Known as the 'Pearl of the South' or the 'Red City', Marrakech is an enchanting destination that hides behind its red ochre walls some of the most popular sites in Morocco. The city is also the starting point for many excursions for visitors wishing to explore the Atlas Mountains or the desert further south.
The second largest city in Morocco after Casablanca, Marrakech is nestled at the foot of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains.
This thousand-year-old city, where traditions have remained alive, is divided into two parts, the historic city or medina and the new city whose main districts are the Guéliz and Hivernage.
The city has become a Moroccan tourist mecca, welcoming more than two million tourists each year.
Marrakech was founded in 1062 by Youssef Ibn Tachfin, the first ruler of the Almoravid dynasty.
The city quickly established itself as an influential cultural and religious center featuring numerous mosques and was surrounded by ramparts.
The rich history of this city, which was at times the capital of Morocco, is still evident today in its architecture.
In 1147, the Almohads took over the city and built many palaces and religious buildings, such as the famous Mosque of Koutoubia, built on the ruins of an Almoravid palace.
The city reached its peak in the early 16th century, thanks to Sultan Saadian Mohammed El Mahdi who embellished it by restoring ruined monuments and building sumptuous palaces.
The medina (a name that means 'city' in Arabic) is the historic city whose first adobe walls were built in 1132. Part of the original wall is still visible today.
Many times enlarged and redeveloped, it presents an incredible labyrinth of streets and alleys.
The huge enclosure of the medina is pierced by 19 gates, the two main ones being
Bab Doukkala and Bab Aghmat.
It is inside these walls that you can admire the majority of the historical monuments of Marrakech: the Koutoubia Mosque, the Jamaâ El Fna Square (classified as a World Heritage Site in 2001 by Unesco), as well as many palaces.
Sites and monuments
Other tourist sites in Marrakech include: the Medersa Ben Youssef (16th century), the Almoravid qoubba (12th century), the Saadian Tombs (16th century), the El Mouassine Mosque (12th century) and its fountain, and the Golden Apples Mosque.
You can also admire the Bahia Palace and the El Badi Palace, as well as gardens Dating from the 12th century: the Menara Gardens and the Agdal Gardens.
Museum lovers can visit the Musée de Marrakech, the Musée Dar Si Saïd, the Musée d'art islamique as well as the Musée Bert Flint.
The souks of Marrakech
In the souks of Marrakech, a huge maze of alleys starting from the north of Jamaâ el Fna Square, all the traditional trades are represented.
This very lively place is to be discovered early in the morning, taking advantage of the freshness of the beginning of the day. You will surely find your happiness in this labyrinth that gathers the wool market, the spice market or the carpet souk and the potters' souk, where you can find dishes to Tajine and glazed pottery.
Hiking around Marrakech
Many hikes are organized from Marrakech, mainly to the Toubkal Massif (70 km to the south) and the beautiful landscapes of its national park.
You can also take the desert road, following the old caravan trails. Longer or shorter raids in 4X4 or quad are proposed, but the best way to fully enjoy the magic of the great desert spaces is the camel ride.