Exploring Medina in Marrakech
Aug 11 , 2011
Ever wonder what the kingdom of a sultan looks like? The medina of Marrakech is a well-preserved section of ancient Islam in Northern Africa. Visitors flock to see the sights, which include a massive shopping bazaar, old-world snake charmers, and ancient burial places. Oh, and the food isn’t bad, either.
The medina of Marrakech was established as a capital city of Islam by the Almoravide and Almohade dynasties that reigned during the 11th-13th centuries. The city is walled off with a large mosque in the center that is visible for miles. For most of its existence, the medina of Marrakech was the center of the region, which was known around the world as “The Land of Marrakech”.
The city is located on a lush oasis in Morocco, and was an overnight stop for most people who were travelling to Timbuktu in the ancient trade caravans. The imprint of that tradition stands today, as Marrakech extends its hospitality to visitors with massive amounts of shopping, lodging, dining, and entertainment.
Marrakech is sometimes referred to as “the red city” because many of the structures are built from the red-tinged earth of the area.
There are many places to stay in the medina of Marrakech. One popular choice are the riads, which are large homes that are built with privacy in mind, meaning a walled off exterior and an inner garden. Some of the riads are quite old and rustic, but many of them have been refurbished and are modern and clean.
Hostels are also a popular choice within the medina of Marrakech, inside both the riads and dars, which have open-air courtyards in the center. The hostels can accommodate groups large and small at an economy rate.
Shopping and Dining
Djemaa El-Fna dominates the medina of Marrakech, as the biggest marketplace square in the entire African continent. The restaurants line the square inside medina of Marrakech, serving up Moroccan favorites, international dishes, vegetarian fare, and drinks inside ancient buildings and sidewalk terraces. Some have rooftop dining spaces so that patrons can overlook the lively square during their meal. Food stalls within Djemaa El-Fna serve authentic local Moroccan specialty foods throughout the day and evenings.
Wandering around Djemaa El-Fna is entertaining. Snake charmers, acrobatics, musicians, magicians, and other street performers entertain the masses of people that move through the square. A handful of pubs offer drinks. The market place livens up in the evening as more performers come out and visitors see the square under the cool, starry sky.
The world-famous medina Marrakech souks surround Djemaa El-Fna. The souks are bazaars known around the world where local and regional artisans sell their wares. Some of the offerings include camel leather items, hand-spun textiles and hand-sewn apparel, handcrafted shoes, spices, lanterns, carpets, and household items.
The Koutoubia Mosque is the most prolific landmark in the medina of Marrakech. Its 300-foot tall minaret is visible throughout the medina and newer section of the city alike. Non-muslims are not welcomed within the practicing mosque, however, it is worthwhile of a close-up look of the exterior.
The Ben Youssef Medrassa is an 11th century Islamic college named after a sultan. The school remains the largest of its type in Marrakech today.
The Saadian Tombs in the medina of Marrakech house the final remains of the sultan Ahmed al Mansur and his family. The tombs are a beautiful representation of Moroccan architecture.
See some of the other amazing things to do in Marrakech.