Marrakesh is a city full of contrasts, a vibrant and energetic place, where the old meets the new and the roller coaster of sensations might be overwhelming in the first day. But then, if you get to know it and get acquainted to it, you will discover a new and exciting world, a colorful place and amazing people.
If you have been to Istanbul, you will find a similar taste in Marrakesh. However, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is such a small place compared to Medina’s streets that are full of small shops called “souks” where you can easily test your bargaining skills. Medina is literally a labyrinth and if you do not know the streets, you will get easily lost and picked up by local guides who may lead the way for a couple of dirhams. But it is best to avoid them and try the old-fashioned map. Might I say that internet is quite a lot for an European number (13 euros/Mb), but you can download all the maps from Google or similar apps and use them.
Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main market and square of Medina, the old city. It is such a lively place than even on a normal day in January, it would be filled with street artists, performers, snake tamers, monkeys, donkeys and camels, giving you the unique feel that you had when you were a kid visiting the circus with your folks. Food is served all over and the best natural orange juice is sold everywhere in this market. You can get a big bottle of 2 liters for less than 2 euros (20 dirhams). One of the best restaurants where I ate is quite close to the market and it is called Dar Cherifa, a very good place to see with a beautiful terrace.
If you want to escape the noise and the traffic of Medina, you definitely need to visit the gardens and the palaces. I have been to Bahia Palace, built in the late 19th century, which is a really quiet and beautiful place. Its name means actually “brilliance”.
El Badi Palace
Very close to it, at a 2 minute walk, you will find El Badi Palace, a much older palace, built in the 16th century, very impressive and unique. Next to this, there is one of the very few bars in Marrakesh that serves wine or other alcoholic beverages, as you will not find it anywhere, not even at local supermarkets. But it is indeed too hot to drink, as I have experienced 20 Celsius degrees in January, so you can imagine how lovely the summer can be.
One of the best attractions is definitely the Majorelle Gardens – the name comes from the French painter Jacques Majorelle, but the thing that attracts so many tourists and make these gardens the top attraction of Marrakesh is that Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought them in 1980, saving the gardens from becoming a fancy hotel.
Yves Saint-Laurent had his studio there, which is now a museum dedicated to the Berber culture. In 2008, when Yves died, his ashes was scattered around these gardens and there is now even a memorial there.
Pierre donated the gardens to the foundation in Paris that has both their names. The place is so beautiful and so calm. It will for sure take your breath away!
Another place that I have adored during my very short stay is the riad that I have booked – Riad Edward, in Medina, 15 minutes by foot from Jemaa el-Fnaa. A beautiful and secluded place in Medina that seemed like an oasis in this vibrant old town.
Exciting and provoking, Marrakesh is for sure a very different place, unusual and mesmerizing. It may shock you when you first meet it, but I promise that the next second you will be so drawn to its complex behavior, various songs and beautiful colors.