Marrakech is a city in southwestern Morocco. The second largest city in the country, it is the capital of the mid-southwestern region of Marrakech-Safi. Located to the north of the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is approximately 4 hours by car from the Moroccan capital of Rabat, and 5 hours from the Atlantic Ocean coastline.
A former imperial city, Marrakech was founded in 1062 CE by Abu Bakr ibn Umar, chieftain and cousin of Almoravid ruler Yusuf ibn Tashfin. It served as the capital of the Almoravid dynasty and, later, of the Almohad Caliphate. The city was recaptured by the Marinids in 1269, and eventually came under the rule of the Saadi dynasty in the 16th century. The city became a major regional power and attracted a large number of scholars and artists.
Marrakech fell to the Alaouite sultanate in the 17th century, and was eventually made into a province of the Moroccan Empire in 1882. The city regained some of its former glory under the French protectorate, which ended in 1956.
Today, Marrakech is a thriving metropolis, and one of the major economic centers of Morocco. The city is also a popular tourist destination, and is renowned for its souks, mosques, and gardens.
Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Marrakech:
- The Souks: The souks of Marrakech are a labyrinth of narrow alleyways and stalls selling everything from spices to shoes. Haggling is expected, and part of the fun. Get lost in the souks and soak up the atmosphere of this ancient city.
- The Medina: The Medina is the old city of Marrakech, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the Medina, you’ll find the souks, as well as the Koutoubia Mosque, the Saadian Tombs, and the Bahia Palace.
- The Gardens: Marrakech is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in Morocco. The Jardin Majorelle is a must-see, with its vibrant blue buildings and lush greenery. The Menara Gardens are also worth a visit, and offer stunning views of the city.
- The Mosques: Marrakech is home to some of the most beautiful mosques in Morocco. The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest in the city, and its minaret is visible from anywhere in the Medina. The Ben Youssef Mosque is another must-see, with its intricate stucco work.
- The Tombs: The Saadian Tombs are the burial site of the Saadian dynasty, and are considered to be one of the finest examples of Moroccan architecture. The tombs are decorated with intricate stucco work, carved marble, and inlaid wood.
- The Palaces: Marrakech is home to a number of beautiful palaces, built by the city’s rulers throughout the centuries. The Bahia Palace is the most impressive, with its ornate decoration and gardens. The Badi Palace is also worth a visit, and was once the largest palace in all of Africa.
- The Museums: Marrakech is home to a number of excellent museums, including the Marrakech Museum, the Museum of Moroccan Arts, and the Museum of Photography. These museums offer a great introduction to the city’s history and culture.
- The Food: Marrakech is a foodie’s paradise, with its myriad of restaurants, cafes, and food stalls. Be sure to try the traditional Moroccan dishes, such as couscous, tagine, and pastilla. And don’t forget to wash it all down with a glass of mint tea!
- The Nightlife: Marrakech is known for its vibrant nightlife, with its many bars, clubs, and music venues. The Jemaa el-Fnaa is the city’s main square, and is a great place to people watch and soak up the atmosphere.
- The People: The people of Marrakech are warm and friendly, and will make you feel right at home. They are proud of their city, and are more than happy to share its many treasures with visitors.