In Marrakech (or Marrakesh) it is forbidden to be bored . The colors, the architecture, the souqs, the fiery sunsets, the song of the muezzin are the aspects that attract millions of visitors every year . Important numbers, all the more if we consider that the tourist part actually coincides with the Medina, the “old city” . In the Ville Nouvelle, the “new part”, where the majority of the population lives (Marrakech has around 1 million inhabitants), apart from the Jardin Majorelle and a few other attractions, there is not much to see. But beyond the things to do on vacation, what is striking is humanity: from traders, to snake charmers, passing through taxi drivers and the many Westerners who, also thanks to the climate, have chosen the city as their own “buen retiro ” , Marrakech is a real crossroads: first of all between its rural part and that dedicated to trade (only Casablanca has a greater number of commercial activities), and more generally between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, especially France whose protectorate has greatly influenced customs and city customs. Below we review the main attractions of the city. Happy reading .
Jemaa el Fna
At the beginning we mentioned the French influence on the city. The strong cultural heritage is also present in the toponymy . Not surprisingly, Jemaa el Fna , the nerve center of Marrakech, is also known as the “Place” . Not just any square, but the busiest in Africa ( UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 ) with thousands of people crossing it at all hours of the day and night. A mix of street performers , fortune tellers , scribes , herbalists , monkey and iguana trainers who make a living on this huge“Square-stage” . A place that also returns the complexity of the continent against all stereotypical readings of Africa. Take for example the “gnaoua” musicians and dancers who from dusk onwards enliven the square with music, dances and songs. Historically they come from Ghana, Sudan, Mali, New Guinea and, over the centuries (their arrival in Morocco dates back to the seventeenth century), they have preserved the customs and traditions of the countries of origin, hybridizing them, however, with Berber influences . Arab-Andalusian and Islamic. A mixture on which, as if that were not enough, French culture was grafted during the twentieth century. In short, a complex story that certainly cannot be grasped in all its nuances at once: therefore , it is necessary to return to Jemaa el Fna several times , also taking into account the race of the sun. Depending on the time, in fact, the atmospheres of the square change up to the fiery sunsets that are absolutely worth capturing. Visit it with a local guide from Morocco tours.
What has already been said about Jemaa el Fna applies to the souks . In all likelihood, in fact, during your stay you will return several times to visit this intricate maze of alleys where practically everything is sold. And, every time, despite the map and the view of the Koutoubia minaret , you will get lost. Don’t worry though. Getting lost in the souks of Marrakech is a beautiful experience and, perhaps, the best way to fully enjoy the atmosphere and the varied humanity that crowd these alleys full of shops. Olives (see photo) , dates , nuts , dried fruit , jewels ,tea sets , the inevitable slippers and an infinity of other more commercial products which, however, magically take on an exotic touch for the sui generis context in which they are exhibited. In short, without prejudice to the above, it is a must to dedicate at least half a day to discovering the souqs of Marrakech. Among other things, you can take the opportunity to see other situations that are also worth a visit. Two in particular: the Maison de la Photographie , a space dedicated to Moroccan photography from the nineteenth century to the present day and the small, but pretty, Musée de Marrakech showcase of typical local craftsmanship.
Medersa by Ali ben Yousef
Fortunately, Arab-Andalusian architecture is everywhere in Marrakech and therefore not being able to visit the sacred buildings is not a great loss. Among the few exceptions, the medersa (or madrasa) of Ali ben Yousef, a Koranic school of the fourteenth century which closed its doors definitively in 1962. In the period of maximum splendor the building housed 900 students and for a very long time represented the Koranic school largest in the Maghreb . Visiting the medersa means getting in tune with the best of Hispano-Moorish artamong marbles, stuccos, ceramics and geometric decorations that make up for the impossibility, foreseen by Islam, of representing human figures and other zoomorphisms. Ali ben Yousef’s Medersa can be visited all year round with the exception, of course, of religious holidays. Possibility of cumulative ticket with the nearby Musée de Marrakech. Not to be missed!
The funduqs of Rue Mouassine
The funduqs of Rue Mouassine are another “must see place” in Marrakech. We are still in the Medina, not far from the Jemaa el-Fna and the maze of the souks. Like these places, the funduqs are mainly used for trade. With one particularity, however: instead of in the square or in the picturesque souq, transactions take place inside buildings with imposing portals and large courtyards where goods are crammed . It must be said that many of Mouassine’s funduqs are in a state of neglect, while others, fortunately, have been adapted to artisan workshopswhich, with their activity, project the most attentive visitors into a very ancient dimension, when also other cities such as, for example, Genoa , Naples and Venice presented this particular architectural element ( fóndaco ) today almost completely disappeared. Book your tickets with Travelling In Morocco