Our trip to Marrakech was the first time we ever visited a place with such a different culture from the Western culture we have always been used to. Marrakech is fascinating precisely because of that: even though it’s so close to Europe, its traditions, its way of life, are completely different. And that ends up making us feel like we’ve entered a whole new world.
We arrived in Marrakech from Madrid and so the cultural shock was immediate and intense! It was November and while in the rest of Europe you could feel winter coming, in Marrakech we only got sunny days and spent most of our time in short-sleeves.
Marrakech was a unique experience from the moment we landed at the airport. From the landscapes of sandy dunes that we could see from the plane window to the beige taxis that were waiting for us at the airport to the bustling city atmosphere – it was phenomenal.
Because we were in such a different city, we wanted to explore everything at a slower pace. We didn’t feel that usual need to try to see as many attractions as possible. We just wanted to take it easy to really feel the Moroccan culture.
Still, there are some places that just have to be included in a Marrakech itinerary. Check out our suggestions for the places you can’t miss in this City of Spices:
This square, which is recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, is the heart of Marrakech located in its medina. It’s here that you can live and feel all of the culture of the Moroccan Arab people. You’ll find everything here from storytellers to snake charmers, shamans, henna artists and all kinds of street performers. The daily market that takes place here transforms into an open-air restaurant at sundown filled with food stalls selling all kinds of Moroccan treats.
While at Jemaa el-Fna, you just have to head down one of the many narrow streets to enter the Arab shopping world. It’s here that you’ll find one of the traditional souks: the Arab markets where everything is sold from cellphones to football jerseys, perfumes, carpets and much more. You’ll find these souks all over the old town and it will be hard to resist checking them out and practicing your bargaining skills!
EL BADI PALACE
It can seem strange to say this but the truth is that the El Badi Palace is the most beautiful ruin of Marrakech. Built in the end of the 16th century in celebration of their victory in the Battle of Three Kings, the palace lived its golden age during the Saadian dynasty that turned into one of the most beautiful palaces in the Arab world. Currently, only its ruins remain but it’s still worth a visit!
The Koutoubia Mosque can be seen and felt across all of Marrakech. At 70m talls, its minaret is visible in the city panorama and, five times a day, it’s here that the call to prayer starts. The mosque’s architecture, which is also the biggest in the city, is worth a peak up close!
Entering the Jardin Majorelle is like entering into an oasis in the middle of the desert. Here, you’ll find the most exotic plants in the world combined in the most colorful way. Don’t miss the Love Gallery designed by Yves Saint-Laurent. Joana and I just had to photograph the phrase “Love 2005” – the year we started dating.
This mausoleum houses the tombs of over 60 members of the Saadian dynasty and almost 200 members of their court. Embellished with wooden carvings, marble details and poetic verses of the Koran, the tombs are true work of art that deserves to be admired.
PEPE NERO RESTAURANT
It’s always important to save a moment on our trips to for a special experience. And our dinner at Pepe Nero was just that. We looked and looked for this restaurant – and even wound up getting lost until we found a very nice man that took us there. The effort was worth it: this gourmet restaurant not only has mouthwatering food but it also offers up an elegant space, decorated with all of the enchanting details of Arab architecture. Perfect for a romantic dinner.