Marrakesh Tourist Attractions
Regardless of the origins of the word, Marrakech gave its name to the whole country of Morocco in all its many foreign versions - Morocco, Maroc, Morokko, Marruecos, etc.
All these names come from the Latin "Morroch" which derives from the medieval name for Marrakech.The Almoravides made Marrakech the capital of an empire that covered most of the Magreb (Northwest Africa) and extended well into Europe. With the Almoravide conquest of southern Spain, Marrakech was invested with the cosmopolitan culture of Andalucia. Under the Almoravides Marrakech became a bastion of Islamic civilization and an intellectual center where the most famous scholars and philosophers of the age converged. The power of the Almoravides also made Marrakech into a great commercial center and wealth flowed into the city, further transforming its architecture. Lavish buildings were constructed and splendid gardens designed. The ancient ramparts and gates of the city are monuments to its medieval pre-eminence.Almohade armies stormed the gates of Marrakech on March 23, 1147, conquering the Almoravide capital. The Almohades under Abdal Mou'min continued their conquest of North Africa, extending their empire through Algeria and Tunisia and moving across the Mediterranean to capture Seville, Cordoba and Granada. Under Abdal Mou'min, Marrakech became an even greater Islamic capital. Abdal Mou'min was a great builder and gave Marrakech its most spectacular landmark, the Minaret Al Kutubiyya with four walls, each face measuring 13m/42ft, rising 69m/226ft to the tip of a lantern turret. Masjid Al Kutubiyya is among the greatest works of North African architecture and is surrounded by gardens. Marrakech went into a period of decline under the Merinids who captured the city in 1269. The Merinid capital was already centered in Fez and Marrakech fell into neglect for two-and-a-half centuries. The fortunes of Marrakech revived under the Saadian dynasty. The Saadians were tribesmen from the Souss region, who conquered the whole of southern Morocco in a war against the Portuguese colonialist in Agadir. When the Saadians gained control of the whole of Morocco their leader, Mohammed Al Mahdi, made Marrakech his capital in 1551 and began to restore the city.During this period Al Bedi palace was built which was considered one of the most spectacular architectural achievements of the century. Moroccan crafts reached a high watermark during the Saadian period and many splendid palaces were built which bear witness to their exquisite artistry. Marrakech also became known as a magnet for some of the greatest saints of Islam, many of whom are buried within the city. In the 17th Sultan Moulay Ismail assigned Sheikh Al Hassan Al Youssi to choose seven Muslim saints buried in Marrakech to form a spiritual hierarchy for the city. The holy men chosen lived and died in Marrakech between the 12th and 16th centuries. They are Sidi Cadi Ayad, Sidi As-Soheyli, Sidi Yousef Ben Ali, Sidi Bel Abbis, Sidi Ben Sliman Al Jazouli, Sidi Abdal Aziz Tebba and Sidi Al Ghazwani. Sheikh Al Hassan Al Youssi organized a kind of spiritual tour of their tombs which became known as the Visit of the Seven Men of Marrakech.This practice became a national religious institution, to the point where many Moroccans say "I am going to the Seven Men, meaning that they are traveling to Marrakech even though, except for the annual Moussem of the Seven Saints, the practice has now been largely abandoned. Marrakech, like Fez, is a genuinely Islamic city in both its genesis and traditions. The modern city was constructed in 1913 during the French occupation of the country and reflects the European influence.The city has never failed to leave an indelible mark upon visitors. Sir Winston Churchill was particularly taken by Marrakech and, in his war memoirs, has left this evocative memorial to the southern Moroccan city: "Here, surrounded by its extensive palm-groves that have sprung out of the desert, the traveler may rest assured that he will never tire of the majestic view of the snow-covered Atlas Mountains. The sun is dazzling and warm, but never unbearably so; the air is sharp and refreshing, yet never unpleasantly cold; the days are perfect, the nights are cool. The local inhabitants, dressed in their burnooses of various colors and patterns, are themselves a permanent picture; every countryman is a possible painting, every crowd is a pictorial composition. Should anyone be seeking a warm sunny winter, it is to be found in a truly unique setting here in Morocco."Marrakech is a rail terminus for other parts of Morocco. Roads link the city with the north and with the Atlantic seaport of Safi. Local industries relate to desert crops and include tanning and handicrafts. Marrakech is famous for its fine leather-work and desert carpets. In the surrounding area lead, zinc, copper, molybdenum and graphite are mined.
The Marrakesh Medina is one of the city highlights. Located within this old section of the city are various souks for tourists to wander through, and the Ali ben Youssef Medersa.
Djemaa el-Fna Square
The Djemaa el-Fna ("assembly place of the nobodies") is the focal point of Marrakesh. It is a large square where many of the budget hotels and souks are located.In the evening, there are rows of open-air food stalls, jugglers, snake charmers, storytellers and magicians. Around the square there are rooftop cafes and restaurants with balconies, where you can watch the entire spectacle.
The Saadian Tombs are the burial ground for 66 of the Saadians, including Al-Mansour, his successors and their closest family members.
Bert Flint Museum
Displayed in the municipal theater, this collection of costumes, jewelry, arms, musical instruments, carpets and furniture was assembled by art historian Bert Flint. The museum focuses on the art and popular traditions of the Souss valley and the Sahara. Another section of the museum is located in Agadir.
National Festival of Popular Arts
Every year, the ruins of the el Badii palace provide the grandiose setting for the national festival of popular art. This is the showplace for music, dance and songs, costumes, jewelry and ornaments for family or religious celebrations. The festival runs for 10 days in June.
The Agdal orchards stretch behind the Royal Palace. They are the setting for lavish festivals and celebrations. In season, the trees have exquisite fruit such as oranges, figs, pomegranates and olives.
The remains of the Badii Palace is where gold, marble and onyx were traded for their weight in sugar by the most celebrated Saadian ruler, Ahmed el Mansour (1578 - 1603). All that remains are devastated mud walls that enclose a large square.
The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th century as a residence of the Grand Vizier of Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I, Bou Ahmed. It has wonderful gardens, fountains and a shady courtyard.
Dar Si Said Museum
The palace museum contains Berber jewelry in finely worked silver, oil lamps in Taroudannt stone, embroidered leather, rustic pottery and marble. Also included are elegant furniture, carpets and a remarkable collection of door and window frames.
The Mellah is the old Jewish quarter of Marrakesh. It was established in the 16th century and is now populated mainly by Muslims. There are small synagogues that can be visited by the aid of a local guide.
This superb Koranic school was founded by the Merinide sultan Abou el-Hassan (1331-1349). It is one of Marrakesh's most remarkable monuments.
Majorelle Museum (Majorelle Gardens)
The Menara garden is the most popular among the Marrakshis because it is peaceful and relaxing.
Palm Grove is a world class golf course in Marrakesh. This golf course has 18 holes, 6,200m, par 72 and was designed by R.T. Jones Sr.
Marrakesh Folklore Festival
The annual Folklore Festival at Marrakesh is held in June.
More on PlanetWare