Marrakech is not only a fantastic city, it is also a symbol of the Morocco that once was, and which still survives here. The streets of the old and pink city have been too narrow to allow the introduction of cars, and tourists searching for the "real" Morocco have turned the medieval structures of Marrakech into good business.
The hordes of tourists that come here all through the year have still not managed to change its character. Actually they contribute in a positive way to preserve one of the greatest monuments of Morocco. And Moroccans all over the country would not let down an opportunity of visiting the city they call "City of Happiness" (or "Bahja" in Arabic).
Marrakech is a Berber city, with little influence by Arabs. Marrakech had been the capital of Morocco, as well as for smaller countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya), for many decades. There are many monuments in Marrakech, most famous is the Koutoubia mosque. It is the medina, the souks and Jam el-Fnaa square, that attract most tourists.
The history of Marrakech
Marrakech or Marrakesh (Amazigh: Murakush, Arabic مراكش Murrākush), known as the "Red City", is an important and former imperial city in Morocco. It has a population of 1,070,838 (as of 2004), and is the capital of the mid-southwestern economic region of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz, near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.
Like many North African and Middle Eastern cities, Marrakech comprises both an old fortified city (the médina) and an adjacent modern city (called Gueliz). It is served by Ménara International Airport (RAK is the code for the airport) and a rail link to Casablanca and the north. Marrakech is the third largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat.
Prior to the advent of the Almoravids in the 11th century, the area was ruled from the city of Aghmat. The Almoravid leader, Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar decided Aghmat was becoming overcrowded and chose to build a new capital. He decided to build it in the plains near the Tansift river. He chose the site of Marrakech, because it was in neutral territory between two tribes who were vying for the honor of hosting the new capitalWork started in May 1070, but Abu-Bakr was recalled to the Sahara to put down a rebellion in January 1071 and the city was completed by his deputy and eventual successor Yusuf ibn Tashfin.The city experienced its greatest period under the leadership of Yacoub el Mansour, the third Almohad sultan. A number of poets and scholars entered the city during his reign and he began the construction of the Koutoubia Mosque and a new kasbah.
Geograpghy of Marrakech
Marrakech, or Marrakesh, Morocco, a city near the Atlas Mountains, some 140 miles (225 km) south of Casablanca. It is primarily a trade center, serving southern Morocco and known mainly for its markets and handicrafts. Tourism is also important. In the old walled section, which has changed only slightly over the centuries, are several Moorish-style palaces and the famed Koutoubia Mosque and minaret.
Marrakech was founded in 1062 by the Almoravids, a Berber dynasty, and for almost two centuries was the capital and leading city of the Berber kingdoms that controlled much of Spain and North Africa. It again flourished in the 16th century, when it was Morocco's capital. Under French rule, 1912-56, it developed a modern Western section and began a new period of growth.
Marrakech had an official number of population of 1,070,838 in 2004.There is a very large international community consisting mainly of Europeans estimated at 10,700 people, mostly retired.
The Famous Monuments in Marrakech
The Koutoubia Mosque (Arabic: جامع الكتبية) is the largest mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. The minaret was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199) and was used as the model for the Geraldo of Seville and for the Hessian Tower of Rabat.
The name is derived from the Arabic al-Koutoubiyyin for librarian, since it used to be surrounded by sellers of manuscripts. It is considered the ultimate structure of its kind. The tower is 69 m (221 ft) in height and has a lateral length of 12.8 m (41 ft). Six rooms (one above the other) constitute the interior; leading around them is a ramp by way of which the muezzin could ride up to the balcony. It is built in a traditional Almohad style and the tower is adorned with four copper globes.
According to legend, the globes were originally made of pure gold, and there were once supposed to have been only three globes. The fourth globe was donated by the wife of Yacoub el-Mansour as compensation for her failure to keep the fast for one day during the month of Ramadan. She had her golden jewelry melted down to flab the fourth globe.
The Saadian tombs
The Saadian tombs in Marrakech date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). The tombs were only recently discovered (in 1917) and were restored by the Beaux-arts service. The tombs have, because of the beauty of their decoration, been a major attraction for visitors of Marrakech.
The mausoleum comprises the corpses of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River. Among the graves are those of Ahmad al-Mansur and his family. The building is composed of three rooms. The most famous is the room with the twelve columns. This room contains the grave of the son of the sultan's son Ahmad al-Mansur. The stele is in finely worked cedar wood and stucco work. The monuments are made of Italian Carrara marble.
Outside the building is a garden and the graves of soldiers and servants.
El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace (Arabic: قصر البديع - meaning the incomparable palace) is located in Marrakech, Morocco, and it consists nowadays of the remnants of a magnificent palace built by the Saadian king Ahmad al-Mansur in 1578.
The original building is thought to have consisted of 360 rooms, a courtyard of 135 m by 110 m and a pool of 90 m by 20 m, richly decorated with Italian marbles and large amounts of gold imported from Sudan. It also has a small, underground, tunnel-like jail with about four cells where the king kept his prisoners. Unfortunately, this fairy-like palace, which took approximately 25 years to construct, was torn apart by the Alaouite Sultan Mawlay Ismail who used the materials to decorate his own palace in Meknes. The design of the palace is influenced by the Alhambra in Granada.
Marrakech Festivals and Events
Speaking of Marrakech Festivals & Events, two of the biggest annual events, which draw the crowds to the Marrakech region, are:
-The big Gnaoua and world music festival in Essaouira (early June)
- The film festival in the Red City (late September)
Event surf groupies and post-hippies get together with ethno-beat enthusiasts and local gentry at the Gnaoua. Open-air concerts and the historic ramparts of Essaouira make a fitting backdrop.
The other is the Marrakech's big cinema-festival: the FIFM is a flashier occasion altogether. This glitzy finds the blue bloods of cinema, the stars and starlets, descend on the red carpet in their best ensemble, rubbing shoulders with the big cinema names from the South.
Huge crowds gather at Jemaal Fna as along with the star struck fans a number of film enthusiasts gather to see the open-air screenings of Bollywood films. In July, Marrakech hosts a grand folklore festival, where it highlights its huge range of traditional music and dance. With the new festival management taking over this festival it is expected that this event will soon be garbed in a more ethnic attire to bring it in line with the Essaouira Gnaoua bash.
There is a more discreet spring chamber music do held in Essaouira as well, not known to many. Apart from these highly publicized Moroccon events that attract the visitors to be a part of there are few long-established traditional festivals or moussems, generally in late summer, that are worth catching, especially as the tradition seems to be disappearing.
Marrakech Parks and Gardens
There are several beautiful parks and gardens in Marrakech. These have been used as some of the best places to loll on green grasses while spending your vacation in this Moroccan city. If you are tired after roaming around various tourist places in the city of Marrakech, you can just spend your evening by getting teased by the fresh air in any of Marrakech Parks & Gardens.
In the city of Marrakech, Jardin Menara is one of the most beautiful parks. You can reach this beautiful garden most easily. And probably this easy accessibility makes this garden a favorite nook for tourists as well as the local dwellers.
Looking for tranquility? Come to this garden of Jardin Menara; and you will find a peaceful ambiance. It is a very peaceful place where one can relax and escape from everyday stressors. It may remind you of the favorite poem, "To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent" by John Keats where someone gets a complete relaxation after he gets in a country side and has the scenic beauty of nature. Jardin Menara features a fine-looking still pool backed by a pavilion which dates back to 1866 and an organised collection of olive groves.
Jardin Majorelle, another superb garden, was planned and laid out by the French painter Majorelle in the year 1922. Amongst the striking array of flowery beauty, you will find Majorelle's blue villa which is now home to a modest museum of Islamic art.
Agdal Gardens, Marrakech
Agdal Gardens, Marrakech is consisted of vast orchards, a large lagoon, and other small pools. The wonder tourists experience here is the remarkable, ancient system of underground irrigation channels from the Ourika Valley in the High Atlas. The garden stretches to a full 3 km south of the Royal Palace.
The utter garden is surrounded by high pisé and walls. Pisé is a mixture of mud and clay. The citrus, fig, pomegranate, olive and apricot orchards are still in their original raised-plot form, presenting you a magnificent floral beauty.
Jardin Majorelle Garden
Jardin Majorelle Garden, Marrakech is one of the must see spots in Morocco. Not only attracting tourists from allover the globe, but also luring the local dwellers to spend a sunny day or relax on the green grasses determines the appeal of this magnificent Moroccan garden. During your Marrakech sightseeing, if you get tired, just come to this tranquil spot to have a magnificent feeling of relaxation.
These gardens belonged to the era when colonialism was still a superior word in Europe. During the colonial period when Morocco was occupied by France. And obviously it’s the creation of a French man who put vivacity in this garden. In the 1920s the French artist Jacques Majorelle made it, completed with pools, coconut palms, bougainvilleas, banana trees and houses in an extraordinary dark blue color.
The Majorelle Garden is actually a botanical garden in Marrakech, Morocco. Although Majorelle's art is mostly forgotten today # his composition was made up of chivalrous orientalist watercolors. A special shade of bold cobalt blue which he used extensively in the garden and its buildings is named after him, Majorelle blue.
The garden hosts more than 15 bird species, which can be found only in the area of North Africa.
Marrakech Museums feature Muslim art and architectures. Photography, paintings and ceramics are the main attractions of Marrakech Museums. Besides, jewelry of past ages, clothing, manuscripts and different mosaic designs will mesmerize you once you get in any of the Marrakech Museums
Museum of Marrakech
Positioned near the Medersa Ben Youssef, the Museum of Marrakech is situated in the Dar M'Nebhi Palace and is aptly regarded one of the most gorgeous constructions remaining from the end of the nineteenth century. Contemporary art display includes expos of paintings, photography and ceramics here. Feel a large thematic exposition over here.
Islamic Art Museum
The Islamic Art Museum is situated inside the arena of a blue villa in the Majorelle Gardens. There are exhibitions of marriage curtains and fabrics, embroideries, manuscripts, jewelry and many other masterpieces. Children are not allowed inside the museum.
Dar Si Said
Dar Si Said museum has a high-quality compilation of Moroccan works of art. Getting into it you will find treasures comprise skillfully crafted silver and Berber jewelry, intricate chests, ancient pottery, worked leather as well as an remarkable collection of carpets.
Museum of the Friends of Marrakech
The Museum of the Friends of Marrakech is located in a 19th century riad that has been outstandingly reinstated. Notice the creations by Marrakechi artists offered through expositions of jewelry, ceramics, clothing and manuscript.
Marrakech Popular Destinations
Jemaa el Fna (The Place of Dead)
At the center of Medina, the famous Djemâa el Fna square is situated, which is the heartbeat of Marrakech. The name of Jemaa el Fna (The Place of Dead), Marrakech has many interpretations: as Djemâa means, "meeting place" and el Fna means "the end" or "death," it could be translated as "Mosque of Death" or "Meeting Place at the End of the World." Nowadays Jemaa el Fna is a tourist spot, but in the past, the Djemâa's purpose was horrific: it was the place for public viewings of the disengaged heads of sinners, criminals, and Christians, hung on stakes around the square.
Presently, the Jemaa el Fna (The Place of Dead), Marrakech is a place of the endless, seething carnival, which covers every activity of man. It is a gathering place of local farmers and tradesmen. Jemaa el Fna is a wide area bordered with small mosques and a series of cafés, all with rooftop terraces that permit a panoramic bird's-eye view.
From early morning, when Marrakech is waking up, until midnight, when most people have gone to bed, the dissonance never stops. In the market of Jemaa el Fna, stuffs are sale with the open-air entertainment, which includes elaborate sagas (sometimes with men dressed as women) that hypnotize the mass; cobra charmers with strident flutes; wild Gnaouan acrobats, dancers, and musicians with incompatible cymbals; and intermingling of monkey tamers, fortune-tellers, henna ladies, tooth pullers, and astrologers.
The best time to observe the Djemâa is sunset, when the entire square turns purple, orange, or deep pink and adopts its smoky nighttime radiance from the hundreds of gas lamps that light the still-sizzling food stalls. You can rove Jemaa el Fna (The Place of Dead), Marrakech for hours, but be armed.
Marrakech has an affluent industrial area and is the major market and organizational centre of Southern Morocco. Marrakech is a place of numerous historical monuments, buildings and the enchanting beauty of Marrakech lies in the atmosphere and the spectacular location of this city. Marrakech is the city of entertainment in Morocco. One of the important tourist spot in Marrakech is Ourika, Marrakech, a small market village near Marrakech.
Ourika is a Berber village southeast of Marrakech. This small village named Ourika, Marrakech, is known for its weekly local market, which is spread out in the whole village. The market divided in different sections, so it take some time to visit all the sections- congested with animals, vegetables, local craft and more. Many villagers from the neighboring villages visit this market. The village is very congested, but it was easy to find some quiet places at the boundaries of the village with several donkeys and local men around. The most crowded part of the market is the animal section. It is very interesting to have a look at the energetic bargaining and trade between the villagers. In another part of the market, you can see a lot of vegetables and delicious local fruits. At this colorful part of the market you will be seen many tomatoes, onions and other vegetables and herbs. The soil in the encircling area of the village must be fertile. In the animal section and vegetable section of the market, you will be hardly seen any woman.
Marrakech comprises of two sections: the old town, or Medina, which goes back over a thousand years; and the new town, known as "Gueliz" (after a small mountain at the edge of it), which was designed and formed by the French as a planned city early in this century. When you look down the main street of Gueliz, Marrakech you can see the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque and further than that the High Atlas Mountains, covered with snow in winter.
The French occupied Morocco from 1912 to 1956 and they had a concept of space that was very different from the Moroccan. In the 1920s, when Gueliz, Marrakech was being planned and built, The French city-planners thought that the streets needed to be broad and houses separated from each other and clearly observable from the street. The centre of Gueliz is like a circle and the streets radiate out like spokes of a wheel. This place looks like a little of Paris, Place de l’Etoile and the avenues one of which is the Champs Elysee.
Gueliz, Marrakech is the modern business district in Marrakech, and it is completely different from the medina –the old historic town. This place is very much alike with a French city. For the visitor, it is the place where you find restaurants with airs and graces, pizzas and pasta joints.