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Marrakech Travel Guide

Introduction to Marrakech and When to Go

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Morning in the Medina, Marrakech

Morning in the Medina, Marrakech

© Anouk Zijlma

Introduction

Situated at the foot of the Atlas mountains, the imperial city of Marrakech is large, noisy, polluted and smelly. But Marrakech is also fascinating, full of history, the cultural center of Morocco and beautiful. If you enjoy a daily assault on all your senses then you'll have a lot of fun. When the most popular sights include numerous references to "tranquility" and "peace" like the Majorelle gardens or the gardens around the Saadian Tombs you know you're in for an interesting experience. If you find it a little overwhelming then get an official guide to take you around.

There are so many things to see, you should spend at least 3 days in Marrakech. If you can afford it, treat yourself to a stay in a Riad so when you return from a hectic day amidst carpet salesman, fire jugglers and noisy souqs, you can relax and have a cup of mint tea in a nice quiet courtyard.

This guide to Marrakech will help you figure out the best time to go; the best sights to see; how to get to Marrakech and how to get around; and where to stay. Here's a map to help you get oriented.

When to Go

It is best to try and avoid the summer heat and crowds and visit Marrakech in the cooler months between September and May. (For average temperatures in Marrakech, click here). But, some annual events take place in summer which you may not want to miss:
  • Marrakech Popular Arts Festival in July. This annual festival attracts folk singers, dancers, fortune-tellers, acting troupes, snake charmers, fire-swallowers and more, from all over Morocco. Since 2000 the festival has also attracted many artists and entertainers from Europe and Asia. The main events take place in the ruins of the 16 century Badi Palace and the Djemma el Fna (main town square - see below).

  • Fantasia is a horse-riding spectacle that includes hundreds of charging horsemen (and women) wearing traditional clothing. It's part of the Popular Arts Festival so it takes place at the same time in July. You can experience the Fantasia in the evenings outside the city walls near the Bab Jdid. If you don't get to see it in July, there's a restaurant that offers the Fantasia as entertainment while you dine, the Chez Ali. Up-market and touristy but I'm sure you won't forget the experience in a hurry.

  • Imilchil Marriage Feast is a Berber marriage festival where up to forty couples tie the knot. It takes place in Imilchil in the Middle-High Atlas Mountains near Marrakech. The festival is a great way to experience Berber culture including music and dance. The event takes place after harvest every year so the dates vary, it's usually held late August or early September.

Winter in Marrakech
From mid-January to mid-February there is usually enough snowfall in the Atlas mountains to accommodate skiers. The Oukaimden ski resort is less than 50 miles away from Marrakech. There are several ski lifts and if they don't work you can always take a donkey up the slopes. If there's not enough snow the views are always spectacular and it's still worth the trip.

Morocco: Guide to Marrakech continued ...

Page Two: What to See in Marrakech
Page Three: Getting To and Around Marrakech
Page Four: Where to Stay in Marrakech
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