Self-guided Walking Tour of Marrakesh's Medina

Djemaa El Fna,Marrakesh
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Boris Macek

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Marrakesh, one of Morocco’s four Imperial Cities, was founded in the 11th century and is known for its abundance of mosques, palaces, and museums. It is the most popular tourist destination in the country. The medina, the historic walled city, is the centre of Marrakesh and is characterized by its narrow, cobblestone streets and vibrant souks. The streets are primarily used by pedestrians and donkey carts, and have remained largely unchanged for centuries.

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Jemaa el-Fnaa square

Djemaa El Fna,Marrakesh
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Boris Macek

The Jemaa el-Fnaa square ishe bustling hub of activity in Marrakech. it is situated in Medina, its wide, open space contrasts with the narrow, maze-like streets around. You can find so many various food and other goods stalls here that it’s overwhelming. By day, snake charmers and henna ladies dot the square and scout for customers. When the sun goes down, the smoke from numerous cauldrons with soup and grill with meat rises and floats above Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Location: Jemaa el-Fnaa, Rue des Banques, Marrakesh, Morocco
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Marrakesh's Medina

Marrakech Street
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edviges

Marrakesh’s Medina is the equivalent to “Old Town” in European cities. It’s basically a maze of winding, tiny streets filled with shops and old style apartments. If you don’t mind the ubiquitous chaos, mess and noise – it’s a good place to stay – you will be close to most of the attractions around. Remember that no cars are allowed in Medina – taxis stop outside the main gate. But beware of motorcycles. They can appear out of nowhere and the drivers don’t seem to care much about the passer-by. Here, in the souks (street stalls and markets), you can buy many herbs, spices and souvenirs. You must know how to bargain though, as the sellers can be pushy and intimidating.

Souk Semmarine

Located next to the city’s main square, Jemaa al-Fnaa, the visually appealing Souk Semmarine is the largest market in the whole of Morocco, where traders have been selling goods for the past 1,000 years. If you’re after colorful accessories such as authentic bags, shoes, or clothes, then this is the right place to wander around. The henna artists, hawkers and other locals trying to take advantage of tourists can get somewhat overwhelming, but that is all part of the experience.

Rahba Kedima Square

This is one of the best market squares (though really more of a triangle) in the Medina district and is friendlier and more spacious than the souks, with ready-to-haggle vendors setting up their wares on the ground or on trestle tables. More traditional and more street-market-style than other, busier spots, it’s also a great area to see basket weavers in action.

Souk Zrabia (Carpet Market)

Souk Zrabia is found on the left side of the Rahba Kedima. Here you will find handmade rugs, carpets and kilims that are brightly painted and at reasonable price. There are also embroidered sheep wool hats found on this market.

Souk des Teinturiers (Dyer’s market)

The Souk des Teinturiers is probably one of the most picturesque in Marrakech. For many, it is the favourite Instagram spot in the city. The souk is maintained despite the industrial dyes because nowadays it is primarily a tourist attraction. Here you can see workshops with steam emanating from the tanks and big skeins of wool hanging to dry.

Location: Rahba Lakdima, Marrakech 40000, Morocco | Hours: Around 9am to 9pm, the best time to visit is in the cool of the morning, or in the evening
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Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret
CC BY-SA 2.0 / duncan cumming

Le Jardin Secret was in the 19th century one of the largest riads in the medina of Marrakech and belonged to the Chancellor of Sultan Moulay ‘Abd-al-Hāfiz, who was the last sultan of Morocco before the French protectorate.

The riad includes two courtyards. The larger has been restored as an Islamic paradise garden, reflecting the pure geometry and Koranic symbolism of its progenitors. The smaller garden shows another view of paradise, as described in the Old Testament book of genesis, where “out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.”

Location: Le Jardin Secret, Rue Mouassine, Marrakesh, Morocco | Hours: 9.30am-7.30pm Apr-Sep, to 6.30pm Feb-Mar & Oct, to 6pm Nov-Jan | Price: adult/7-24 yr Dh50/40, tower Dh35/20
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Dar el Bacha

Dar El Bacha
CC BY-SA 4.0 / 74913002A

The Dar el Bacha Museum, located near the entrance to the medina of Marrakech, is considered one of the most beautiful places in the Red City. The Dar el Bacha Museum was once the home of Thami El Glaoui, the pacha of Marrakech. It underwent a restoration project led by the National Museum Foundation, and reopened as a museum in December 2017.

Location: Dar El Bacha, Rue Fatima Zahra, Marrakesh, Morocco | Hours: 10am-6pm Tue-Sun | Price: adult/child Dh60/free
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Almoravid Koubba

Marrakesh, Almoravid Koubba
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Michal Osmenda

The Koubba is a 12th-century building in Morocco that is the only surviving Almoravid structure in the country. It was renovated in the 16th century and was later covered by an outbuilding attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque. The Koubba was discovered during excavation work in 1948 and can now be accessed by a flight of stairs. It is known for its ornate dome, decorative windows, and intricate interior motifs, including acanthus leaves, palms, pine cones, and calligraphy from the Quran. The Koubba was used for ritual washing before prayer and has an inscription in ancient cursive Maghrebi script that reads, “I was created for science and prayer.”

Location: Almoravid Koubba, Derb Souk Cheria, Marrakesh, Morocco
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Musee de Marrakech (Marrakech Museum)

Marrakesch Marrakesch Museum
CC BY-SA 3.0 / giggel

Housed in the 19th century Dar Menebhi Palace, which was beautifully restored in 1997 by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation, the Musée de Marrakech is worth visiting to see one of the best examples of Arab/Spanish architecture. With its calming fountains, seating areas and detailed tile work, the central courtyard, which functions as the museum’s atrium, was once open to the sky but now has been covered with glass. Its show-stopper is, undoubtedly, the huge hanging chandelier made of metal shards, each one delicately decorated with inscriptions and geometric symbols. The side rooms around the courtyard have lovely painted wooden ceilings and house several pieces of interest, such as historical books and manuscripts, jewel-encrusted daggers and swords, clothes, coins, carpets and pottery from Arab, Berber and Jewish civilizations. The museum also holds temporary exhibitions on modern Moroccan art, but sadly, the explanations of each item, along with those in the permanent exhibition, are all in Arabic/French.

Location: Musée de Marrakech, Place Ben Youssef, Marrakesh, Morocco | Hours: 9am-7pm, to 6pm Oct-Mar | Price: adult/child Dh50/30 | Website | Skip the Line Tickets
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Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa Marrakesh, Morocco
CC BY-SA 2.0 / yeowatzup

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was the largest and most important Islamic school in Marrakech and Morocco. Built almost 500 years ago, the Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakech feels like it has changed very little in that time.

You’ll find the Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa in the Medina district of Marrakech and you shouldn’t miss a trip to visit this important building, renovated and opened to the public in 1982. Founded in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 16th, during the Saadian Dynasty, the Madrasa was part of the complex of the nearby Almoravid mosque which was founded by Ali Ben Youssef during his reign between 1106-42, to which it was once attached.

Location: Ibn Youssef School, Rue Assouel, Marrakesh, Morocco | Hours: 9am to 6pm | Price: General: 10 dh (£ 0.80)
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