>Sights to see in Marrakech

Posted on February 2, 2011

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>Here’s a quick guide to sights in and around Marrakech:

• Djemaa El-Fna:

is the main attraction of any Marrakech night. Musicians, dancers, acrobats and storytellers fill this square at the heart of the medina with a chaos of activity, noise, sights, smells and tastes. Scores of stalls sell an array of Moroccan fare. Enjoy the various performers, but be prepared to pay to watch. By day the square is largely filled with snake charmers and people with (ill-treated) monkeys as well as the more common stalls.

• The souks: (suuqs)
Image: The Coulter family and Simon at the Weavers Souk

or markets of Marrakech along the streets that lead to and around Djemaa El-Fna, are where you can buy anything from spices to shoes, tangine pots, djellabas (robelike garment with hood), kaftans, Moroccan carpets and basketry. Be sure to bargain. If you happen to run out of dirhams — the Moroccan currency — plenty of people in the souks will be happy to exchange your dollars or euros, though probably for less than the official exchange rate of approx Moroccan 13Dhs to the £1.00 (*Feb 2011). Don’t expect to pay with a credit card, even at sit-down restaurants, and sometimes even large denomination dirham bills can be hard to use at the smaller stands.

• Koutoubia Mosque:, next to Djemaa El-Fna, is named after the booksellers market once located here. Although non-believers are not permitted to enter the mosque, it is the prime place for prayers five times each day and beautifully lit at night.

• The Saadian Tombs:
Image: Saadian Tombs by Simon Hawkesley

were discovered only a century ago, preserved just as they were during the glory days of the Saadian rulers. Decorated inside with Zelij (Moroccan tiles), they don’t take a lot of time to explore, but are worth a visit. Also look for the tombs of Jews and Christians buried here, which are noted by different letterings and the direction the tomb faces.

• The Majorelle Gardens:
Image: “Maggie Casey” enjoying the Marjorelle Gardens

are situated just outside the medina. The entrance fee of 30 dirhams per adult is more expensive than Marrakech’s other attractions, but in addition to providing excellent escape from the heat, the gardens boast an impressive collection of plants from across the globe. Once part of the estate of the French designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergere, the gardens also include a small Museum of Islamic Art, which requires an additional entrance fee.

• The Dar Si Saïd Museum: is set in an old palace five minutes away from Djemaa El-Fna. It houses an eclectic assortment of artifacts from Morocco through the ages, woodcraft, carpets, clothing, pottery and ceramics.

• Ben Youssef Madrassa:,
Image: Ben Youssef Medersa by Simon Hawkesley

one of the largest educational institutions in North Africa, is a school attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque and is home to beautiful art and architecture.

• El Bahia Palace:
Image: “Come lift me up to the water” Molly organising Simon at the Bahia Palace by Annie Coulter

Built in the late 19th century, is an ornate and beautiful complex, popular with guided tours and stray cats. Although entirely stripped of its furnishings, its ornately tiled rooms provide some insight of what it must have been like to be a nobleman in Morocco. Admission is 10 dirhams.

The El Badi Palace:
Image: El Badi Palace by Simon Hawkesley

is now in ruins and inhabited by storks and stray cats, although the view from the terrace is spectacular. There are underground passageways to explore. Admission is 10 dirhams.

by David Bear, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Senior Post-Gazette travel editor David Bear can be reached at traveler@travelsjournal.com.

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