- 1.The Djemma el Fna
Jemaa el Fna is the living heart of the city, and is on UNESCO’s Oral and Immaterial Heritage list. It owes its fame to its size. Its bustle of activity and its unique atmosphere. Open only to pedestrians, it is a whirligig of people to meet and sights to see, scattered with restaurant stalls offering an endless variety of food and drink. Jemaa el Fna really comes to life at flocking to the terraces of the cafes that surround it. There are storytellers to listen to, fortunetellers to consult , acrobats to marvel at , and, of course, the famous Gnawa dances, leaping hither and thither to the hypnotic rhythm of their “Krakachs” ( metal castanets).
Most of the city’s “unmissable”sights are to be found within the old city walls-the Koutoubia, the great square of Jemaa el Fna and the Menara are all symbolic of Marrakech.
The Almohads started on the building of the Koutoubia in 1150, and it took them 40 years to complete. With its simplicity of design, highly sophisticated decoration and perfectly balanced proportions, it is regarded as one of the Maghreb’s most beautiful monuments. It served as a model for two sister mosques, the Giralda in Seville and Hassan Tower in Rabat. Its 77-metre can be seen from 25 km away and, lit up in the evenings, it becomes the city’s “Spiritual lighthouse “.
- 2.Menara gardens
Menara gardens set slightly out of town ,The Menara gardens offers not only a pleasant escape from roaming Marrakech, it also has one of the most photographed settings of Morocco, one which is most enjoyed just the last hour before the gates close. At this time of the day, the place is also cleared of the package tourists, running around with cameras and open remarks on everything they see.
A walk around the menzah must be good for love. Blushing couples do the walk, without holding hands, and most certainly without kissing. All this only adds to the total experience.
So what is this place actually? It is designed as a summer escape- remember that Marrakech is like an oven through mid-summer- with both orchards and olive groves. The pavilion and the basin existed from earlier times, but the present structure was set up in the middle of the 19th century by Sultan Adu r-Rahman
The souqs are basically undercover markets that sell everything from chickens to high-quality crafts. The souqs of Marrakech are considered to be among the best in Morocco, so if you like shopping and bargaining you'll enjoy yourself tremendously. Even if you don't like shopping, the souqs are a cultural experience you wouldn't want to miss. Souqs are divided in to small areas that specialize in a certain good or trade. The metal workers all have their little shops clustered together, as do the tailors, butchers, jewelers, wool dyers, spice merchants, carpet salesmen and so on.
The souqs are situated north of the Djemma el Fna and finding your way around the narrow alleyways can be a bit tricky. Guides are plentiful in Marrakech, so you can always use those services, but getting lost in the chaos is also part of the fun. It's often more interesting to peek in to souqs where local wares are being produced, than to be taken to yet another carpet shop by your guide. If you get lost, just ask for directions back to the Djemma el Fna.
- 4.Majorelle Gardens and the Musuem of Berbers Art
In the 1920's, French artists Jacques and Louis Majorelle created a stunning garden in the middle of Marrakech's new town. The Majorelle gardens are filled with color, plants of all shapes and sizes, flowers, fish ponds and perhaps the most pleasing aspect, tranquility. The designer Yves Saint Laurent now owns the gardens and has also built himself a house on the property. The building that gets most of the attention however is the bright blue and yellow building the Marjorelles used as their studio and which now houses the Musuem of Berbers Art. This small museum includes some good examples of Berbers tribal art, carpets, jeweler, and pottery.
The Majorelle Gardens are filled with rare plants, bright colors and peace. The botanical gardens are situated north-west of the Medina of Marrakech, about a 30 minute walk. (Stop by the wholesale market en route to see mountains of dates, nuts and grains getting bought and sold).
The Majorelle Gardens were designed by a French painter Jacques Majorelle who settled in Marrakech in 1919. In 1980, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent repurchased the gardens and faithfully restored them. Majorelle's workshop is now a small Museum dedicated to Islamic Art. Yves Saint Laurent died recently (June, 2008) and had his ashes scattered in the Majorelle Gardens.
The Majorelle Gardens open every day at 8am. It's worth getting there before 10am when the tour buses start to arrive. The little cafe is open and it 's a perfect spot to get some quiet breakfast. The Gardens close for lunch and re-open at 3pm - 5/7pm (check locally).
- 5.Saadian Tombs
The Saadian dynasty ruled much of southern Morocco during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour created these tombs for himself and his family in the late 16th century, 66 of them are buried here. The tombs were sealed up rather than destroyed in the 17th century and were only re-discovered in 1917. Consequently they are beautifully preserved and the intricate mosaic is stunning. Despite being situated in the heart of the somewhat hectic old town (medina) the tombs are surrounded by a nice peaceful garden.
The tombs are open daily except Tuesday. It's advisable to get there early and avoid the tour groups.
- 6.The Ramparts of Marrakech
The walls of the medina have been standing since the 13th century and make for a wonderful early morning stroll. Each gate is a work of art in themselves and the walls run for twelve miles. The Bab ed-Debbagh gate is the entry point for the tanneries and provides an excellent photo opportunity full of vivid colors from the dyes used. It is a little smelly though.
- 7.Palais Dar Si Said (Museum of Moroccan Arts)
A palace and museum in one and well worth a visit. The palace is opulent and beautiful in itself with a lovely courtyard where you can relax and take some pictures. The museum's displays are well laid out and include jewelery, costumes, ceramics, daggers and other artifacts. The Dar Si Said Museum houses rich collections of popular arts and crafts from Marrakech and the surrounding Berber regions. Also close by is the Dar Tiskiwun Museum, home of the Bert Flint collection and perfect complement to Dar Si Said. The museum is open daily with a couple of hours break for lunch.
- 8.Ali ben Youssef Medersa and Mosque
The Medersa was built in the 16th century by the Saadians and is an undisputed jewel of Moroccan architecture, a great Koranic university composed of marble, stuccowork, mosaics and carved cedar wood, and which attracted students from throughout the Muslim world. and could house up to 900 religious students. The architecture is beautifully preserved and you can explore the tiny rooms where the students used to live. Facing it, the Almoravid Koubba ( or Koubba Ba’Adiyn), built in 1064, is all that is left of the Almoravids and their architecture.
The nearby M’nebhi Palace has been superbly restored and now houses the Marrakech Museum and its exhibitions of contemporary art and Moroccan cultural heritage.
The mosque is adjacent to the Medersa.
- 9.El Bahia Palace
This palace is a wonderful example of the best of Moroccan architecture. There's lots of detail, arches, light, engravings and what's more it was built as a harem's residence, which makes it even more interesting. The palace is open daily with a break for lunch although it is closed when the royal family visits.
- 10.El Badi Palace
Not far away from El Bahia Palace stand the imposing ruins of the El Badi Palace, once regarded as the wonder of the Muslim world and a source of meditation on bygone glories. Only its high walls remain, popular as a nesting place for the region’s storks.