Whether it’s the winding alleys and busy souks of the Medina, scenic courtyards tucked down tiny side streets, aromatic food almost everywhere you turn, or simply the unexplainable magic of the city, something will inevitably grab you in Marrakech — in the best way possible. For when you’re ready to visit (and you really should), our local Marrakech tour guides have shared their top choices for the best things to do in Marrakech.
When searching for things to do or places to visit in Marrakech, every article will tell you to go to Jamaa El Fna Square — and we’re no different. Every tourist should visit that wonderfully interesting landmark. But, what the other websites won’t tell you is that you should visit after midnight. In the middle of the now astonishingly empty and calm place, you will find a group of people gathered in a small circle. The closer you get to them, the more you’ll be able to hear chanting and clapping, and as you get even closer, the more you can hear the sound of the lute playing beautifully. In that circle there is a man with an oil lamp playing old Arabian and Moroccan songs. Everyone sings along, and even the ones who don’t know the songs will remember the chorus and rhythm with repetition. You can find the shiest ones clapping and humming because, simply, it’s hard not to get caught up in the experience.
To capture the beauty of this magical place, you have to visit it in the early morning, especially if you need a break from the chaos and noise that often fills the city. Moreover, if you are a history lover, you may be interested in checking out the beautiful pavilion where the sultan used to spend his summers. The Menara Gardens were established in the 12th century and are now a scenic landscaped park (and respite from the city’s relentless heat) filled with paths winding through olive trees. The artificial lake in the centre gets its water from the nearby Atlas Mountains, which also serve as a backdrop to the pavilion.
Café France is one of multiple cafés from which the terrace gives you a satellite look of Jamaa El Fna Square. For a person who doesn’t love noise and crowded places, being that far above the most crowded place in the city will make you feel joyful. And the background noise you can hear from up there — drums, random instruments, and the voices of the people and of entertainers trying to lure an audience — is enjoyable rather than intrusive. You can simply enjoy the ambient sounds while having a hot mint tea with your friends or family.
The best part about these terraces is that they can be visited during different parts of the day, and no matter when you go there is a new experience to be had. The sounds you will hear in the morning are different from the ones you will hear in the afternoon or in the evening. In the daytime, you can see what’s happening in the square, while in the evening the view isn’t as clear, but you get to see the twinkling lights decorating the space. Only from up there can you capture the true beauty of that magnificent square.
A riad is a beautiful Moroccan house with an internal Andalusian-style garden, generally with a fountain. Now, they are evolving and including more modern facilities while at the same time, keeping their historical charm. These treasures are generally hidden in the narrow streets of the Old City. One should not miss the beauty of the ancient architecture of the Old City while trying to reach the riad — it’s as much about reaching the riad as it is about the journey to find it.
If the riad you stay in has a hammam (a traditional Moroccan steam bath), that would be optimal. You may think that people of Marrakech are crazy because in one of the hottest cities in the world, they’re looking for more heat. But, you’ll only understand its wonder after getting out of a long, relaxing steam bath.
Located in the “Kasbah” in the old city, Clock Café looks like a normal place to have a drink or grab something to eat. But what you’re going to experience if you visit it on a Monday or a Thursday at 7pm is far from normal. There, you’ll meet an old man telling Moroccan fables to the audience. They call him ‘Master,’ a title that gives him the kind of prestige and authority that makes you listen to him very attentively while surrendering your imagination to his stories. Listening to those old Moroccan stories will make you see the old city of Marrakech through different eyes.
By Kacem Berrah, @kacimber