You are here

Souks and Serenity in Marrakech

The air is warm and mysterious, the fading sunlight casts shadows down the dusty, ochre-hued alleyway and calls to prayer resound in the far distance. This is Marrakech: a chaotic and enchanting city in Morocco.

Navigating the Medina Maze

Ahead, the path meanders with sporadic twists and turns, surrounded by high riads (Moroccan houses and hotels), that spark up their own sense of imagination: what hides behind all those bare, burnt-terracotta walls? Even the most experienced of cartographers will undoubtedly get lost exploring the maze-like medinas; the pathways fork off endlessly into different and confusing directions. But that’s part of the fun. Exploring the unknown and getting well and truly lost. The market vendors weave along the alleyway with their rickety, wooden wheelbarrows with sweet-smelling, cake-shaped Moroccan bread precariously balancing on top, whilst motorcyclists dodge past as if the narrow walkway were a main road.

Heart of the City

Life in Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square, is just as chaotic. Vendors beckon buyers into their shops like long-lost friends, with the promise of Moroccan mint tea and a “good price”. Brass lanterns bejewelled with multi-coloured gems gleam from the shop fronts, whilst magical lotions and potions and supposedly magic carpets are other items on offer. Life and commerce seem charmingly ancient here: haggling for a price is customary, if not expected, and modernity is like an unknown foreign language. Be sure to taste some of the Moroccan delicacies along the way; from the sweet, honey-coated pastries to the round, thick-crusted Khobz bread (perfect when dipped in a hearty tagine).

Peaceful Garden Strolls

Step outside of the city and into Jardin Majorelle, and the chaos is replaced with a sense of serenity that seems almost unimaginable coming straight from Djemaa el-Fna. Originally founded by French painter, Jacques Majorelle, in 1931, the garden was acquired by Yves Saint Laurent in 1980 to prevent it from being turned into a hotel. Inside its walls, approximately 300 types of exotic plants from around the world grow in abundance, including cactus, yuccas, water lilies, bougainvillea, palm trees, coconut trees and banana trees. It’s a haven for botanical lovers.

Berber Tribal Artefacts

Within the gardens, the Berber museum, painted in bright cobalt blue, offers a rich insight into the Berber culture, with more than 600 objects from the Rif to the Sahara on display, ranging from jewellery and garments to tribal weapons and weavings. Outside, bright yellow flowerpots perched around the building lend a refreshing splash of Mediterranean colour to the tropical oasis. The garden’s silence is almost overwhelming: lily pads float in the middle of the pond, water gently trickles from the fountain and the plant’s leaves gently rustle as a gust of occasional breeze finds its way through the gardens. It’s a peaceful place to explore, after learning about the Berber culture and history.

Bathhouse Rituals

After navigating Marrakech’s chaos and calm, a relaxing hammam experience at a Moroccan bathhouse is the perfect way to round off a trip to the magical city. Originating in Roman times, the first hammam to be brought to Marrakech dates back to 1572, its purpose being a space for washing rituals and socialising. Originally intended for men only, the hammam experience has since been opened up to women and the bathhouses are divided by gender. The ritual involves a soap soaking (made from olive oil), scrub, exfoliation and rinse. Hammams are open to the public and can be found within most neighbourhoods.

Marrakech is a magical, mysterious and charming city with many treasures and hidden gems around every corner. A visit to the Moroccan metropolis feels like stepping into a whole new world.

 Fancy plotting your own African adventure? Our friendly Travel Consultants can tailor-make you the trip of a lifetime!

Written by Sophie Cole

Always dreaming about the next travel adventure, I am happiest when I am on the open road exploring the wild beauties of the natural world. I love a challenge, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, whether it’s learning to surf, running a marathon, hiking a mountain or skydiving through the African skies.

More articles from this author >