The first feeling one has when entering this particular imperial capital is of pure enchantment. We are bewitched-falling under the spell of the place and its people, folk artists to their very souls who have only one aim in view to make a stay in their city as entrancing an experience as possible. With its world-famous square, Jamaâ El Fna, the beacon city of the Almoravids was founded in about 1070 with a view to controlling traffic from the nearby Atlas. It was from this rudimentary settlement that the earliest conquests were launched. Abu Bakr, head of the Almoravids, undertook the construction of a kasbah, nicknamed the "stone castle" only yards away from the present site of the Koutoubia.
Marrakech became the capital of a vast empire in the reign of Youssef Ben Tachfine-an empire which, under the Almohades, reached as for as the frontiers of Libya.
The first Almohades sovereign, Abdelmoumen began the construction of the Koutoubia mosque, which his grandson Yacoub El Mansour adorned with a superb minaret, still standing today. His son Youssef had reservoirs dug and a spreading administrative district constructed
-Marrakech reached the height of its glory. Built in the same epoch as Seville's "la Giralda" and Rabat's "Tour Hassan", the Koutoubia, dating from the 11th century, is a truck masterpiece of Hispanic- Moorish art. Its minaret rises to almost 70 meters
The Badii Palace bas long been regarded as a wonder of the Muslim world. It was the sovereign Ahmed El Mansour Dahbi who undertook construction of the palace following his victory over the Portuguese in the year 986 of the hejira (1578), a victory well-known in the Western World under the name of the Battle of the Three Kings. The major construction work went on for sixteen years. Other marvels to be found in the Red City are the Dar Si Said museum, containing much quintessential Moroccan art and displaying the glittering array of gold and marble ornaments collected by Ahmed El Mansour (1578-1603), greatest of Saadian rulers, the Medersas Ben Youssef, a coranic school founded in 1570 by Moulay Abdellah and a truc masterpiece of Merinids architecture, the Agdal gardens, laid out in the 12th century during the reign of Abdelmoumen and the Menara, a magnificent artificial lake fringed with flowers ...
Framed by the snowy heights of the Atlas, with rose-colored ramparts and a thousand year old palm grove, Marrakech casts a magic spell. Sumptuous and exuberant, it radiates splendor and mysticism ; at the dye merchants, in the explosion of multicolored wools ; at Festival time, in the rhythm of the music, in the emotion of the dancers ; in the idle talk of the merchants and in the skill of the jugglers. Enchantment, you feel in the shade of the blue gardens and in the overwhelming perfection of the Koutoubia.
National Folklore Festival in July : Dancers, singers and musicians from all over Morocco perform in the great courtyard of the El Badi palace ruins.
½ day historical tour : Koutoubia mosque (12th cent.), El Mansour mosque, the Saadians tombs (16th cent.) , the ruins of el Badia palace (16th cent.) with its storks on the towers, the Mellah Jewish quarter, the Bahia palace (19th) , Dar Si Said palace (19th cent.) transformed into a museum, Tiskiwin private museum dedicated to popular arts & crafts, Riad Tamsna dedicated to arts, handicrafts and literature ( restaurant serving lunch and tea room), Dar Bellarj Foundation for culture (expositions, conferences).
½ day or 1 day excursion to Ourika valley : 65 km/41 mi far. Beautiful valley in the Atlas mountain, with nice view points and small pisé villages inhabited by Berber tribes. Lower down, the Ourika rivers meanders through orchards, fields and gardens. Souk on Friday at Jemaa d'Rhmat, on Monday at Tnine l'Ourika. Possibility to have lunch in an auberge facing the snow capped mountain and overlooking the river.
1 day to Oukaïmeden : 80 km/50 mi far, winter sports resort 3.273 M/8,700 feet high. Possibility to ski in winter (equipment for rent). Nice bronze age rock carvings. Trekking in the region.
½ day tour of the Souks : a labyrinthine market place organised by trade in separate but interlinked streets and courtyards. Souk Smarine for pottery and spices, cloth, Rahba Kédima for spices and jewellery, 'La Criée berbère' where auction of goods are organised, souk el Kebir, souk Attarin, souk Cherratin for leather, wood and metal crafts, babouches souk , dyers souk, souk Hadddine for blacksmiths. North of the souks, you can visit the Almoravides koubba (12th cent.), the Ben Youssef medersa (16th century coranic school), the Marrakesh museum in the Mnehbi palace.
½ day tour of the palm grove : 20 km/13 mi (2 hours) circuit, 100.000 palm trees. Can be done with vehicle or with a horse drawn carriage, preferably at sunset time to enjoy the beautiful colours.
1 day to Asni/Ouirgane : 60 km/37 mi far. Asni is situated at the foot of the Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa 4.167 M/13,650 feet in the centre of the Cirque de Tamaraout. Then the road crosses a low pass and descends to the green valley of Ouirgane. Souk in Tahanaoute on Tuesdays.
1 day to Essaouira : port 170 km/106 mi far. Visit the medina, the ramparts, the Skala, the marquetry craftsmen carving thuja wood inlaid with ivory, mother-of-pearl, citron or ebony; the fishermen's port, the silver jewellers, the Mellah Jewish quarter. Dromedary rides on the beach.
Ourika Valley Half Day
Located at the foot of the famous ski station of Oukaimden, the luxuriant Valley of Ourika rises gently up to the preliminary hills of the High Atlas where small typical villages have nested. It is a pure and magnificent place where silence is only " disturbed " by birds singing, water streams and wagtails. Ourika is famous for its pottery, minerals and crystals.
Asni Ouirgane Half Day
Located at the foot of Toubkal, the highest mountain of Morocco and North Africa (more than 4500 meters), the small village of Tahanaout gathers two times a week (Tuesday and Saturday) the region's farmers for the big souk. After the visit of the Ghaghia Wadi Gorges, arrival in Asni ; the realm of amethyst and the Green Valley of Ouirgane, known as the " Happy Valley ".
Essaouira Whole Day
Essaouira, or Old Mogador, is a city that reminds us of the times when Spain, Portugal and England fought to maintain control over its coasts. It is a typically Portuguese harbor with beautiful samples of the Moorish and Portuguese arts. Essaouira is known for its artists who work on thuja, its silver market, the art gallery, the harbor, the islands … It was also in Essaouira where Orson Welles shot his film Othello.
Ouarzazate Whole day
Travel through the countryside and breath fresh air, " the place where you can hear no noise ". Through the Tizi n'Tichka pass (2260m), one of the most culminating peaks in North Africa, discover a remarkable region disclosing magnificence, beauty of its rich sights and landscapes. Once in Ouarzazate, visit the Kasbahs of Taourirt and Tifoultout, old residences of Glaoui (Former Pacha of Marrakesh).
Zagora 2 days
Through the Tizi n'Tichka pass (2260m), visit the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou. Lunch in Ouarzazate and continuation on to Zagora via the "Drâa Valley ". Alongside Kasbahs, the road crosses a desert region. Arrival in Zagora, the gate to desert, visit, dinner and lodging at a 4-stars hotel. On the second day, visit a Berber village and return to Marrakesh.
In one of the most enchanting sites, taste Moroccan dishes while watching a beautiful show featuring, to name but a few, the oriental belly dancer, the local folkshow and an atmosphere of the 1001 nights in a genuine Moroccan palace located at the heart of the old Medina.
Fantasia Dinner & Show
The fantasia is a warrior ceremony opposing various groups of horse riders, Each group quivers under light, and the riders point their long rifles to the sky, shout out simultaneously and leave behind them a cloud of dust, before spouting their " black baroud of honor ". During dinner, made up chiefly of harira, méchoui and couscous, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the Berber folkshow, the performance of jugglers, the flying carpet, the belly dance and, last but not least, the fantasia show.