It is fondly referred to as the red city, because of the terracotta wash used on its buildings, that reflects the light like a rose quartz gem. Set at the foot of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains in western Morocco Marrakech is a destination unlike any other. For many, its allure is probably linked to a collective imagination in which the stories of the “Thousand and One Nights” from childhood memories are interwoven.
“When I discovered Marrakech later in life, it came as an enormous shock. Especially its colours. The city opened my eyes to color. “Yves Saint Laurent
For others, it is the place that captures all the senses, seduces you with its intimate charms, strikes you with its shimmering colors and the intoxicating fragrance of spices that fill the air, transports you with the chanting of the daily Muslim call to prayer and keeps you coming back for more.
The legendary fashion designer Yves St Laurent considered Marrakech as the “Venice of Morocco, a place out of time”. He visited for the first time in 1966 and traveled back a few times each year to design his collections. He drew inspiration from Morocco’s people, colors, and light. With his partner Pierre Bergé, he remained actively involved in contributing positively to the country.
The renowned Jardin Majorelle and the Musée YVES SAINT LAURENT Marrakech are both a celebration of the couple´s “Morrocan passion.
“One morning we awake and the sun had appeared. A Moroccan sun that probes every recess and corner. The birds were singing, the snow capped Atlas Mountains blocked the horizon, and the perfume of jasmine rose to our room. We would never forget that morning, since in a certain way, it decided our destiny.”Pierre Bergé, A Moroccan Passion
One of the main cultural spaces and symbols of the city and more broadly, of Morocco is The Jemaa el-Fna Square dating back to the 11th century, a place where ethnic groups, social classes, and generations come together. Located at the entrance of the Medina, this triangular square – surrounded by restaurants, stands, and public buildings – represents a significant place of cultural exchange with a unique concentration of popular Moroccan cultural traditions performed through musical, religious, and artistic expressions. The Jemaa el-Fna square has enjoyed protection as part of Morocco’s artistic heritage since 1922.
Dating back to the Berber Empire and enclosed within medieval walls forming several gateways, the Medina is the city’s beating heart with its densely packed mazelike alleys and souks – the traditional Moroccan markets – a must-visit if you are after the “true” Marrakech. Souks are the perfect place to experience the local vibe, wander for hours and buy souvenirs, from traditional textiles to pottery and jewelry. Stroll through the Medina and you will be thrown back in time and through the deep-rooted traditions of Moroccan culture embedded in people’s daily life.
Unlike Middle Eastern mosques, which have domed minarets, the minaret of Koutoubia Mosque has a square design. This unique architecture is an Amazigh (Berber) trademark which is also found in the Giralda in Seville, Spain, and Le Tour Hassan in Rabat.
Another famous landmark of the city, visible for miles, is the Moorish minaret of the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, the largest one in Marrakesh. Unlike Middle Eastern mosques, which have domed minarets, the minaret of Koutoubia Mosque has a square design. This unique architecture is an Amazigh (Berber) trademark which is also found in the Giralda in Seville, Spain, and Le Tour Hassan in Rabat.
Marrakech also has a generous scattering of fascinating museums, some small, where you can pop in while visiting la Medina, like The Musee Boucharouite, a must-visit for anyone interested in traditional carpets and rugs; some housed in beautiful old palaces that are worth seeing for themselves, like the Dar si Said, a building of magnificent architecture displaying the finest craftsmanship from across Morocco; the Museum of Marrakech, housed within the Dar Menebhi Palace boasting Andalusian architecture and works by Moroccan, Jewish, Berber and Arabic artisans; the Berber Museum housed within the beautiful Marjorelle Gardens and dedicated to teaching visitors more about the Berber heritage and culture.
Marrakech is not the place to stay in a standard hotel. If you want to experience the true eastern essence you have to spend at least a few nights in a Riad in the heart of the Medina. Riads are traditional, small city palaces built around a garden with a pool and fountain and converted into a hotel. Boasting amazing architecture, they offer a peaceful oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
Just as unique as a riad experience is a stay in a desert camp. The Agafay Desert is only a short 45-minute drive from central Marrakech, it is an experience you will remember for a long time to come. Here you can relax around the camp with yoga and massage, explore the surroundings or engage in stargazing and learn about the planets and constellations with an astronomy expert.
And if you are a sucker for luxury, you have come to the right place. “The number of luxury hotels in Marrakech alone is far beyond anything else in North Africa” as seasoned hotelier and general manager of Mandarin Oriental Marrakech Marcel Thoma states.
“The World is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Charm, authenticity, sophistication, tradition, you name it. When it comes to finding the right place to stay, Morocco’s hospitality is second to none.
A Marrakech vacation is not complete without the Hammam experience, a practice learned from the Romans who created the first public bath over 2000 years ago. While for Moroccans, the hammam tradition is also a social event often taking place in beautiful old bath-houses, this treatment is known around the world for being a century-old relaxing and cleansing ritual that uses hot steam to deeply clean and invigorate your skin.
Some hammam treatments also use vitamin-E-rich, olive-based soap known for its nourishing and exfoliating properties or antibacterial minerals to safely remove toxins and impurities from the body, reduce sebum and tighten pores.
Thanks to the power of heat and steam combined with intense scrubbing and massage, a hammam treatment boosts the immune system, rejuvenates the body, restores tired, aching muscles, and increases blood flow stimulating and awakening the senses. You will find it hard to find a more complete and relaxing treatment than a Hammam. And you will find it hard not to fall for the charm of this fascinating destination.