Morocco’s Imperial Cities: Marrakech

As one of Morocco’s four Imperial Cities – the other three being Fes, Meknes and Rabat – Marrakech is awash with history and culture, and has a host of attractions to visit and memorable experiences to enjoy. Some of the most visited attractions in Marrakech include Jemaa el-Fnaa, the Majorelle Garden, Bahia Palace and Koutoubia Mosque and the Royal Palace.

Jemaa el Fnaa is the main square of the city and a hive of activity where tourists mingle with locals as they go about their daily routine. In the day there are snake charmers and youths with Barbary apes who are keen to pose for photographs (for a price). Visitors can enjoy mint tea and delicacies at the sidewalk cafés and watch the hustle and bustle around them. In the evening, young boys of the Chleuh tribe entertain with traditional Berber music and dancing, while story-tellers weave their tales with dramatic gestures and expressions and magicians amaze the crowds with their sleight of hand tricks. Certainly a visit to Marrakech would not be complete without spending some time in Jemaa el Fnaa.

Previously the home of renowned French artist Jacques Majorelle, the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech feature cobalt blue painted buildings, sparkling fountains, bold sculptures, magnificent artworks, and a huge variety of plants, including an impressive collection of cacti. Moreover, the gardens are home to more than 15 bird species which are endemic to North Africa, as well as housing the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech.

Surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, the Bahia Palace was built by the Grand Vizier of Marrakech in the late 19th century, where he lived with his extensive family. The palace was designed to pay tribute to Moroccan and Islamic architectural styles and with the privacy of its inhabitants in mind. Hundreds of craftsmen worked on the stucco, wood and other intricate embellishments of the palace, and visitors should be sure to pay attention to these.

Completed during the reign of Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur and situated in alongside Jemaa el Fnaa, the Koutoubia Mosque is the largest in Marrakech. It is constructed of red stone and brick with the 77meter tall minaret made of sandstone. On top of the minaret is a uniquely Moroccan style spire consisting of gilded copper balls decreasing in size toward the top.

Museums providing insight into this North African country and its people include the Dar Si Said Museum, Marrakech Museum and Museum of Islamic Art. When visiting the Imperial City of Marrakech, be sure to include some of these fascinating attractions in your itinerary.