Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech (Marrakesh), its justly famous and colourful Djama el Fna square, the hub of the city (also kown as Djemaa el Fna and Jemaa el Fna).

Why visit Marrakech

Marrakech, also known as Marrakesh in French, is easy to reach from Europe via Menara International Airport, other parts of Morocco on the new expressway from Casablanca or Agadir, or better still, at the end of a road trip along the amazingly scenic and serpentine roads though the High Atlas mountains such as the Dadés Valley and the Draa Valley.

Marrakech embraces a modest number of attractions in its medina (old town) such as terrific buildings especially traditional inside-out riads, good museums and a fascinating covered souk (market), one of the the best place to find good quality crafts in Morocco. But most of all Marrakech is home to Djema el Fna, the wackiest square in the country and probably in the continent, where assorted weirdos put on performances all day long while food stalls serve good food at great prices in a delightful atmosphere well into the evening.

Marrakesh is also within easy reach of seaside destinations such as Essaouira, beach resorts such as Agadir, Sahara desert dunes at Zagora, the beautiful drives and walks in the Draa Valley, Ourika River’s Berber village charms and of course hiking along the Todra Gorge.

A Marrakech rooftop view over to the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

A rooftop view over to the nearby High Atlas Mountains.

Marrakech best seasons

The best months: We’d plump for the shoulder months of May, June, September, October.

Tourists need to be a lot more choosy about the best time to visit Marrakech than more equitable climes such as coastal Agadir or cooler Fes.

Although winters may look relatively warm with average lows of about 6C (43F) and highs of 19C (66F) tourists are frequently unprepared for the night chills and budget accommodation is rarely well insulated or heated. Furthermore the months from November to April experience the highest rainfall – not excessive amounts but still irritating and cold, so we’d suggest avoiding mid-winter (December-February) at least.

Midsummer is also very missable with average highs heading for 40C (104F) in July and August, and lows of 20C (68F) . The beach is the only place to be at that time, with its cooling Atlantic breezes and tepid surf.

The Souk

Marrakech's covered souk [market], Morocco

Marrakech’s covered souk (market).

Warm in winter, cool in summer and with a multitude of entrances leading off from Djema el Fnaa, the souk (covered market) offers plenty of entertaining shopping at bargain prices, but don’t forget to haggle. A shopkeeper’s first price will almost always be based on an understanding that tourists with more than half a functioning brain will then offer a much lower figure, he will lower his, you will raise yours, and so on, as long as you have the strength to continue.
Some estimate that initial prices can be three times what the shopkeeper would accept after a struggle and a few cups of mint tea. .
However, don’t just haggle for fun as once started the bargaining process is extremely difficult to escape without a purchase. Haggling techniques below.
Some popular, interesting and low-price items on sale are shoes, leather jackets, spices, traditional lamps, small carpets, jewellery (especially gold).

A dried fruit shop in the souk of Marrakesh, Morocco

Dried fruit in the souk.

Haggling in the Souk

Weaving rugs in the souk of Marrakesh, Morocco

Ah! So that’s where all those bloody rugs come from!

The Souk area of Marrakech is a covered labyrinth of shops extending from the edge of Djemaa El-Fna, where all sorts of goods can be found ranging from bizarre leather shoes to incredibly ornate lamps, colourful pots, cool leather jackets and foodstuffs galore.
Haggling is an essential part of shopping for tourist items so be prepared to spend at least half an hour buying a pricey item, and don’t start unless you mean to go on or you may find it difficult to escape.
Try to pay no more than a third of the shopkeeper’s starting price! He’ll start high, you counter with low, and so on, but try to inject some reasons (however ridiculous) you cannot pay more during each round of bargaining, such as “I have to pay my daughter’s school fees next week”, “my husband needs a lobotomy”, “my girlfriend told me she bought one last week in Fez for xxx” etc.

The Medina

Djemaa el Fna’s is the buzzing tourist core of Marrakesh’s Medina but the Medina’s souk – a bizarre bazaar – is another essential attraction, even if you don’t have a need to shop. Then there’s the possibility of staying in one of the gorgeous riads embedded in the shady warrens of the Medina.

Marrakesh medina walls, morocco

The walls of Marrakech medina, the old city. Photo by Doyler79.

Djemaa el Fna

Djemaa el Fna early in the day, Morocco

Djemaa el Fna, Marrakesh’s main square with the Koutoubia Mosque in the background.

This was an unusually quiet time in Jemaa el Fna, too early for the acrobats, tooth-pullers, magicians, water-sellers, dancers and so on, but some food stalls are open for breakfast.

Water-sellers in Djama el Fna, Morocco

Water-sellers in Djama el Fna. Well, selling to locals but posing for tourists.

A dentist in Djama el Fna, Marrakesh, Morocco

It’s a cheap place to get your teeth fixed too, though operations are quite basic. Ripit!

Djemaa el Fna night eating

A stall Cooking kebabs and couscous in Djama el Fna, Marrakesh, Morocco

A typical Djama el Fnaa food stall.

Cooking kebabs, couscous, vast delicious stews (harira), for both local people and foreign tourists in Djemaa el Fna the food come cheap, amusing, tasty and acceptably hygienic and is more fun and way cheaper than a restaurant. The major downside is that you won’t find alcohol on the menu and in fact there are few places in the area to buy booze in the medina. Places that do sell alcohol are usually very stylish and comfortable and possibly pricey such as Café Arabe, Chesterfield Pub (supposedly an English pub) and Narwama restaurant/bar.

Marrakech Accommodation

Travellers who want to stay somewhere more authentic than a western hotel – there are some incredible luxury hotels in the country – could consider renting a riad. This is a traditional Moroccan house, inwardly facing, usually with no exterior view but ssome kind of daylight from above and with delightful tiling, fountains, gardens or even a swimming pool inside. Marrakech is a particularly good city to find superb riads for rental.

Visitors looking for good value, high quality places to stay in a spacious environment not far from the city could look around the foot of the Atlas Mountains where there is easy access to not only fantastic hikes and views but also getting to the Sahara desert is easier.
Otherwise there are many mid-level hotels available in addition to the simply spectacular five star palaces that cater to the lucky few who can afford an exotic luxury hotel.


A riad is a structure that was once a traditional closed Islamic house with internal courtyard. Many have now been converted into charming, cool and convenient little hotels.
Riads are architecturally unusual in that every part of the building is focused inwards, possibly at a spectacularly tiled courtyard and fountain or even a swimming pool. Externally little of the magnificence may be visible, but step inside and Wow!

Other Marrakech Sights

A man sleeping in front of an old door, Marrakesh, Morocco

Taking a siesta in front of a traditional Marrakesh door.

A Marrakech rooftop view over to the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

Marrakech at night and the magical glow concealing the frayed edges of the city.

The Majorelle Garden

The Islamic Art Museum in Marrakech, Morocco

The Islamic Art Museum.

This large botanical garden (specialising in cacti) was landscaped by expatriate French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s when Morocco was a protectorate (colony) of France.
The brilliant cobalt blue used on the garden and buildings is named after him, Bleu Majorelle and is a colour commonly associated with Morocco.
Entry to the garden is a little pricey taking into account the modest size, but it makes a good break from the hectic life elsewhere. The garden is also home to the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech (aka Berber Museum) with collections of North African textiles, ceramics, jewelry and paintings.

The Kutubiyya Mosque

the magnificent Koutoubia mosque and minaret of Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech central mosque and 77m high sandstone minaret, the magnificent Koutoubia.

The Kotoubia Mosque (as it’s also known, along with al-Kutubiyah, Kutubiyyin Mosque) is the largest mosque in Marrakech. It’s located just a little southwest of Marrakesh’s hub, Djemaa el Fna. The mosque was built in the 12th century and is a model for the Giralda mosque in Seville, Spain.
Non-muslims cannot enter the mosque .