Marrakech’s Vibrant Flair

From buzzing markets and colorful souks to intricately decorated riads, Marrakech remains Morocco's most vibrant city and a popular spot for tourists looking to soak up the country's lively culture.
By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström
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Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Photo By: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Relaxing Riads

For some local flavor, stay at a riad. This traditional Moroccan house house  has an interior courtyard or garden, and is often decorated with intricate tile work. Many riads also have rooftop patios where you can relax.

Medina

Marrakech’s old medina is the ancient walled section of town with narrow streets that are often reserved for pedestrians, donkeys, horses, and the occasional motorcycle or taxi whizzing by. Within the medina, you’ll find historic buildings with antique doors and windows alongside more modern buildings.

Djemaa el-Fna

During the day Marrakech’s iconic square, Djemaa el-Fna, is a mix of vendors, performers with monkeys, henna tattoo artists, fruit sellers and locals going about their daily lives. Once night falls, Djemaa el-Fna, which is also a UNESCO Heritage Site, turns into one of the largest street food markets in the world.

Snake Charmers

While it’s best to avoid them when you’re in Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s snake charmers are as legendary as the city itself. They reel you in by placing a snake around your neck … whether you’re ready or not! Be careful -- avoid sneaking in photos of snake charmers or you’ll have to pay up.

Colorful Souks

No trip to Marrakech is complete without wandering through the maze-like alleyways of stalls and shops that make up its vibrant Berber markets known as souks. With so much to choose from -- from leather bags, colorful slippers and stained glass lamps, to clothes, scarves and jewelry -- get ready to put your bargaining skills to practice.

Dried Fruit and Nuts

Within Marrakech’s souks are dozens, probably hundreds, of vendors selling dried fruit and nuts like dates, figs, apricots, almonds and peanuts, which are often used in traditional Moroccan cooking. Buy bags of dried fruit and nuts as snacks, or sample a Moroccan tajine, which is a heavy meat or chicken stew cooked in a dome-shaped clay pot of the same name.

Berber Carpets

Dozens of carpet dealers in Marrakech sell beautifully hand-woven carpets that are often popular souvenirs to bring home. If your budget can handle it, spend some time looking through rolls of brightly colored wool carpets and bring home a piece of local culture.

Winding Alleyways

If you visit one of Marrakech’s souks for the first time, you will get lost -- guaranteed. Networks of winding narrow lanes with vendors all selling similar items can easily confuse even the most intrepid travelers. Relax and have fun exploring these narrow alleyways; you never know what gems you’ll find along the way.

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa was once an Islamic college (madrasa); today this historic site is the largest madrasa in the entire country. Open for tours, the site has gorgeous earth-toned tiled clay and stucco walls around a large central courtyard with a small pool. Its walls also have geometric patterns and inscriptions, and it has about 130 small rooms that used to be classrooms.

Lamps

From hanging lamps with round metal frames to shades made of patterned cloth, you’ll find thousands of signature lampshades at Marrakech’s souks. The lights from the lamps also add ambiance to the souks and are great to photograph.

Diversity

While Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, it’s also contemporary in many ways; you’ll find women in hijabs (headscarves) and abayas (long flowing cloaks) alongside women in jeans. In Morocco, there’s freedom to practice one’s own religion, whatever it may be.

Horse-Drawn Carriages

For a quick and intimate way of exploring Marrakech, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through its narrow streets and alleys. You can ride alongside the city’s ancient walls and explore gardens within its medina.

Ancient Walls

More than 800 years old, Marrakech’s medina is surrounded by a 12-mile-long protective wall and ramparts. In addition, 22 impressive gates provide various entry and exit points in and out of the medina. The clay wall’s signature orange-red hue gives Marrakech its nickname “The Red City.”