One of the largest cities in Morocco, Marrakech (or Marrakesh) was formerly one of the country’s imperial cities. Marrakech was founded in the 11th century by the Almoravides, a Berber dynasty who turned the city into an important center of commerce, religion, philosophy and culture. Under Almoravide rule, red sandstone walls, lavish palaces and Koranic schools were built of which much can still be seen today.
During the 1960s, Marrakech was known as a “hippie mecca,” attracting famous celebrities such as The Beatles, Yves Saint Laurent and the Rolling Stones. Comprised of beautiful old architecture and courtyards of orange, palm, apricot and olive trees, Marrakesh today is still one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations.
At the heart of the Marrakesh is the Medina, a labyrinth of old walls and narrow passageways packed with historic sites, museums, enticing food stalls and colorful souks, or markets. The focal point of the Medina is Djemaa El-Fna, the main square, buzzing with snake charmers, musicians, acrobats, storytellers, magicians and stalls selling the likes of carpets, leather, pottery, hookahs and spices. Other must-see sites in Marrakesh are the 12th century Koutoubia Mosque, the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace and and Majorelle Gardens.
Outside the Medina is the new district, Gueliz, home to name brand stores, fast food chains and modern restaurants serving a range of cuisines from traditional tagine and couscous dishes to international fare.