Presentation of Marrakech :
Marrakech identity card
- Population: more than 900,000 inhabitants; nearly 1,330,000 inhabitants including the agglomeration, 2016 statistics
- Football stadium: Big stadium of marrakech
- Time: GMT +1
- Currency: the dirham (1 euro equals approximately 10 dirhams, 1 dollar = 9 )
- Site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: the medina of Marrakech (since 1985).
- Passion of young people: football
- Economic activity of the city: tourism
- Best hosting site : Airbnb
Marrakech is one of the destinations that make travellers dream… even if its old lovers swear they no longer recognize their “Pearl of the South”. This city does not leave you indifferent, but you must know how to approach it and take the time to soak up its atmosphere, to immerse yourself in it for several nights. So, this imperial city appears as a jewel set in the natural setting of the nearby High Atlas peaks.
An incessant flow of visitors, restaurants for tourists, shops full of junk… So many aspects that would tend to make Marrakech a city disfigured by tourism … if one were to look at it at first glance. Because, open your eyes wide, let yourself be carried away by the undeniable charm of this bewitching and fascinating city!
Starting with the immense Jemaa-el-Fna square and its animation, which alone are worth the trip. Then get lost in the inextricable maze of the medina. It’s colourful and noisy souks, probably the richest in the country. A thousand small trades mix there in an astonishing atmosphere.
At the bend in the alleys emerge hidden treasures of Marrakech architecture, whether superb mosques, remarkable palaces, but also (and above all) riads that have become guest houses.
Marrakesh is not a museum city: it is a city on the move culturally, exciting museums are opening there, art galleries are flourishing. The red city preserves its memory, values its past, but its creativity makes it profoundly modern.
Marrakech remains an essential stopover during a trip to Morocco.
History of Marrakech
Marrakech is above all, with Fez, its rival founded 2 centuries and a half earlier, the historical heart of Morocco. Marrakech was moreover the name given to the whole country, before its Spanish deformation (Marruecos, and thus Morocco) was preferred. Strategically located near the Atlantic coast, not so far from the Sahara, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains which supply it with drinking water, the city acquired for several centuries the historic status of the southern capital of the Maghreb.
It was, from the 11th to the 13th centuries, the Berber capital of an empire that included Muslim Spain, first under the Almoravids (late 11th and early 12th centuries) and then under the Almohads. By seizing Marrakesh in 1147, the Almohads were not far from destroying it completely to erase all traces of the previous ones, which they considered bad Muslims. They were content to raze the Almoravid mosques and palaces to build, on the ruins, buildings like the Koutoubia.
Afterwards, the city had its ups and downs: a brief rebirth in the 16th century with the Saadians who erected it as a capital, before the Alaouites (the current ruling dynasty) abandoned it in favour of Meknes in the 17th century. Having become a secondary capital in the 18th century, it was given a new lease of life in the 20th century, first under the French protectorate, with the creation of Guéliz, with its western character, built next to the ancestral medina. Then, in the second half of the 20th century, thanks to the vogue for exoticism and travel: from palaces to gardens, from riads to wild parties, the fashion launched a few decades ago by the happy few would contribute to the rapid development of tourism in the early 20th century.
A city gone mad
Today, Marrakech continues to push its neighbourhoods further and further. How many inhabitants? No one really knows, as the official figures remain below reality. Population inflated, on weekends, by the golden youth of Casa to whom the motorway now allows to live at a hundred per hour the crazy nights of Marrakech.
But some people fear for the future of this city which makes the big gap between the haves and the have-nots. On the one hand, there are posters of real estate programs boasting of a carefree retirement under palm trees that are still non-existent, and the multiplication of soft green golf courses on the backdrop of the earthy desert. On the other, the medina, the heart of a city that has remained traditional, mainly made of earth and lime, with its myriad riads, its bubbling souks and its mixed population.
Accommodations in Marrakech
Accommodation in marrakech
Marrakech offers a wide choice of accommodation, for all budgets: hotels and riads to rent by the room or in full. Without forgetting apartment rentals.
That does not exempt you from taking your precautions before landing. Even after sending a reservation e-mail, a little phone call to warn of the arrival time can’t hurt. It is absolutely essential for late arrivals.
Hotels in Guéliz and in the New City
You have to take a taxi or a bus to get to the medina, but the accommodation here is more airy and you feel less confined.
There are almost no cheap or medium-priced addresses in “modern Marrakech”; better to look for the Jemaa-el-Fna square, where these categories are well represented .
Riads, an art of living
Strolling through the narrow streets of the medina, you will inevitably come across these riads, without imagining from the outside that behind high, ordinary walls, at the bottom of some narrow passage, are hidden little wonders.
Many of these establishments belong to French and other expatriates. Living in the medina does not seem very rewarding for Moroccans of a certain social level. Insalubrity, dilapidated houses, inaccessibility, lack of space, cohabitation of several branches of the family under the same roof… They favour new districts: modern and airy streets, impression of standing…
The medina was rediscovered in the 1990s by Europeans who sensed the real estate and tourist potential hidden there. It is also partly thanks to them that almost forgotten techniques, such as tadelakt (a lime-based mortar used as a coating for walls, washbasins and baths), regained their vigour and that the art of zelliges (glazed clay tile mosaics) has blossomed again. Result: beautiful articles in the deco and celebrity press, and the fashion was on!
Dozens of new addresses are born every year, not counting those that change owners. So many new favourites to be tirelessly discovered.
How to book in a riad ?
Don’t imagine going door-to-door on the spot to find a riad at your convenience. First of all, finding an address is a tedious task.
Then, remember that a written record of the reservation always protects you in case of dispute.
How much is a night in a riad?
riads allow a different choice. you can check out the riad websites posted on the web, but beware of ratings and recommendations, most use sponsored reviews.
Please note that prices are sometimes displayed in euros. For families, some riads offer “suites” for 4 (2 adults and 2 children) at special prices. On this subject, some addresses tend to call “suite” which is actually just a slightly larger room …
Rates can vary greatly depending on the period: high season (Christmas and Easter holidays), mid season (roughly from March to May and from September to All Saints’ Day), low season (the rest of the year, including July-August), which does not preclude, in off-peak periods, very substantial discounts. Breakfast is, in principle, always included.
Guest house or hotel?
A “guesthouse” is inhabited by its owner, for most of the year at least; but increasingly, the owners do not live on site and ensure a presence every morning to meet their guests. The business is also often left to be “managed” by more or less well-trained local staff.
Overt or covert?
Some riads are not declared, and therefore most often uninsured, and in any case not subject to controls on building standards, hygiene and respect for staff. This means that in these places, you will have no recourse in case of accident or dispute. All patented establishments post a document at the reception desk mentioning “classification decision”.
There are 1,300 official guesthouses in Marrakech and the surrounding area, including more than 260 grouped within the Association of Guest Houses in Marrakech and the South (AMHMS), which has set up a quality charter. This does not mean that non-members are illegal or do not meet all the quality criteria.
Marrakech: Where to eat, where to go out
Stands in Jemaa-el-Fna Square
In the evening, the place becomes a vast open-air restaurant where dozens of tarpaulin-covered gargotes flanked by wooden benches invite the onlooker to place soups, salads, couscous, tajines, grills, kebabs, mechoui, offal or even fish and seafood, all cooked in front of you. Not always expensive than the small restaurants around the square, but the atmosphere is friendly. Rather than alcohol, you will be offered sodas or, better, ginseng tea (in carts equipped with a copper vat).
The whole forms a large, noisy rectangle bathed in the smoke of the braziers.
In the past, hygiene rules were what they were…; today, pipes have been installed and each stand now has access to water, not to mention the fact that the large number of visitors (nearly 12,000 meals served every day!) ensures the rapid flow of food. In short, it’s increasingly safe.
Where to have a drink in the medina?
Numerous café terraces dominate the Jemaa-el-Fna square. Permanent show. For example, the Café de France and the Grand Balcony of the Café Glacier (south side of the square) are very popular.
The one at the Taj’in Darna also offers a beautiful view of the Atlas Mountains on a clear day (you can drink there until 7pm, then have dinner).
Otherwise, let yourself be tempted (at least once) by the fresh orange juices sold at the trolleys of the place, they are large and cost only a handful of dirhams. Be careful, the merchants sometimes add ice cubes (in principle, no water); to avoid any problem of transit, ask for it totally pure.
Where to have a drink in Guéliz and the new town?
Places abound, especially along the Avenue Mohammed-V in Gueliz.
Bars and discos
The poles of the nightlife are located in the new city, especially in the Hivernage and on Mohammed-VI boulevard, in the south of the city. The clubs, which are rather quiet at the beginning of the week, attract a compact crowd on weekends, Marrakech being a trendy destination for the wealthy youth of Casa, Rabat and Agadir.
No need to arrive early, the action doesn’t really start until after midnight. Plan a budget too: European prices in most trendy places. Finally, be aware that in many places, meetings are often priced.
Marrakech: Transport and travel
in Marrakech, the main attraction of the old city being the Jemaa-el-Fna square and the souks where, it’s a real pleasure to get lost, between odors and colors, try a babouche, (The babouche is a leather shoe, traditional in the Arab-Muslim world) anyway in the small infinite streets, there is hardly any other means of transport than walking (certainly, Moroccans also travel by motorbikes).
If you get lost (and you will get lost!) or if you are looking for an address, avoid asking a passer-by for directions. Always talk to someone “attached” to his shop. He or she will be happy to provide you with information. You can also talk to the luggage carriers, they know Marrakech better than they know their own pockets, including the most hidden riads. But they may be willing to guide you against a coin (make sure they take you where you want to go… you can ask twice 😉
Otherwise, embedded maps on smartphones can be useful: for example maps.me or Google Maps (by activating the “offline map” option for those with a Google account, after downloading the itinerary while connected to wifi).
They can be found almost everywhere, near the Jemaa-el-Fna square (forbidden to cars from 1pm), along the Foucauld square, at the bus station and on the Mohammed-V avenue. The “small taxis” are in the majority. They cannot leave the city of Marrakech.
Before embarking, however, know that :
Although taxi drivers in Marrakech are in principle obliged to put their meter on, some refuse to do so, preferring to offer a price for the trip (obviously higher than with the meter).
An average ride in the city (for example, to go from the medina to Guéliz) is worth about 7 to 15 Dh. Legal increase of 50% at night (20h-6h from October to April; 21h-5h from May to September).
use the taxi-vert service at the number 0524409494, ( if you don’t know how to get there, use this WhatsApp number, +212680704032, and book easily via a very short exchange), it is even excellent to book your transport beforehand, specify the desired route; the price is fixed in advance on the basis of the meter rate increased by 10 Dh during the day and 15 Dh in the evening (double for the palm grove). The taxi will then pick you up at the agreed time and place (some punctuality problems to be pointed out).
For off-centre journeys (beyond the palm grove and on the road to Fez, for example), fixed rate of 100 Dh (increased in the evening).
– If the meter is switched on, the charge is 1.70 Dh during the day and 2.60 Dh at night. Important : the minimum rate for a race is 7 Dh, even if you are 100 m long. Be careful, make sure that the meter starts with the amount of the pick-up and no more, because the meter scams also happen!
– Avoid getting into a taxi that is already occupied because, very often, the driver drives the first passenger to the destination, before serving the last passenger(s) picked up.
– Finally, in the city, a large taxi (old Mercedes) is much more expensive than a small taxi (unless you share it on frequent routes, such as from the bus station to the train station). They are, for their part, allowed to leave the city and do not have a meter. So negotiate the ride BEFORE it starts. For a race within a radius of 15 to 20 km from the city centre, count 120 Dh minimum.
About thirty lines share the network. Tickets are taken on board. Price: 4 Dh for a journey in the city centre. They are comfortable and sometimes air-conditioned.
For a stay of at least 5 days and intensive use of this means of transport, there is a “blank” Ikhlass magnetic card at 15 Dh which can be bought in all buses (it must then be charged, the journey then costs 3.50 Dh).
Note: 1 electric bus line should be put into circulation to connect the city centre to the close suburbs. At the time of this article, delays are recorded, so the local authorities have defined end 2018 as a new deadline for starting.
The quarters of Marrakech
The old city is surrounded by the ramparts that characterize Marrakech (classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). In the centre, the Jemaa-el-Fna square (“the square”, as it is called here) is the real beating heart of Marrakech, limited in the north by the souks. All the places of historical or cultural interest and the riads that make you dream are located in the medina.
The “new” city. Outside the ramparts and created under the French protectorate, it extends around a main axis: the Mohammed-V avenue, several kilometres long, which connects the Koutoubia to the Guéliz djebel, a small dry mountain. Large hotels, car rental companies, modern shops and large cafés are grouped there.
The Agdal district
It extends over the southern part of the long Mohammed-VI boulevard (more than 9 km). It is the place of colossal hotel projects, outlines of pharaonic golf courses and other large surfaces.
A small, quiet and residential area, south of Guéliz, between the medina and the boulevard Mohammed VI. There are chic hotels and posh restaurants and clubs.
In the northeast of the city, a kind of Hollywood marrakchi with magnificent villas and hotel complexes with swimming pool. A palm grove where the palm trees are still resisting, this tree is sacred to its history, and its meaning, Marrakech is so called the city of palms by Moroccans from other cities.
Morocco Tourist Office
Information on the main regions and cities with “events” and “weather” pages. Attractive.
See the website
The official website of the Moroccan government. Very generalist!
See the website
News site Ledesk, daily newspaper dealing with Moroccan news with a very rare vivacity of pitch. On the spot, we recommend you to plunge your nose in its pages to take the temperature of the country. In French
see the website (french)
Portail sur le Maroc
A rather complete portal on Morocco, with news, practical information, cultural pages, various articles… (French).
The site of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for their citizens, which is regularly updated, lists regions that are not recommended and provides travellers with general security advice, entry and residence formalities according to a country classification.
See the website