I get into the yellow cab and go towards Marrakesh downtown, “I’ll go until I can”, says the driver in French. He actually goes beyond: he worms his way into winding alleys, blowing the horn among hurtling mopeds, carts, fruit stands, women wrapped up in their long colorful clothes. When I get out the cab, three guys offer themselves as guides, I say no thank you with a smile and pick up my camera. Then the magic starts, as I explore this place which is as intricate as its alleys.
Have a look at my A to Z guide of things to do and the photographs I took in Marrakech during my visit. I wrote it during my return flight from Morocco, hoping to give you some advice about what you could see in one day or a weekend.
A as Amlou,
a sweet Moroccan paste, halfway between Nutella and peanut butter, made of roasted almonds, honey and argan oil. Love at first taste! Dipping the delicious small cookies in this paste definitely satisfied my sweet tooth.
B as Bakchic,
one of the most hipster restaurants in Marrakech. It’s placed at the end of Rue des Banques, just behind the main square, beside another very colourful and alternative place, the Cantine des Gazelles. The food is great in both.
C as Cats
Cats are everywhere in Marrakech, especially kittens. Keep your eyes open not to trip over one of them, while it’s grooming itself on a sunny morning.
D as Dentists
There are so many dental and doctor’s clinics, pharmacies, health shops, lab analysis and so on in Marrakech. According to my own experience, its best not to take photos of these places as the owners can become quite annoyed.
E as Enter
Entering a mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims in Marrakech. Although in other Muslim countries it is possible to find mosques that can be visited if you aren’t Muslim, the only one in Morocco is in Casablanca. The French brought in this rule when they were in government, as a mark of respect towards Muslim people. However, the question about whether a verse of the Koran actually refuses the entrance to other religions is still ongoing.
F as Fnaque,
the first literature café in Marrakech, situated among souks and funduqs. It’s worth having a cup of tea in the room on the ground floor where you can admire the beautiful decor, or a bite to eat whilst enjoying the view from the roof terrace.
G as Guide
Moroccans have always made their living by trading and bargaining, so they will be continually offering you their goods to buy or other services. One of the most frequent things is men offering themselves as guides asking for a small fee in return.
During my last day, a young man dressed in white, having seen me opening a map and looking around, stopped and started describing what the surrounding buildings were. He talked to me about the grave of one of the Seven Saints and a craftsmen’s souk far from the touristic routes. He knew Italian very well, because – he told me – he had lived in Piacenza for five years, so near to my house! While I was waiting for the money request, he put a genuine smile on his face and went away.
H as Henné
the temporary tattoo that is so common in the Arab world. Everywhere in the city but especially in the main square, lots of women invite you to sit down and have a design tattooed on your hands. Will you resist the temptation?
I as Iron
The souk is the heart of Marrakech, but the souk is not only one. It’s composed of many different quarters, each of them specialized in one particular thing. I suggest going to the ones in the craftsmen’s area, where you can see the men practicing their craft. For example, the Haddadine souk is the one where you can see blacksmiths at work, shaping beautiful iron objects and tools.
J as Jmaa El Fnaa
It’s the main central square, not a big deal during the day, but amazing and enchanting from the sunset on. It’s the place where the locals love to meet and have dinner together near one of the many street foods stands. Here you can find music, dance, henné tatto artists and many other things.
K as Koutoubia,
the main mosque of Marrakech. Its minaret can be seen from every corner of the city and the voices of prayer can be heard several times during the day. No building can go over it’s 75meters-height by law. The entrance is forbidden to non-Muslim people.
L as Lamps,
one of the most spectacular articles that are sold in the souks. They fill the atmosphere with their shiny and sparkly lights and their metallic clinking. They are definitely to be photographed.
M as Majorelle,
according to me, the most enchanting park of Marrakech. The intense blue is the main character of this beautiful show, and appears everywhere between exotic plants, bamboo forests, reflecting pools and shaded paths.
N as Naima,
who cooks the best cous cous I’ve ever tried. This minuscule restaurant in Rue Azbest is not so easy to find, but when you walk through the door you’ll feel as though you have walked into Naima’s home and she will offer you a royal feast.
O as Orange Trees,
which flank the avenues, fill the gardens, sprinkle their fresh summer fragrance in the air. Together with date palms, bergamot, grapefruit and banana trees, they turn Marrakech into a huge scented garden.
P as (Secret) Passage,
the one that Bahia often used to secretly go inside the Grand Vizier’s private apartment. The Bahia Palace is one of the most famous attractions in Marrakech and takes its name from Grand Vizier’s favorite wife. He lived there with his 3 wives and an unspecified number of concubines. Polygamy existed before the Koran, and the Muslim religion allows it, giving the advice not to take more than one wife if you can’t love and treat every one in the same way. But in this case, Bahia was his soulmate…
Q as Quiet
As every big city in the world, Marrakech is full of contradictions. On one side, the chaos of the city, the buzzing beehive of people, the fearless drivers, the bargains, the wafts of street food and argan oil, on the other side the quiet of gardens. Sit down and relax on a bench in the middle of a the inner courtyard of a riad to restore your balance and harmony.
R as Red
Marrakech is known as the Red City, because most of its houses are made of red clay. Other building materials are: stucco, made of chalk and marble powder, and cedar wood, that maintains its colours for a long time after having been painted with natural pigments.
S as Snake Charmer,
which loudly draw the tourists’ attention in Jmaa El Fnaa main square. Taking a photo with a snake around your shoulders normally costs 10 Dirham, less than £1. The evil eye curse is a common presence in the Arabian culture and traditionally snakes have the power ward it away. So it’s not so uncommon for the locals to come to Jmaa El Fnaa and put a snake around their neck to bring fortune.
T as Tajin,
to be tasted in all its versions: beef almonds and plums, chicken lemon and olives, vegetarian, chicken onions apricots and raisins, and so on…
Put it together with the semolina served as a side dish, which soaks up all the flavours.
U as Union
If some time ago the five ethnic groups of Morocco were separated, today they are united in one unique population. They are: Berbers (75%), Arabic, Andalusian (mostly living near Tangeri), Hebrew (not so many left after 1967) and Aratin (descendants of Mauritanian slaves).
V as Vervain,
If you love infusions as much as I do, why not try the various teas, such as vervain, but also the traditional mint, jasmin, rose, bergamot teas…
Z as Zigzag
I don’t know if drivers in Marrakech are experts or simply mad, but they go inside the narrowest alleys without any hesitation, wading between fruit stalls, playing children, women shopping, over holes and around walls. They are completely fearless and skilled in zigzagging and blowing their horn. Proof is in the pudding.
I’ve tried to describe Marrakech using all the letters of the alphabet, but it’s not easy to describe every sound, image and scent. I think Marrakech is a way of living. Let’s play a game: what do you think about amplifying my list in Comments below? Letter, word and a brief description, using the sensations of who has already been there and the expectations of who is dreaming of going.
The red city that smells of orange and mint tea has always something unexpected to show you and will never let you down!
Ciao! Sono Claudia, la fondatrice di getgoingirl.it, lo spazio web dove unisco le mie più grandi passioni: i viaggi e la scrittura. É sempre il momento buono per un’avventura zaino in spalla, per un trekking al ritmo che senti tuo, per una visuale insolita e alternativa da scovare in giro per il mondo. Naviga per argomento, destinazione o tipo di viaggio e lasciati ispirare!
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