The imperial city that, at the
dawn of its history, gave Morocco its name
As eternal as the snows on the
highest peaks, as impressive as the Atlas mountains, as
steeped in history as the palm trees are rooted in the
Earth, Marrakesh stands as the finishing touch to a
picture of timeless beauty.
The mightiest kings fought for it, a line of dynasties
inherited it, sages, craftsmen, architects, painters and
sculptors of all ages built magnificent palaces, mosques,
gardens and Koranic schools.
The Berbers and the Arabs come together here, to mingle
with the nomads and the mountain people. Every imaginable
commodity abounds, craftsmanship flourishes, and there
are palaces, hotels, restaurants, golf courses and a
casino: Marrakesh is the unchallenged capital of Southern
For all the beauty gathered here in one thousand years,
for the sheer joy of the senses, you cannot miss
CITY OF FASCINATION
Carts overflowing oranges and
roasted grains. Women from the Anti-Atlas coming to sell
their baskets, storytellers, musicians, dancers, public
scribes with their black umbrellas, fortunetellers,
potion vendors, healers and apothecaries all contribute
to the unreal spectacle that in Marrakesh, is commonplace.
Then, as dusk approaches, the showmen make way for the
hot food stalls. One after another, acetylene flames
spring into life.
And then, in the starry night, the moon comes out to play
the role it was designed for: to be the most magical of
the thousand and one lanterns lighting up the Jemaa el
Just as it has done every morning for more than 800
years, with the same inflected intonation, the call of
the muezzin going out from the 70 meters high Koutoubia,
the spiritual beacon of Marrakesh.
A multicolored crowd invades the winding streets of the
medina. Groups of men jostle towards the Ben Youssef
mosque, nestling against the Medersa, the vast and superb
Koranic school founded by the Merinide sultan Abou el-Hassan
(1331 - 1349) and one of Marrakesh's most remarkable
sun bathes Marrakesh in light.
Its rays show up the pink marble of the fountains, spread
across the tiled courtyards, are reflected and then bring
warmth to the turquoise, greens and whites of the mosaic,
to finally be lost amidst the stucco of the Bahia Palace
and the Dar Si Said, now a museum housing the finest
masterpieces of Moroccan art.
The legendary sun of Marrakesh adds a note of accentuated
contrast to the imperious splendor of the Saadian tombs.
It illuminates the remains of the Badii Palace where a
shimmering mirage may reveal the wonder of these former
glories to the dazzled visitor; the gold, the marble and
the onyx which were traded for their weight in sugar by
the most celebrated Saadian ruler, Ahmed el Mansour (1578
sun sets over Marrakesh.
Then, against a sky blazing with evening fire bounded by
the eternal snows of the Atlas mountains, the perfect
proportions of the Menara pavilion may be contemplated,
mirrored in the quiet, still waters that stand before it.
has passed you by.
In the copper souk perhaps, where the metal is worked by
craftsmen following age-old tradition, their faces set in
profound concentration. Or perhaps it was in the Laghzal
Souk, home of the wool merchants. Or in el Btana with its
sheepskin. Or even in the hubbub of the Zarbia souk,
where carpets and caftans are sold to the highest bidder...
You are in
Where the smell of saffron, cumin, black pepper, ginger,
verbena, cloves and orange flower enchant the nostrils.
Among sacks of almonds, ground nuts and chick peas piled
high like mountains, with baskets of dates, casks of
olives and, on the apothecaries' shelves, pots of henna,
ghassoul, flasks of rose extract, jasmine, mint, khol,
pieces of amber and misk...
are in the souks of Marrakesh.
Outside the ochre-colored ramparts, the rhythm is broken,
the colors change. The sound of the wind in the foliage,
chirping birds, the heady odors of jasmine and
honeysuckle and the persistent perfume of the famous
Here, nature is
a haven of peace, beauty and contemplation. No doubt it
is grateful to man for having watered it since 1106 by
means of an ingenious system of collecting and channeling
13 000 hectares of vegetation, 180 000 palm trees, a
world class golf course; this is the renowned Palmeraie (Palm
Grove) of Marrakesh.
Further away, behind the Royal Palace, stretch the Agdal
orchards, the setting for lavish festivals and
The trees weigh themselves down with exquisite fruit as
the seasons advance; oranges, figs, pomegranates and
And hear Bab Doukkala stands the Majorelle garden with
its abundance of giant bamboo, yucca, papyrus, palm,
cypress and banana trees, philodendrons and
bougainvilleas, and amazing cacti with natural colors
that contrasts vividly with the bright blue façade of
THE WONDERS OF THE ATLAS
Seen from Marrakesh, the vast,
imposing mass of the snow-capped mountains seems unreal
And yet the splendor, other - worldliness and imposing
might of the constantly changing Atlas landscape are only
20 kilometers away.
Just head out South East of Marrakesh, through the
friendly Berber villages of Aghmat and Dar Caid Ouriki.
Follow the road bordered with terraced gardens along Wadi
Ouriki until you reach Arhbalou.
From there on,
the choice is simply limitless!
Bear right towards Oukaimeden (2,600 m), the famous
winter sports resort only 74 km from Marrakesh.
Or else admire Setti Fatma and its hundred-year-old
walnut trees and dive into the invigorating coolness of
its seven waterfalls.
Or possibly go on to Annameure, village of the Ait Oucheg
tribe where you can hire a mule and climb up as far as
Djebel Yagour, centre of Moroccan prehistory which boasts
over 2,000 cave paintings.
the South, another change of scene
47 Km from Marrakesh, on the road to Taroudant, in the
typically Berber village of Asni, people come to barter
in the souk which is held every Saturday.
Towards Ouirgane, the landscape is reminiscent of
American canyons. Magnificent gorges lead to Imlil, a
charming mountain hamlet. This is the starting point for
hikes through Toubkal national park, climbing to the
summit (4165 m), North Africa's highest point or, at 3800
m, the Tazaghaght plateau, a stone strewn desert at such
an altitude that it looks down upon the clouds.
of Marrakesh, water, water, everywhere!
The Ouzoud Falls, where the water plunges for more than
100 meters. Wadi Mehasseur, spanned by the natural Imi-n-Ifri
Bridge, the "gateway to the abyss" in Berber,
which cascades through vast rock formations to end in the
artificial Ait-Aadel Lake surrounded by bare, red-colored