Marrakech The Alchemist Morocco!
When you long for something, the universe conspires in your favor to get it. Perhaps this phrase sounds to you, one of the great messages of the book of The Alchemist. A book that, curiously, they gave me in Morocco, I read in Morocco and put to the test in Morocco. Specifically in Marrakech, where the universe conspired in my favor.
The last time we spoke, I had just spent a few days getting lost and meeting in the inexhaustible city of Fez . From there I left early towards Meknes, where the third and last stage of my Moroccan adventure would begin.
Although Meknes is an interesting destination and is usually included in many tourist routes , in my case I hardly had time to dedicate to it and I got there on a Friday, so almost everything was closed. Moroccan Friday is equivalent to Spanish Sunday.
But Ismail was waiting for me in those lands, a super nice Moroccan with whom I had already met a while ago to make a route by car to the Sahara . Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi dunes would be the last stops, but along the way we would do a few more. Among them, Marrakech.
How to go to Marrakech
Our seven-day trip would start in Marrakech, one of the most important cities in the country. Any method of transportation is a good option to get here. Well, almost anyone.
Wherever you come from, you will find one thousand options to get there. Planes on the sidelines, the train is one of the most comfortable and fastest , as long as you are in some of the other cities in Morocco connected by rail. Of course, take the tickets a little in advance because it is a fairly demanded service.
Another good alternative is the bus, somewhat cheaper than the previous ones . If you don’t mind spending a little more, CTM and Supratour are the two best companies in the country, specially designed for tourists. If you dare with a more local company you will save something for sure, but in terms of speed and comfort they usually leave a lot to be desired.
Driving route from Meknes to Marrakech
In our case, Marrakech was going to be one of the stops on our road trip to the Moroccan desert , so we made the trip by rental car from Meknes . And although it is a route that can be done mostly by motorway, we would do it on secondary roads, with the idea of making stops where Ismail and our passion for photography tell us.
What caught my attention the most throughout this adventure on wheels is that Morocco is a much greener country than I expected . Perhaps the tourist name that has its desert abroad predisposed me to something else, but truly this country in North Africa offers a lot of green and mountain landscapes, making it possible to access all kinds of landscapes, especially if you move in car.
On our Meknes – Marrakech route we made several interesting stops, although my favorite was Lac Aguelmame, a small lake surrounded by lush landscape and an extremely humble town. It is curious that so many families have decided to live in such a remote and cold place.
This was not the only water stop on our route since, a few kilometers later, we found the El-Hansali barrage reservoir, another interesting spot to stop and take a couple of photos.
Our rally to Marrakech continued slowly but without pause, although an excellent viewpoint at the Ein Orsdon castle ( chateau Ain Asserdoun ), “forced” us to get out of the car again.
An unknown corner among foreigners but famous for locals. From there you can enjoy a good panoramic view of the region .
Horse festival in Beni Melal
By pure chance, and close to Marrakech, we hit the ground with a curious celebration in the town of Beni Melal, where riders from all corners of the country, dressed in clothes of yesteryear, wear their mounts and weapons before visitors.
Despite the striking of the matter, we did not last long there. Bad environment for a horse allergy.
Where to sleep in Marrakech
Early in the evening we finally arrive in Marrakech. The offer of beds in the red city is huge, but here are some recommendations.
- If you like local experiences, at AirBnb you have a wide offer and at all prices.
- An incredible but quite cheap option is the Riad Rodamón, where you can sleep in a beautiful shared room for around 17 euros a night.
- Villa Almería can be an interesting alternative to go with your partner. The double room costs 45 euros in this highly valued riad.
- In my case, I stayed at the Diwane hotel for a work issue. Of ten.
Marrakech, the most cosmopolitan city in Morocco
I am sure that at the same time that someone plans to make a trip to Morocco they include Marrakech among their stops, either for a tourist issue or, at least, logistics. In fact, both on my solo trip through the country in 2018 and on my return in 2019 with a group of photographers, the red city was in the plans.
With more than a million and a half inhabitants , Marrakech is, today, the most international and recognized city in Morocco, with even foreigners residing there. And it is that, although it retains its Moroccan essence to a large extent, it is one of the most developed and western cities in the country. In fact, as a curiosity, outside its medina it is easy to buy alcohol, a complex task in other parts of the country.
For giving a couple of historical brushstrokes , telling you that the origin of Marrakech dates back to the year 1000 , and it was at the hands of the Almoravids, who had an important military base here while they freely roamed around Spain.
However, the city has always been listed, so it has been a hot potato that has been passed from one hand to the other with some war in between. Although it barely conserves buildings from its first stage, they still resist some vestiges of what came from the 13th century onwards.
Today what remains is a large city, always awake , where the new part and its medina are clearly differentiated. Along with the aforementioned Fez and Meknes, and my beloved Rabat , Marrakech is one of the four imperial cities of the Moroccan country
What to see and do in Marrakech
Despite its importance and size, Marrakech is an acceptable city for tourists: in one or two days, it can be visited. If you are interested in my opinion about the red city, I can tell you that it is NOT one of my favorite cities in Morocco, although I would continue to include it in almost any route through the country. Few places mix the past, present and future of Arab society so well.
The Villa Nouvelle in Marrakech
As it happens in almost all the important cities of Morocco, in Marrakech there are two clearly differentiated spaces: the medina and the new city (Villa Nouvelle). At a tourist level, the medina concentrates almost all the places of interest, but in the modern area there are the majority of macro hotels, nightclubs and various multinational shops. You can take the Gueliz neighborhood as a reference to move around and discover the chic side of Marrakech .
Right here is one of the most popular parks in Marrakech , the Majorelle garden. The entrance to this well-kept garden costs seven euros (tourist prices in this city are much higher than in other Moroccan cities) …
… where trees and plants of all races coexist in peace and harmony . In the Majorelle garden there is also a Berber museum, for which you have to pay a separate entrance. I liked? Yes, but considering the average prices in the rest of the country, this park left me with the face of a tourist.
THE MENARA GARDENS
Almost at the other end of the city, but also outside the old area, are the Menara gardens, another of the few green spaces in Marrakech . This enclosure started to build back in the 12th century is free to enter, although I don’t think it will drive you crazy either.
Leaving the modern aside, it is a good time to get into medina flour , the place that concentrates much of what there is to see in Marrakech . Although it is an extensive and chaotic medina like most of this country, it seemed even “small” to me after visiting the one in Fez. Still, getting lost in it is very exhilarating.
THE KOTUBIA MOSQUE
By starting the tourist route somewhere, you can take the Kotubía mosque as a reference. And it is that its 77 meters of tower make it the tallest building in Marrakech and make it visible from any angle.
It was built in the 13th century by the Almohads and, although its interior is not accessible to the general public, it is surrounded by very walkable gardens .
Although tourism is a fundamental element in Arab culture, this society has been and continues to be somewhat jealous of sharing its “treasures” with foreigners. An example of this is that, for almost 400 years, this royal cemetery (burial place of sultans and their entourage) remained completely hidden. It was in 1917, during the French protectorate , when they discovered it and opened it to the public, until it became, today, one of the leading enclaves of Marrakech.
Although there are more than 100 Saadian tombs in this compound, it is the 12-column room (where Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansur is buried ) that is truly worthwhile. Entrance to the entire venue costs one euro.
PALACES TO SEE IN MARRAKECH
There are several buildings and palaces that can be visited in Marrakech, but the one in the Bay is one of the most sought-after. A 19th century work that, despite being almost empty inside, impresses with its architecture.
Nearby, there is also the El Badi palace, from the 16th century, although the years have made it worse and today it is not much more than a set of imposing ruins. Personally I have not visited any of these palaces, but the photos are of Arturo Villanueva, an affable Mexican with whom I shared adventures those days.
THE MELLAH – THE JEWISH QUARTER OF MARRAKECH
Very close to the palaces, in the Medina of Marrakech, is the Jewish quarter, an interesting neighborhood to take a couple of photos …
… but with an environment not suitable for all audiences. In fact, I recommend you limit your movements to the market area. And, although I am not aware that it is an unsafe place, we do not feel very comfortable wandering around .
MUSEUMS AND MADRASAS
Another of the charms of the red city is visiting its most interesting museums and madrasas (schools). Include the Marrakech museum, the Dar Si Said and the Ben Youssef madrasa in your list of things to see in Marrakech.
What would a Moroccan city be without its infinite markets , which give life to any of the tangled streets of its medina.
Although it is not the most impressive souk in Morocco, especially because it is half open to traffic, it is mandatory to take a walk through its streets …
… And play at how you know how to haggle before the infinite commercial skills of local employees. EYE, be very careful with taking photos without permission . You will end up paying it.
THE RIADS OF MARRAKECH
Where the economic importance of this city is most evident is in its riads , these mansions with gardens or inner patios so typical of this land . As it could not be otherwise, in Marrakech there is a large collection of riads, many used for tourist purposes.
If you don’t stay in them, at least have a tea in one of them, just like we did in Dar Cherifa, an impressive cafeteria-restaurant that masterfully gathers all the architectural virtues of this type of construction.
There I shared a nice tea with Ismail (Moroccan) and Arturo (Mexican), my adventure companions during this week of road trip to the desert .
JEMAA EL FNA SQUARE
I leave for the end the place that most surprised me in Marrakech , its very crowded Jemaa El Fna square.
Any walk through the medina you do will start or end in this square, the nerve center of the city and one of the most 24-hour places I’ve ever seen . No matter when and how you pass through it, Jamaa el Fna square is a continuous hotbed of tourists and locals of all kinds.
Excellent point to see the day pass, taking advantage of one of the many restaurants or cafes that offer a good view from the top of its terraces. A perfect position to watch the sun go down …
… and the first lights of the night. A night that, dark as it may seem, never ends up putting itself in that square.
Although life never stops in Marrakech, my journey could not stop there. I will not deny it, I liked Marrakech, but perhaps it did not live up to the tourist expectation that its fame had created for me . Of course, there I met wonderful people and enjoyed several unforgettable moments. So, be that as it may, if you visit Marrakech, let the city also conspire in your favor. Now we go to Ait Ben Haddou .