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Bustling Souks And Tranquil Gardens

Posted on November 16, 2009 | Fascinating CitiesNo Comment



Not far from major tourist destinations like Casablanca and Rabat, Marrakech makes for a good getaway destination. Even by itself, this Moroccan city is worth visiting.

In what is also known as the Rose city, you will find yourself wandering amidst magnificent gardens, the Riads or traditional Moroccan houses, the souks(markets) and the tombs while you are gravitating towards the museums of the city.

Following are the sites you must visit when in Marrakech

Djemaa el Fna1.Djemaa El Fna

The Djemma El Fna or the Place of Dead serves as a place to gather in or as for staging street theatre. A variety of performers come alive here in this city square as evenings sets in. They include acrobats, henna tattoo artists, snake charmers, belly dancers, musicians and potion sellers.  Surrounded by Cafes and restaurants, there also are hawkers selling you mint, orange juices, dry fruits and other food items. The overall feel is like that of an entertainment fair, for the tourists and the locals as well.

2.Museums

A number of Museums that many of the historic buildings of Marrakech have been converted to are bound to attract you. Most of these were palaces before.

  • The Bahia Palace
    This 19th century palace still functions as a royal residence while there are plenty of rooms for the public to peak in and get an idea of the royal lifestyle of Marrakech. These include the former residence of the Grand Viziers’ four wives. Stuccoworks, mosaics, carved woodwork combine together to give an intricate décor to the rooms.
  • Musee Dar Si Said
    This one is again a 19th century mansion of Sidi Said which now has invaluable collections of daggers, musical instruments, carved doors and unique kitchen tools as well! There is a marvellous wedding chamber with as dome reach through the maze formed by the rooms.
  • Musee Tiskiwin
    This museum is in on of the Riads or the Moroccan houses and is home to folk art collections from Tuareg artifacts of Sahara to the Berber decorations from the Atlas Mountains, belonging to Dutch collector Bert Flint.marrakech museum
  • Musee de Marrakech
    The Musee de Marrakech or the Museum of Marrakech is 19th century mansion built by Mnehbi family and today has collections of carpets, jewellery, ceramics, furnitures, textiles and even manuscripts on display. In proximity to this Museum are the Ali Ben Yousself Medersa and mosque, a former Koranic school with an exquisite architecture and the Koubba el Badiyin, a structure built by city’s Almoravid founders.

The Ali Ben Youssef Medersa, a former Koranic school is beautiful architectural sites. The courtyard has been made of stucco, mosaic and marbles, carved cedar make the balconies.

You can get a combined ticket to visit all the three places on the same day.

In one of the popular gardens of Marrakech, the Mojorelle Garden is the Museum of Islamic Art, which has Yves Saint Laurent’s collection of local arts and antiques.

souks of marrakech3.Souks

Souks, as the traditional North African markets are called, perhaps make Marrakech the tourist capital of Morocco. From leather goods to hammocks to souvenirs to carpets to food, there’s nothing that’s missing in these places.  The souks to the north of the Djemaa el Fna are the favourite ones.

4.Tanneries

If you are curious about how the souks of Marrakech have such good leatherworks, visiting the Tanneries to the north east of souks would be a good idea. The tricks used here have been there since centuries. While the tanneries are definitely not picturesque, those interested might find the whole process of dying leathers quite fascinating.

5.Sa’adian Tombs

At a short walk from Djemma el Fna is the entrance to the Sa’adian tombs, open to public in 1917. They were built bysaadian tombs the Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour for himself and his family in the 16th century and have about 100 mosaic graves.  Two separate mausoleums overlook an enclosed garden, with an intricate décor of domes ceilings, carvings and marble pillars.

6.Majorelle and other gardens of Marrakech

Take a break from the chaotic souks and visit one of the many gardens of Marrakech.

The Mojorelle garden, named after its creator and French painter Louis Majorelle in 1924 has plenty of fauna around for a peaceful time. The Menara Gardens with the Atlas Mountain as its backdrop is a popular picnic place for the people of Marrakech. It was laid out in 12th century by Almohads as a working farm. The 30,000 olive trees and a pool with fishes along with menzeh, a pavilion meant for picnic creates a refreshing ambience.

The Agdal Garden is another peaceful place in the south of Marrakech with fine orchards, pools and a large lagoon.

El Badi Palace
7.The El Badi Palace

Built in 1578 by Sa’adian Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour, the name of this palace means `the incomparable’. The palace was once lavishly decorated in marble, gold, ivory, cedar wood and precious stones but was left to decay after the Sultan died.  The main attraction here today is the 12th century minbar or pulpit inlaid with silver and gold, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the two weeks of National Festival of Popular Arts held annually in summer. It also serves as a lounge and as a venue for electronic music festivals.

Another palace in Marrakech that demands a visit is the El Bahia palace, built in the 19th century and complete with a garden of banana flowers and other flowers and courtyards.

8.The Koutoubia Mosque

Dominating the skylines, the Koutoubia Mosque dates back to the 12th century. Of special attractions is its Moroccan mosque koutoubiaarchitecture with archways and facades on the carved square minaret. There is a recently renovated garden that gives you a glimpse of the foundations of the 11th century Almoravid mosque. As it was not aligned with Mecca, it was demolished.

Touring the city

Once you reach the Djemaa El Fna, you can walk to other attractions of this North African city. It would be best and of more pleasure to walk around and explore the city by yourself. However, if there’s a crunch of time you can ask your hotel or the tourist office to arrange a good authorized guide for you. Negotiating the fees beforehand would be better. There are other agencies that can arrange for group walking tours.

You can also get on a caleche, a carrier drawn by a small horse, for a romantic ride of the city.

You could also go for trekking to the Ourika Valley, part of the High Atlas mountain range, stay at one of the local villages there and then head for Todra gorges – rock formations that change colour with sunrise and sunset. If you are game, you could go further to the Sahara desert.

For excursions, desert camel journey, hunting, fishing and white-water rafting a little away from the city are other good options you might want to explore.

One visit to Marrakech and you will be willing to come back again for more. While civilizations have come and gone here, kings and Sultans have ruled and died the inspirations of every little thing that forms the history of this city are still alive, enchanting tourists to the core and making them ask for more.

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