As my parents, Don and Robbie Hamper travel deep into every region in Morocco, they share their insights on the must-see locations and provide an insider’s perspective on trekking through this beautiful, exotic and mysterious country. Here they share their words and photos while visiting bustling Marrakech.
Guest blog by Robbie and Don Hamper- Marrakech, Morocco:
The Djemaa el-Fna Square in the heart of Marrakech really captures the colors and pulse of Morocco. What was once the Berber capital is now a huge open-air market and a definite must-see in Marrakech. This massive open space is fortified within the Medina walls built in the 12th century. They are essentially mud bricks that tower 30 feet into the air and are 7-feet thick.
Inside the plaza it is sensory overload with snake charmers, magicians, acrobats, dancers, monkey handlers and an eclectic mix of sights and sounds.
We paid to see the snake charmer with several cobras and other snakes. It is customary for snake charmers to sew shut the mouths of the snakes to avoid getting bitten. We saw one snake with an egg in it’s mouth that was somehow attached. In an effort to make sure we got our $1 worth of entertainment the man even “charmed” a dead snake in his collection thinking we must not know the difference.
The marketplace is filled with thousands of tourists and local families who come here for shopping and entertainment. The sights and smells are vibrant. Market vendors are selling everything from delicious roasted nuts to fresh squeezed orange juice.
The Marrakech souks are shopping areas located in busy alleyways that offer goods arranged by theme such as textiles, leather, spices, beautiful pottery and jewelry.
Once we got our fill of shopping in the marketplace, we visited the The Majorelle Gardens (or Jardin Majorelle) which is another must-see in Marrakech and one of several gardens in the area.
This beautiful botanical garden took Jacques Mojorelle (1886-1962) more than 40 years to create. It is 12-acres of multi-colored flowers, unusual cacti, lily-filled ponds, and flowing fountains surrounded by walls painted in vibrant cobalt blue or Majorelle Blue. The gorgeous pottery vases in vivid colors of yellow, burnt red, orange, and blues accent the Garden. In 1980, fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent restored the Garden and lived in the house on the grounds.
If you go to Marrakech:
- Know that many of the goods in the marketplace cater to tourists. You will see many shops that sell “authentic” antiques, however, you will see many replicas of the same products so don’t expect that you are buying a one-of-a-kind.
- If you prefer a more comfortable way to sight-see than by foot, we recommend taking a local Caleche. This horse-drawn carriages usually congregate on the west side of the Djemaa and will cost approximately 100 dirham ($12 USD) an hour.
- If time permits, visit the Saadian Tombs. It is a complex of mausoleums with the marble tombs of 60 top members of the Saadian dynasty. These were hidden tombs built in the 16th century and closed-off in the 17th century. They were only re-discovered in 1917 by aerial photographs. This once-hidden history is a popular stop for tourists so your best bet is to visit in the early morning or late afternoon.