Marrakech, Morocco was the first stop on our honeymoon. As the plane descended into the most gorgeous airport I’ve ever visited, it was a thrill to see the vast stretch of reddish sand below. We were definitely in the desert!
Marrakech is beautiful if a bit chaotic. The city has an incredibly rich history and there are many sights to see. The food is amazing and the hotel we stayed at was so wonderful. I will cover food, tips and where to stay in future posts – but for now, I will dig into some of the beautiful sights we saw.
Three days felt a little too long for just Marrakech in the early summer heat. You could see the city in a weekend; if you were to stay longer in Morocco, book a day trip to the mountains for one day.
On our first day, we took in a bunch of sights with our tour guide. A guided tour of the city was included in the package we booked at our riad, and it was great to first experience the city with a local.
The rest of our days in Marrakech, we set out on our own to visit the sights we didn’t cover as well as wander around and get a feel for the city. Despite it’s maze-like layout, we didn’t have too much trouble getting around and finding our way.
We hopped into a taxi from our riad and made our way to the beautiful Jardin Majorelle.
First created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle in 1886, this garden became a favourite spot of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge. They eventually bought the gardens and added a museum on Berber history. It is well worth a visit!
When you walk in, you can’t help but marvel at how amazing it is that such a lush and colourful garden exists in the midst of a hot, hot ochre-colored desert city!
You aren’t allowed to take pictures in the Berber museum, but I quite enjoyed it. The craftsmanship behind many of the items displayed is remarkable.
We hopped back into the cab and set off for the Saadian tombs. We got our first real taste of exquisite Moroccan design.
Pictures don’t do it justice. It is very beautiful.
There are three rooms of tombs, one for the men, one for the women, and one for children. The servants are buried outside.
The beautifully lit, but dark tomb rooms are quite a contrast to the ochre outside!
Palais de la Bahia
After the tombs, we visited the Palais de la Bahia.
Here, we learned the difference between a riad and a dar. A riad has an open courtyard with a garden and a fountain, a dar has just the open courtyard.
Most of the light for both types of homes comes from the open courtyard, since there are few if any windows facing out onto the street.
This is super interesting because you never know what’s on the other side of that cement wall when you’re walking down the streets of Marrakech. Many streets have little to no curb appeal because of this, but once you walk in – wow!
From the pristine tiled halls of the Palais, we then headed onward to the slight chaos of the maze-like Souks. You never know what you will find when walking through these markets or if you’ll be able to find the same stall again later!
Here you can find all sorts of artisan-crafted goods, as well as some mass-produced random stuff, too. Wandering through and peering into each stall to see what they have to offer is an adventure!
Some streets are chaotic and clogged with tourists and salesmen trying to get you to come into their shop, all while motorbikes zip through. Other side streets are calmer and give you a chance to spend a moment checking out their wares.
We were in the market for a rug, so our guide led us to this rug shop. What is was named or where it was, we may never remember, unfortunately! We took him on good faith that this was a reputable rug shop, but I would recommend doing your research before getting to Marrakech.
We visited the Souks and Jemaa el-Fna several times over our visit. There is more to see and discover each time you wander through these areas. The vibe totally changes depending on which street you wander down within the Souks or what time of day you visit Jemaa el-Fna.
Last on our guided tour, we finished up at Jemaa el-Fna, the largest market in Africa. Because we visited during Ramadan, it was quieter than usual.
We ventured back at night to get a better feel for it, though it was still fairly quiet. I was hassled many times to get henna tatoos, but I stood strong.
It is a central spot within the city and it was just down the road from our hotel, so we found ourselves wandering over often to see what was happening.
It is hard to miss the Koutoubia Mosque when adventuring in the Old City. At 253 feet tall, it stands above any surrounding structures and can be seen from different points throughout the Old City. In fact, developers are not allowed to build up near it, to preserve its place above its surroundings.
The loveliest place to view the mosque is the Parc Lalla Hasna. Only worshippers are allowed inside, which I did not realize before our trip, so the park is the best spot to admire this historic building.
Le Jardin Secret
This garden is probably the best example of the surprising things that can lie just on the other side of a dusty, walled street. A small entrance with a sign is the only clue that you have reached this desert oasis.
The Jardin Secret has restored these gardens to what they would have looked like in the 19th century. It is interesting to learn about the religious influences on the design. Heavenly, indeed!
There are so many beautiful, serene hidden gems just off the exciting, busy streets of Marrakech!
This was probably my favourite sight on our trip.
This magnificent complex was built in the late 1500’s, but fell into ruin.
It was very unique. As I often do, I loved exploring the ruins above, complete with storks nesting at the highest points.
Below the ruins, in the preserved cave-like structures, still remaining there were museum exhibits to discover. It was nice to get out of the sun and learn more about Marrakech’s history. This site had a prison at one point. We got to explore the old dungeons while learning more about who was kept there. It was really neat!
It was just a short walk from our riad and offered beautiful views over Marrakech from the area where we stayed.
Stay tuned for more stories and photos from our Moroccan experience!