At the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, stands Marrakech. A chaotic, immense, intoxicating city. At times the invasion of colors, smells, labyrinths and sounds is overwhelming. Marrakech is the first thing one imagines when thinking about Morocco.
We left Rabat very early in the morning. Through the window of the train the wild flowers dyed the green fields of violet and melancholy. The cold was fading.
From the Atlantic Ocean to the heart of the High Atlas. Arrival in Marrakech
We arrived at the Marrakech Gare at noon. Again we had no desire to deal with any taxi driver (they also wanted to charge us 10 times more than in Rabat for the same journey) and decided to walk the 4km to the Riad we had booked. This walk allowed us to get acquainted with the beautiful (though nothing we haven’t seen before) Ville Nouvelle and enter the medina by Bab Doukkala gate.
With our bags on our backs, we struggled to find our way to the Riad in the tiny streets, among several motorcycles, donkeys and wheelbarrows.
The riad was a few blocks from Djemaa el Fna square. The highlight of Marrakech. Djemaa el Fna is a monster of a thousand heads that every evening returns to entertain the masses. Snakes charmers, musicians, dancers, actors, fortune tellers, storytellers and a great etcetera give life to the most exuberant circus in the world.
Marrakech is a city that shakes you. You are exasperated to see the chained monkeys dressed as Messi or as a princess to entertain tourists. The salesmen who harass you at all times in a perfect Spanish.
Those colors that invade you and those impressive monuments scattered throughout the city.
Three days is the minimum to do justice to this great city.
Accommodations in Marrakech
We stayed in the riad Riad Alwachma and for the type of accommodation we are used to, we can say that the riad is pure luxury. The rooms are gigantic and all face onto a central patio which has a fountain in the middle. The patio is also used as a restaurant and serves the delicious breakfast.
The staff is very helpful. The Riad also offers the service of contacting the travel agencies that take you to the Sahara desert.
Anyway, if you want to explore other options, here is a full list of the best accommodations in Marrakech.
How to get to Marrakech from Rabat and Fez (and return)
From Rabat or Fez, Marrakech is very well connected by train. On this website you can find more information. The train leaves you in the Marrakech gare about 4km from the Djemaaa el Fna Square. If you do not want to take a taxi and do not have much luggage, you can do the journey (by day) on foot while you discover the Ville Nouvelle.
From Rabat to Marrakech
Timetable: 07.45 – 09.45 – 11.45 – 13.45 – 15.45 – 17.45 – 19.45
Duration: 4 hs 50 min.
Price (1st class): 195 Dh.
Return (Marrakech – Rabat): 06.20 – 08.20 – 10.20 – 12.20 – 14.20 – 16.20 – 18.20 – 20.00
From Fez to Marrakech
Timetable: 06.30 – 08.30 – 10.30 – 12.30 – 14.30 – 16.30
Duration: 8 hours
Price (1st class): 311 Dh.
Return (Marrakech – Fez): 6.20 – 08.20 – 10.20 – 12.20 – 14.20 – 16.20 – 18.20
What to see in Marrakech in three days
Morning: We set out to walk through the Medina of Marrakech. The souks (name given to the traditional markets of the Arab countries) are ordered according to the goods offered and are located in the small streets to the north and east of Djemaa el-Fna. Many of the souks are known by the name of what is sold. From fabrics, to jewelry and the famous babouches (slippers).
Noon: We observe closely the spectacular Koutoubia Mosque. This tower of the XII century of 70 meters of height is of the style of the Giralda in Seville.
Another remarkable mark of the Marrakech medina is the large number of fountains it preserves. The Mouassine fountain, is the best example, with carved wood details and still in use.
Another attraction of the medina are the so-called funduqs, complexes that are composed of stables and workshops on the ground floor and rooms for rent for the merchants on the top floor. These type buildings go back to the beginning of the city.
Afternoon: We relax and enjoy all the shows offered by Djemaa el Fna Square. This square was the site of the public executions around the year 1050. Hence its name, which means “reunion of the dead”.
The show reaches its peak at sunset where at the side of the square you can approach the improvised grills where you can eat for a few Dirhams. Of course, keep alert to the traffic of motorcycles and horses, pickpockets and remember that any photo you take out will incur in a tip even if it is a few coins.
Morning: We started the day early and decided to walk from the Riad to the Majorelle Gardens. The area surrounding the gardens was under renovation and there are clear intentions to gentrificate it. The gardens are the most expensive attraction we paid in all of Morocco (70 Dirhams). If the budget is tight you can probably skip it. Except you’re an avid follower of Yves Saint Laurent. In that case, the gardens are a must.
The fashion designer gave the Majorelle Garden to the city that adopted him in 1964. The gardens are an oasis within the hustle and bustle of the city and contain over 300 plant species from five continents.
Noon: We toured the most famous monuments of Marrakech. We begin with the Medersa Ali ben Youssef (entrance 50 Dhs), the 16th century Qur’an school, incredibly well preserved, is the institution of that largest type in North Africa.
Then we go to Badi Palace (entrance 10 Dhs). This 16th century palace is a set of stone ruins, guarded by stork nests with a huge swimming pool in the middle surrounded by four orange orchards. Along the south wall are a series of subterranean corridors and dungeons that relieve the midday heat.
The other attraction of the palace is the minbar (prayer pulpit) of Koutoubia (10 additional Dhs), made of cedar wood with marquetry by 12th-century Cordovan craftsmen, along with gold and silver calligraphy.
And finally the Bahia Palace (entrance 10 Dhs). This 19th century palace, once home to a harem, was our favorite attraction in all of Marrakech. The palace, besides being immense, is a wonderful sample of painted wood, ceramics and symmetrical gardens.
Afternoon: We cross the Mellah (the Jewish historical quarter with its synagogue, cemetery and shopping center) to reach the Saadian Tombs (near the Kasbah Mosque, 10 Dhs entrance). The tombs are made of Italian Carrara marble. In them is buried Sultan Saadian Ahmed al-Mansour, the male princes and between 170 chancellors and wives. It is worth noting that all the tombs are eclipsed by the mausoleum of al-Mansour’s mother in the courtyard.
Morning: On the third day we also started very early. We cross the Ville Nouvelle to the Menara gardens (free admission). The walk to the gardens from the riad took about 1 hour but allowed us to see how life develops in the more modern part of the city.
The gardens are surrounded by olive groves and a huge pool of water reflects the sky. On the winter days you can contemplate in the distance the snowy Atlas Mountains framing a perfect postcard.
Noon: From the Gardens we cross the medina again to reach the Dar si Said museum (entrance 10 Dhs). The museum houses a myriad of Moroccan arts, regional handicrafts, carpets from the High Atlas of the 20th century and doors carved with talismans.
The architecture of the museum is impressive, so we recommend you go through it in its entirety to appreciate it. On the upper floor, you will find musical instruments, and near the exit the most tender of all artifacts: a Ferris wheel for babies.
Afternoon: Our days in Marrakech came to an end. In the afternoon of the third day we wander aimlessly through the souks of the medina, to do some shopping and practice our bargaining skills (which are quite bad). If at any time you get lost, ask a salesman where the Koutoubia mosque is located and you can not miss it.
We spent the last hours in Marrakech in one of the many terraces that every coffee shops have on the Djemaa el Fna Square. We enjoyed from above and for the last time the spectacle that again surprised us.
We returned early to the riad. The next day at 8 am the travel agency would pick us up to do the 3 day tour to the Sahara desert. The adventure was just beginning.