With the intoxicating fragrances of jasmine, orange blossom and mint tea, bursting with life and lilting sounds, the Red City shouldn’t be underestimated by its nickname: its streets are multicoloured, with Majorelle blue, bright greens – like in its fabulous palm grove with 100,000 trees – canary yellows and shimmering coppers. An impressionist palette in the shade of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is truly bewitching.
Constantly jostled by shades of ochre and yellow, but also by the spicy fragrances of Ras el hanout and harissa, the oriental aromas of musk and amber, bustling souks and the charming litanies of muezzins, the city is incredibly seductive. It has to be at Jemaa El Fna that it reveals all of its power. Storytellers, dancers, orange squeezers, snake charmers and public writers give real soul to this “meeting place” (the literal meaning of its name). A crossroads in space and time, overlooked by the 12th-century minaret of Koutoubia, Jemaa El Fna is all of these things and more: the site of modern-day miracles, a place to socialise, a location for taste sensations and entertainment that reach their climax in the evening. The indisputable bridge between Morocco’s past and its future, this legendary marketplace epitomises the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. It is also the gateway to the Medina (the Old Town) where secular savoir-faire and traditions really come to life: silverware, goldsmithery, beautifully tanned leather… Crafts in all their splendour jump out at you around every corner of the souk, leading to the enchanting Maison de la Photographie, the Marrakech Museum and the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the deconsecrated Islamic college boasting stunning architecture. These three sumptuous buildings, witnesses to Marrakech’s rich heritage, are only a stone’s throw away from each other, right in the heart of the Medina. Close by, the Majorelle Garden, restored by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, hits you like an oasis of fresh air. The fashionable couple fell in love with the site, following in the footsteps of many artists who have succumbed to the charms of the city.
Bustling with creativity, Marrakech appeals to the international crème-de-la-crème, as well as encouraging local designers to follow their dreams without abandoning their traditions. Norya Ayron, Hassan Hajjaj and Hanout, pursuing fashion, art and design respectively, bring to life their own interpretation of Morocco, whether at the Souk Cherifia, in the trendy boutique at 33 rue Majorelle or in the modern streets of Gueliz. Marrakech celebrates creativity as well, all through the year, with flagship events that bring in stars from around the world: comedians traditionally flock to the “Marrakech du rire”, a festival founded by Jamel Debbouze in the former El Badi Palace, while music lovers throng to the Marrakech Jazz Festival. Knowledgeable art lovers flock to the Marrakech Biennale, celebrating artistic expression, while sports fans look forward to the Marrakech Grand Prix or the Marrakech Marathon. But the most highly anticipated event is the prestigious Marrakech International Film Festival, which has attracted an impressive array of stars since 2001, from Monica Bellucci to Marion Cotillard. Boasting its fair share of celebrities, pleasure-seeking visitors and fashion designers, as well as Michelin-starred chefs from around the world, the fascinating city of Marrakech is truly flourishing.
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Located on the northern side of the Atlas mountains and being a desert environment, Marrakesh has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and winters that are mild and wet. The average temperatures fluctuate from 12-13°C during the winter and can easily reach 35°C during the summer, with extremes of 40-43°C.
The best time to visit Marrakesh is from April to June and during the Autumn, October and December, when the temperatures are warm, but not unbearable. Keep in mind that from December to February the nights can be cold in Marrakesh with minimum temperatures of 6-7°C. It coincides with the rainiest period of the year.
Marrakech International Marathon, late January
Citroen 4L Trophee Raid, late February to early March
Marrakech Bienniale, contemporary art, all month of March
Marrakech Grand Prix, automotive event, mid-April
Morocco National Day, 23rd of May
Marrakech du Rire, comedy festival, mi-juin
National Festival of Popular Arts, late July
Marrakech Art Fair, late September to early October
Marrakech Tour, vintage sport cars race, late Octobre
Morocco Independence Day, 18th of November
Marrakech International Film Festival, early to mid-December
Methods of transportation recommended are local cabs, private car services and rental car.
You can also rent motorbikes and bikes, however it can be dangerous due to the traffic and the state of the roads.
Keep in mind that when driving in Morocco, you must drive on the right side of the road.
Taxis in Marrakesh are convenient even for short distances and at night when there is no other option of transport. Taxis are very cheap, however taxi drivers usually do not speak English and tend to negotiate a fix fare, usually superior to what would be the metered fare.
Taxis can be hailed everywhere, found at taxi ranks or booked in advance through one of the several taxi companies.
The initial charge is the equivalent of 1.40 Euro. The final price should not be superior to 30 dirhams (dh) if you travel within Marrakesh.
Credit cards are rarely accepted and an additional charge fee may apply.
Marrakesh International Airport (Menara) is located 6 kilometers from the Medina, 7 kilometers from Gueliz and 14 kilometers from La Palmeraie. Expect a 10 minutes journey to the Medina and a fare of about 10 Euros/Dollars. Metered taxis are available and private transfers can be arranged at the airports.
You can also expect bus shuttles from Marrakesh Airport to the major touristic areas.