It is widely known that Morocco is a completely different country compared to ours, in terms of culture, customs or weather, despite being that close to Europe.
If you live in the south of Europe, you have a lot of reasons to visit Morocco. Keep reading to find out what they are:
- First and foremost, due to proximity. Depending on the area of Spain you live in, you’ll fly 3 hours tops. Equally, you have the option of travelling by ferry from the south of Spain, with the possibility of taking your car with you to move around the country. You’ll need to be patient because border crossing by car tends to be rather slow.
- Money is more valuable for the currency exchange. Just so you have a rough idea of what that means, a meal in Marrakesh can cost you 50 or 60 dirhams, that is, around 5 euros.
- Getting to visit the desert, medinas or mosques: this is something not only different to what you can find in other near-by destinations but also something unique. Moroccan squares become something of a show with merchants selling fruits and juice, snake charmers, buskers, jugglers and craftsmen. As for the desert, you’ll find a unique scenario where you’ll be able to dress like a Tuareg and ride a camel across the Sahara, as well as spend the night there, surrounded by dunes under a starry night.
- Cuisine: with delicious dishes such as «tajine», a lamb and/or chicken dish with vegetables, and couscous, a dish of semolina combined with vegetables, you won’t miss your regular diet, for the options in Morocco are quite varied, besides being very affordable, just as we mentioned earlier.
Do you need any more reasons to visit this amazing country? There are plenty of reasons to visit Morocco, but we are sure that this was just the extra little push you needed to take the plunge. Now, it is time we share with you the 10 things you cannot miss if you are travelling to Marrakesh, one of the most popular cities among tourists and probably the one receiving most international flights.
Things you cannot miss in Marrakesh
This city, along with Meknez, Fez and Rabat, is one of the four imperial cities in Morocco. Founded in 1062 by the Almoravids, it was the capital of the Islamic Empire. It was given the nickname of «Red City» for the colour of its buildings and because this is the predominant colour-scheme in the area. It is also unofficially known as «Pearl of the South» and «South Gate».
1. First, because it is one of the most outstanding spots in the city, we recommend that you go to Djemma el Fna, popularly known as «The Square», located in the hub of the Medina and busy with thousands of people pretty much on a daily basis, apart from being the leisure and meeting point for locals and tourists. But its biggest appeal is not the square in itself, but the liveliness of the scene: coffee shops, terraces, food and fruit stands, crowds, story tellers, snake charmers, dances, and a lot more scenarios worth seeing.
2. The souqs. It is nearly impossible to travel to Marrakesh and not go to the souqs surrounding the square and the whole Medina. They are a symbol of the city and sell pretty much anything you can possibly imagine, from spices, to leather, ornaments, nuts or oils. Then there is also the blacksmith souq. One of the core features of this kind of street markets is the bargaining, which is part of their culture and becomes an experience you do not want to miss out on. The key is not showing too much interest in the product, taking into account that we are going to be asked to pay double or triple of what we initially wanted to pay, but without disregarding the fact that there will not go lower a fixed price. Just bear in mind that these are usually handmade products that require a lot of work and that is something you have to pay for.
3. Koutobia Mosque. Considered a symbol of Marrakesh, the minaret of the Koutobia mosque can be seen from many points in the city (it served as inspiration for the Hassan Tower [Rabat] and the Giralda of Seville). The reason why it can be easily seen is not its height –70 metres– but that buildings in the medina cannot be higher than a palm tree, and given that the city is settled over a flat surface, the visibility of the building is quite good.
Even though non-Muslims are not allowed inside, it is worth dropping by and admire its beauty from the outside, resting on one of its benches while listening to the prayers.
4. The Tanneries (the renowned tanneurs). A way of getting into the most medieval and authentic part of the city is visiting the tanneries, even though the smell can be a bit unpleasant. Thus, we recommend that you place under your nose the mint leaves that you’ll be given upon entering the tanneries. If you are not sure how to get there –they are a bit far away from the souqs– the best thing to do is reach an agreement with a tourist guide who can take you and explain the craft. It is a very eye-opening experience; seeing how the tanners work make you have a bit more of appreciation for what it takes to create a piece.
5. Catch a belly dancing show. For the sensuality involved, this exotic dance will not fail to move you. You can watch this kind of shows in a lot of places, both in and outside the Medina. In some restaurants you can even live the experience while having dinner, as in Comptoir Darna or Le Marrakchi.
6. Majorelle Garden. Designed in 1924 as a place to look for inspiration, this garden is now a moving piece of art, with exotic plants, unconventional species and beautiful fountains, ceramic objects, etc. The designer Yves Saint-Laurent acquired it in 1980 to restore it and add new plant species.
7. Menara gardens. Only two kilometres away from the city, there is this park that will make you feel like a local. It has a 200-metre pond, approximately, filled with carps. The ideal moment to visit is at dusk, when you’ll get to see the Menara pavilion and an artificial pond.
8. Marrakesh walls. They surround the Medina and were built in its day for the city’s defence. They take up 19 km, circling the Medina and the old town, and they are accessed through some beautiful gates, known as Bab. Some of these are Bab el-Hadid, Bab Doukala or Bab el-Khemis.
9. Sleep in a riad or in a haymah (Bedouin tent) in the desert. Riads are the usual form of accommodation in Morocco or traditional houses whose rooms are arranged around a centrally placed courtyard. By staying in a riad you’ll find peacefulness, apart from the hospitality of Moroccan hosts. Regarding haymahs, sleeping in the Sahara desert can be quite a unique experience. You can ride a camel to the campsite where haymahs are built and enjoy a delightful traditional dinner liven up by musicians that will make your night even more special. Fascinating, right?
10. Find peace in a Hamman. Is there anything better than ending your day in a traditional Moroccan hamman? Pick one of the multiple hammans and/or Turkish baths in the city and relax.
Do you need any more reasons to dive into the Moroccan culture?
Now that you know some of the reasons why you should visit Morocco, and Marrakesh in particular, aside from the main spots in the city, we are certain that you are sold on this trip. But, there is something missing, right? If you are travelling to Morocco, you have plan certain things in advance, like exchanging your currency. Do you know how by now? If the answer is no or if you want further information on the matter, here is Global Exchange website.
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