Marrakech, referred to as the “red hamra” city is a major city in Morocco known for it’s magnificent ochre color and is an attraction in itself. Marrakech boasts a vibrant street life and a rich array of drought tolerant flora and fauna, magnificent scents, exotic street food and bustling souks. Marrakech is a lively city where the traditional collides with the contemporary. A travelers experience to Marrakech can be highlighted by visiting UNESCO Heritage sites, sprawling gardens, mysterious palaces with majestic mosaic zellij tile work along with glorious houses of worship. The Top 5 Things to do in Marrakech are those that combine new trends with tradition along with off the beaten path experiences. For those who want a touch of local culture and authentic of city life our take on the Top 5 Things to do in Marrakech are stand out choices.
The Top 5 Things to do in Marrakech, Off the Beat Morocco – Recommended by Morocco Travel Designer Alecia Cohen:
#1: The Majorelle Gardens & Berber Museum
The Majorelle Gardens, previously the Jardin Bou Saf, bears its name from its original creator, Jacques Majorelle, the French expatriate artist who was born in Nancy, France, in 1886. Jacques Majorelle was the son of the celebrated Art Nouveau furniture designer Louis Majorelle. In 1947, the son opened his gardens to the public and, during this time, also painted a magnificent ceiling at La Mamounia, a five-star hotel with exquisite gardens and the place where Alfred Hitchcock wrote The Birds. Jacques Majorelle studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Nancy in 1901 and in 1919 went to Marrakech to recover from heart problems. He built the garden during those years, using a special blue color that he used extensively in the garden and that is named after him, Majorelle blue. Majorelle returned to France in 1962 after a car incident and died later that year of complications from his injuries. As a collector of unique plants from five continents, Majorelle left to Yves Saint Laurent one of the more unique collections of flora and fauna of this era as well as a place of inspiration and contemplation. Even though Morocco is no longer under the French protectorate, this original French creation is one of the most beloved areas in Morocco. The Majorelle Gardens also houses a 200 meter squared Berber Museum with its spectacular collection of Berber Silver and an exclusive collection of over 600 objects from diverse regions of Morocco. Visit the Majorelle Gardens during the early morning to take advantage of the Marrakech sunlight.
#2: Amal Women’s Training Center – Perfect for Couscous on Fridays, a Cooking Class and mingling with women –
The Amal Womens Center & Moroccan restaurant is a non-profit organization that empowers disadvantaged women by training them in traditional and modern cuisine. Founded by Nora Fitzgerald, an American born and raised in Morocco, this fabulous small house is located in the new city of Gueliz. The Amal Center offers cooking classes and is the prefect place for couscous lunch on Fridays.
#3: Café Clock – A Camel Burger and Hikayat Storytelling Experience –
Mike Richardson, owner of Café Clock in Fes launched a Mararkech offshoot that is the ideal place to go for lunch. Cafe Clock is trend setting with its fine get up of retro and vintage style Berber decor where young Moroccans, foreigners and expats can commence together to meet and enjoy Moroccan cafe fare while participating in variety of activities such as the Art of Hikayat Storytelling. Café Clock is off the beaten path in the Kasbah region of the Marrakech medina and embodies the diversity of which Morocco is celebrated. The oral storytelling of Hikayat can be heard at Café Clock twice weekly. Hikayat is over 1000 years old and the oral culture of storytelling encompasses everything from love to recipes, legal agreements and daily life. Visit Cafe Clock at sunset for a camel burger and Hikayat Storytelling. The perfect evening for those wanting an insider experience of Marrakech.
#4: Maison de la Photographie
A visit to Marrakech is not complete without a visit to La Maison de la Photographie which is close to the Medersa Ben Youssef. It is truly one of the wonders of Marrakech. Housed in a converted three story Foundouk (the old inns and storage houses for camel trains coming to sell their wares in the souks) which Patrick Man’ach and his Moroccan business colleague Hamid Megrani converted in to a photographic gallery in 2009. There are photographs of Morocco from the 1860’s at the very dawn of photography when intrepid adventurers had to carry heavy equipment into what was still a largely closed country up until the 1950’s and Morocco’s independence in 1956. The exhibitions are arranged on three floors, with large size portraits and scenes from the 1860’s and 70’s to the early 20th Century and the late 1950’s. The third floor has a video room showing the films of Daniel Chicault who took his cine camera to the Atlas Mountains to film in colour unique dance scenes and the village life of the Berber tribes in 1956 and 1957. Don’t miss this boutique museum or the chance to purchase one of their fabulous vintage prints.
#5 Ben Youssef Medersa
Visit the Ben Youssef Medersa, one of Marrakech’s leading mosques of magnificence. Not far from Djemaa El Fna Square is the Ben Youssef that was built between 1121 and 1132. A former theological university the mosque faces towards Mecca. Each wall is marked with zellij tile work and entering in the Ben Youssef takes you back to another century and makes one feel as if they are on a pilgrimage. This dynastic mosque is one of Morocco’s greats and worth the sight and the photo-op in front of its massive shallow pool and columns in the morning or early afternoon.