech.
I would not recommend travelling on local public buses unless you speak excellent Arabic.
Lunch - There are many places to eat in Marrakech. I usually ask my driver where he is having lunch and I eat there too. This way you have genuine Moroccan food at a reasonable price.
Shopping - I never shop in Marrakech. It is less expensive if you wait till you are in the country where you can buy the same goods at maybe less than half the price asked for in the Medina in Marrakech. If you a being annoyed by men in the medina wanting you to buy their goods, a simple shake of the head..no..and a hand signal no..and keep walking.
The New City has modern shops and supermarkets and you can find western style clothes and shoes, toiletries etc. Menara Mall is the newest shopping complex in Marrakech and is certainly worth a visit. It is very opulent, has 2 shopping levels, a supermarket and three levels of entertainment for children with cafes and restaurants.
After a busy day, walking and exploring, there is always the option to have dinner at your accommodation. Alternatively, you could also choose outdoor eating in the Square where you will find many variations of traditional cuisine. All very tasty, fresh and very in-expensive. There are restaurants in the square with terraces and its lovely to have dinner by candlelight and view the whole square from your terrace while you dine. Alcohol is permitted but only in your accommodation where you can bring your own or choose from a selection offered.
Coffee – Moroccans drink black coffee, but you can order coffee with milk, café crème will be understood at most cafes. Very few cafes have food, usually only coffee, juice, water or fizzy drink.
Following is a list of places to visit in Marrakech:
Plazas and squares – Jmaa el-Fnaa, City walls and Gates, Place Bab Doukkla, Square Bin Anzaran, Place du 16 Novembre
Gardens – Jardin Majorelle, Menara Gardens, Agdal gardens, Koutoubia Mosque.
Mosques – Koutoubia, Ben Youssef, Mouassine Mosques.
Palaces – El Badi Palace, Royal Palace, Bahia Palace.
Tombs and Burial grounds – Saadian Tombs, Seven Saints Tombs
Museums – Berber Museum of the Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech Museum, Dar Si Said Museum.
Instituitions – Ben Youssef Madrassa, Cadi Ayyad University.
Other – The Jewish Mellah, Gare de Train (Marrakech Train Station)