Aït Benhaddou exploring the fortified village in Morocco

Ait Benhaddou has a distinctive look with sand-coloured houses, a massive fortification made up of six kasbahs and nearly fifty ksours (individual kasbahs) all protected by UNESCO.

This fortified village located in Southeastern Morocco, about 30km from Ouarzazate seems frozen in time resembling an elaborate sandcastle.

The maze of narrow streets and crenulated towers are mainly from the 17th century. A great example of pisé clay architecture.

Ait Benhaddou lies on the old trans-Saharan trade route, at the border of the High Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. Ait Benhaddou is one of the most extraordinary Kasbahs in Morocco. Ksar refers to a group of houses made by soil and surrounded by high walls.

Ait Benhaddou has been used as the backdrop for many popular movies but is more than just a film set.

Things to do

To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot to do at Ait Benhaddou, what doesn’t mean that is not a great place to visit. Exploring the old kasbah by itself is a delight.

Walking around on Ait Benhaddou maze of winding streets until reaching a fortified granary is an absolute must.

From the top, you get an amazing view of the valley and the stony desert that stretches almost into infinity. 

Make sure you hike both hills because they offer completely different views of the surrounding area. The hill above the kasbah, and the hill across from the kasbah.

Inside the houses, you see small dark rooms with uneven floors and tiny windows. Nowadays the buildings are still constructed using hand-made bricks. Flat roofs are common here and used as open-air bedrooms.

The upper floors are normally adorned with ornate patterns. The more sophisticated the richer their owner is.

Without the hassle of major cities is also nice to admire the local crafts. Both sunset and sunrise are undoubtedly spectacular and not to be missed.

Ait Benhaddou — One of the most famous villages in Morocco

I just want to reinforce the idea, that despite finding Ait Benhaddou quite picturesque, depending on the time you visit, the village can be thronged with tourists. Game of Thrones seems to to have done quite a good job at putting this village on the map.

There are still a few families living in the ksar, other houses are open to visitors for a fee of 10 dirhams.

If you spend the night the kasbah empties out and becomes a peaceful spot to watch the sun go down.

Getting there from Marrakech

The cheapest way is by bus but the best option is to rent a car.

Two companies travel here the CTM and Supratours, I heard that they have other local companies, that are a bit cheaper, but not as reliable as the other two.

In Marrakech take a bus to Ouarzazate and tell the driver you want to be let off at the intersection to Ait Benhaddou (stop at the crossroads in Taborah).

From the stop to Ait Benhaddou are 16Km, but are always a few taxis around waiting for passengers. You need a taxi ride to get you to the actual kasbah.

There are two option, a collective taxi (5DH) or a private taxi. Negotiating the price for private taxi is important (~30DH). The drive only takes 10 minutes.

How Long to Stay in Ait Ben Haddou

Most people come here on a day trip for 1 or 2 hours.  I think one day and one night is just ideal.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Is it worth going to Meknes in Morocco?

Meknes is known for its huge gates and remnants of its imperial past, and also for being close to the famous ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis.

I didn’t really have big expectations about Meknes, but because was on the way and I had time to spare I stopped there. I found Meknes quite disappointing, and don’t really recommend including Meknes on your travel plan.

The city itself is ok, but not worth a visit when compared with other cities in Marocco. On the bright side, Meknes receives fewer tourists than other imperial cities.

Walking in the old medina is nice. Because Meknes receives fewer tourists it feels in a way more authentic and untouched than other cities. Simply wander and get lost in the small streets of the old city.

The gates are huge and really impressive, The most beautiful one is Bab Mansour right in front of Hedim square.

The Place Hedim (also called Lahdim square) its the heart of the city, full of people, music, games, coffees and restaurants, a less chaotic version of Jemma el Fna square in Marrakesh.

But there is a dark side to this place. It’s where snake charmers, ostriches and monkey with lids being explored.

Visiting the market is also a must, they sell a bit of everything.

Visiting the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum it’s free and non-Muslim can enter. It’s also a beautiful place with fountains, courtyards, colourful tiling and stucco walls.

Tourists are not allowed to ‘approach’ the tomb itself, but it is easy to see through the archway, and another side window where viewing is permitted.

The Dar Jamai Museum is worth a visit more for the building rather than the collection. The entry fee is DH10 (~$1).

Bou Inania Madrasa is a beautiful building, that used to be both a school and a mosque. Located right in the centre of the old Medina. To enter the entrance fee is DH60 (~$6.50) not worth it.

The royal stables have fallen in decay due to poor maintenance, and are not worth a visit. The entrance fee is DH70 (~$7.50).

The prison of Habs Qara is a huge underground prison where the Sultan Moulay Ismail would keep prisoners. In my opinion also not worthy of a visit. The entrance fee is DH60 (~$6.50)

Since I don’t really recommend any of the paid attractions there isn’t a whole lot to do as a tourist in Meknes.  So just soak up the atmosphere.

Outside of Meknes

Located a less than an hour from Meknes you have the ancient city of Moulay Idriss and the Roman ruins of Volubilis. both worthy of a visit.

How to get to Meknes From Fez
How to get to Meknes from Fez

It’s really easy to travel from to Meknes, all 3 options are good. Get to Meknes from Fez by bus with the company CTM or by train.

You can also travel in a shared taxi. The shared taxis stop in front of the main bus station (just outside Bab El Mahrouk).

The short answer to my question: Worth going to Meknes in Morocco? No, but if you have plenty of time on your hands why not 🙂

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Volubilis a stop into a Roman past

The Archaeological Site of Volubilis is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Probably the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in Morocco.

The Roman city of Volubilis dates from the 3rd centuries B.C. and the remaining structures still stand stubborn against the skyline nowadays.

Volubilis was one of the Roman Empire’s most remote outposts.

Entrance

To enter the site you need to pay an admission fee of 70 dirhams(~$7.50).

There are guides waiting for you at the entrance who can be hired for around DH150-200 for around an hour. It’s your choice to wire one, I always prefer to walk around at my own pace.

Better to go early in the morning or later in the evening for sunset, to avoid the heat of the day and the tour groups. The site opens at 8:30 and closes at 19:30.

Just beyond the entrance gate, there is an on-site museum, which displays the ancient city’s most celebrated finds documenting the whole history of the ruins.

The ruins, still impressive all these years later

Nowadays still a lot is left to be seen. From an impressive triumphal arch to mosaic floors in what were once rather magnificent townhouses.

My favourite mosaic was located at the House of Orpheus, where you see Orpheus playing his lute to an audience of wild animals, a dolphin and Poseidon, the Roman god of the sea.

At Volubilis, there’s nothing much separating you from the ruins, just a few bits of rope. So wander the site at will. Just let’s hope that all tourist are respectful and will not destroy anything.

It’s also still possible to the foundations of many houses, hot and cold rooms, the city’s basilica, temples, graceful columns and bathhouses. The ruins offer a fascinating insight into the city that once served as the capital of the kingdom of Mauretania.

Much more is still there to be found since the site is only partially excavated.

Getting to Volubilis

I recommend spending one night at the picturesque and charming town of Moulay Idriss and walk down to the ruins. The setting is just stunning, you have hilly, wheat fields and olive groves.

But if you don’t have the time to stay at Moulay Idriss you can still visit the Roman city of Volubilis as a day out from Fez or Meknès. From fez are an hour and a half drive and less than an hour from Meknès.

The most expensive way to wire a taxi, the cheapest alternative is to take a shared grand taxi from Meknès to Moulay Idriss (Dh10). – (shared grand taxis to Moulay Idriss only run from near Meknès’s Institut Français)

From Moulay Idriss is just 4 kilometres to Volubilis so easily walkable if you don’t go when the sun is at its strongest. If you are not much of a walker hire a grand taxi to take you to the ruins (~Dh30 one way).

I adored Volubilis, the site itself is beautiful and also all the nature around it. I’m glad I had enough time to visit the site and to explore and walk around the Moroccan countryside.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Moulay Idriss a gem to be discovered

The sacred heart of Morocco
Moulay Idriss is one of the country’s most important pilgrimage sites.
The town is located between picturesque hills on top of a mountain, 4Km from Volubilis nestled in a small crevice of the Atlas Mountains.
It is said in Morocco that six pilgrimages to Moulay Idriss are the equivalent of one trip to Mecca.
Moulay Idriss is the burial place of the great-grandson of the prophet Muhammad. In order to keep the town pure till 2005, non-Muslim people weren’t allowed into the town after 3 PM.
The town stands out because of it’s whitewashed look and picturesque setting. 
Putting Moulay Idriss on the tourist map
It’s strange to understand why more tourists don’t visit… when is located so close to a busy attraction like Volubilis. If you have time I highly recommend spending the night here, if not at least stop on your way to or from Volubilis.

Moulay Idriss it’s still a relaxed quiet place, free from mass tourism and with a centre free of carpet shops, offering a break from the hustle and bustle of the more popular Moroccan cities.

The people of Moulay Idriss we meet were really kind and nice.

What to do in Moulay Idriss

It’s not like there is much to do here, but the relaxed vibe, picturesque streets and the view from the top of the town are stunning. 

In town, you can wander around the narrow streets and look out for the numerous hidden terraces.

The main square is lined with cafes and food stalls.

Visiting the local market in Moulay Idriss is great, they sell fresh produce, traditional Moroccan pastries, dates, spices and meat (the disturbing bit)

You can see that here people depends greatly on donkeys, and you will see them everywhere. They use donkeys for transportation up and down the mountain. It looks like they work very hard with little food. It’s really sad to see how they treat the animals and how unhappy and unhealthy they look.

The mosque is quite simple from the outside, and non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.

Moulay Idriss is a great place to take refuge while still exploring Morocco.

How to get to Moulay Idriss from Meknes
By public bus

You can get to Moulay Idriss from Meknes by taking the public bus #15. It leaves from the bus stop near the grand taxi station and it costs 7 MAD for a one-way ticket.

By shared taxi

In front of the French Institute, you have the shared taxi station. One way costs 10MAD.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

What to do in Chefchaouen Morocco’s Blue City

Chefchaouen is the famous “Blue City” in Morocco, hidden in the mountains located between Tanger and Fes. A laid back, peaceful and stunning place with friendly locals, and on top of that there is no harsh selling here!! Can’t get much better than that!!

Chefchaouen was by far one of my favourite places in Morocco, my expectations weren’t that high because most places that are as famous as Chefchaouen are normally quite disappointing when compared with all the amazing Instagram posts you see. I’m not saying that is less touristic than I expected, but it’s still a special place worth of a visit, that managed to keep a good vibe despite tourism.

Chefchaouen is one of the most visited places in Morocco, so don’t expect to be the only one there.

True to be told Chefchaouen is a stunning place and a photographer’s dream. It’s hard to leave the camera for a minute…  just remember while you are there that people actually live here, so be respectful. 

What to Do in Chefchaouen
Lose yourself

There isn’t a lot “to do” in this town, so wandering around is one of the top things to do. The city is really charming, so don’t rush and enjoy being present and being there.

It’s easy to wander here for hours and just be in awe the whole time. Try to find small details in the middle of the blueness of Chefchaouen like the stunning doors.

The Blue Souk

Although I didn’t do any shopping, I did walk around and look at the beautiful and colourful shops. The vibe is nothing like the one you get in other parts of Morocco. Vendors here are not pushy at all. You are completely free to walk around, observe locals’ daily life around the Medina and look at the shops without being pushed to buy anything. 

Chefchaouen Market

Chefchaouen Market is a Local Farmer’s Market that sells fresh locally grown produce. A great place to go for a walk first thing in the morning. All the colours and smells are the perfect combination for a memorable experience.

The market happens every Monday, Thursday and Saturday. The farmers of the Rif valley come down to Chefchaouen to sell their wares.

Kasbah Museum and Mosque

The Ethnographic Museum – Kasbah is located right in the middle of the main square and has a display of regional artefacts including pottery, instruments, and paintings, not really worth a visit in my opinion. The entry fee is 60MAD (~$6.50).

Next to the museum, you’ll see the Mosque that dates to the 15th century. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.

Waterfall Ras el Maa

The waterfall is located outside of the medina at walking distance. Is a nice, quiet and cute stroll into nature only minutes away from the busy Medina. 

Spanish Mosque

There is a small walk (20 minutes uphill) that separates the town to the Spanish Mosque, a famous spot to visit for sunset. The mosque itself doesn’t have much interest, but the views are stunning.

Out and about
  • Doing a day trip into the mountains is a great option if you have time to spare in the region. There are a few nice hiking trails that you can explore.
  • The d’Akchour waterfall and God’s Bridge, are a beautiful place to go for a walk and swim. Only riched by car or taxi, it’s a 45-minute drive.
  • Visiting the hash fields are also an option.
How to get to Chefchaouen

You can easily get to Chefchaouen on your own. The CTM Bus line in Morocco travels to Chefchaouen. The company is safe, clean, comfortable, and reliable. You can travel from Tangier, Fes, or Rabat. If you are travelling during the high season and Moroccan holidays it’s better to book in advance.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Ouarzazate Morocco’s Hollywood

Ouarzazate (war-zazat) is located at the edge of the Sahara desert and for that reason called “The Doorway to the Desert”.  A city of palm trees, sandy streets, muddy brick houses, blocky, fort-like buildings and film sets.

 

This town is surprisingly calm for Morrocan standards located five hours south of Marrakech by bus. This town is in the Souss-Massa-Drâa of southern-central Morocco.

Ouarzazate has a connection with blockbuster cinema and two major film production studios are located here, a film school and even a museum of cinema. Many call Ouarzazate “Ouallywood”.

 

As a travel destination by itself, Ouarzazate doesn’t have that much to see or do. But because its location can be used as a base for day trips.

Day trips from Ouarzazate

You have the orange dunes in the east and some nice nearby villages and kasbahs to be explored.

The well-known Ait Ben Haddou is a beautiful ancient ksar about 30 minutes outside the city of Ouarzazate. A place used as a backdrop in countless movies and TV programs.

 

It’s also within easy reach oasis valleys and ancient kasbahs. The Fint Oasis and the Tifoultoute Kasbah are perfect for a nice hike (15km and 8km from Ouarzazate respectively).

A bit further away you have the Todra Gorges, a series of stunning limestone river canyons that are also worth a visit.

What to Do in Ouarzazate

Ouarzazate is a great place to get lost in while you discover the Old District, with its muddy brick houses lining the old streets.

 

The Taourirt part of the Old District holds an ancient fortified village, still standing right in the heart of the city. Taourirt Kasbah Museum showcases the south Moroccan kasbah architecture.

 

At Ouarzazate city centre, you can walk around Al-Mouahidine Square and the market, and also stop at a pastry shop or café to take in the city’s lively evenings.

The Ouarzazate Center Market begins at 6pm. Here they sell all sort of goods, from clothes to handicraft. the market is located right in the city centre.

 

The local market located on the market road (6.00am) sells all kinds of items from clothes to crafts and spices. The market happens every Sunday is probably one of Ouarzazate less visited place by tourists.

Then you have lots of attractions related to cinema, from the Atlas Cinema Studios, the CLA Cinema Studios and the Cinema Museum. I didn’t visit any of these places but if you’re a cinephile I’m sure you will enjoy it.

How to get from Marrakech to Ouarzazate

Getting to Ouarzazate from Marrakech is quite easy. There are two companies that run bus services between these two cities, CTM and Supratours. The cost for both is 80 Dirhams (~$9.8), and the journey takes 5 hours.

 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Fez Travel Guide

Fez (or Fes if you’re following Arabic spelling) is the third largest city in Morocco and part of the UNESCO. Fez is set in the lowlands between the Rif and Middle Atlas mountain ranges in northern Morocco. Located just over 300 miles from Marrakesh.

Fez is one of the four imperial cities of Morocco, alongside Rabat, Meknes, and Marrakesh.

The city has a distinct, traditional charm. High walls surrounding the Old Town medina, protecting one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world. Fez and its medina is a barrage on the senses.

Ancients mosques and medersas/madrassas (Islamic schools) are all around the city although non-muslims are not allowed inside, from the outside, you can have a glance of the splendour of the Islamic architecture.

In Fez, I loved the chaos, the smells, the markets and the food. Although it can be also overwhelming and mentally exhausting, especially during the hottest months. Fez is known as the country’s cultural, spiritual, and intellectual heartland.

The old Medina

Fez’s medina is a maze of narrow little streets lined with shops. The medina’s labyrinth can be fun to get lost in. Although the medina in Fez is not as hard to navigate as other medinas across Morocco. The medina has 2 main streets running in a loop, so if you stick to those, you’ll always find your way back to the Blue Gate.

The medina is a great place, though often crowded by locals and tourists, so stay on guard as pickpockets are pretty common.

Bab Boujeloud – Blue Gate

Bab Boujeloud (Bab Bou Jeloud), commonly known as the “Blue Gate,” serves as the principal entrance to the old Medina.

The Grande Porte Bab Boujloud is famous for its beautiful ornate blue mosaics and on the other side, it is decorated green.  The blue side of the gate represents the colour of the city Fes.  The green side of the gate, which faces the Medina is green to represent the colour of Islam.

Medina

There are 3 main areas, Fes el Bali (the oldest part and the world’s largest car-free urban space), Fes Jdid (“new” part of the city, which is still a few hundred years old), and the modern section of Ville Nouvelle with its palm-tree-lined boulevards, built in the French colonial era. The Ville Nouvelle is not a remarkable place at all means unless you want to grab a bite to eat somewhere a bit more modern.

Stroll the Talaa Kebeera

Talaa Kebeera is the largest “street” in Fez. It begins shortly after Bab Boujeloud (Blue Gate) and continues on through the much of the medina. Many different shops, souks and sights are located just off this main artery.

Medersa Al Attarine and Medersa Bou Inania

The Medersa al-Attarine (Islamic school) is located next to the Qarawiyyin mosque in the middle of the medina, next to the spice and perfume market. Is one of the most beautiful buildings in the Medina of Fez.

The Medersa Bou Inania is one of the greatest examples of the Merenid architecture in the 14th century and is one of the few religious places that non-Muslims can visit in Morocco.

Tanneries

You will probably hear people asking you if you want directions to the tannery. Just remember, that on warm days, you won’t need directions. I assure you can fell the smell from distance, so just follow your nose 🙂

If you want to have a look at the tanneries the only way to do it is through one of the shops, there’s no other way. That means you need to “handle” the vendors. (I personally didn’t have any problems I paid 10DHR and no one tried to sell me anything, I guess I was lucky).

Just a heads up in case you don’t know the tanneries is the place where workers transform animal skins into brightly-coloured leathers by soaking them in vats.

University of Al-Qarawiyyin

The Al-Qarawiyyin (al-Karaouine) Mosque and University are considered by some the oldest university in the world and is one of the largest mosques in Africa.

Fondouk el-Nejjarine, Museum

The Fondouk el-Nejjarine or “Wood Museum” is a museum where you can learn about the woodwork indigenous to Morocco, the tools used, as well as a collection of wood and cabinet work  (20dhs).

If you don’t want to visit the museum you can just contemplate the Nejjarine Square, a beautiful square dotted with Andalusian-style architecture from the 18th century.

Henna Souk

The Henna Souk is a nicely shaded souk cosied up beneath a couple of large trees. Here they sell pottery and traditional cosmetic products.

Merenid Tombs

The Merenid Tombs are located just outside the medina. To get there you can walk (15 minutes) or get a taxi.

The giant tombs sit on the hill above Fes and offer a fantastic view of the city.

The Mellah – Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter of Fez is the oldest in Morocco and has beautiful ornate balconies and wrought-iron windows lining the street.

Strolling around

You can visit the main attractions, but there is nothing better than losing yourself in the city. Strolling around alleys and narrow streets finding out the hidden magic of Fez.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Chefchaouen’s Local Farmer’s Market

Visiting the Local Farmer’s Market is truly a must when visiting Morocco’s Blue City, Chefchaouen.

Despite the blue city be hidden in the Rif Mountains, it’s charm is no secret to the world, and not much is nowadays off the beaten track over there.

I can’t understand why you don’t really see people recommending visiting the farmer’s market, it’s probably the best-kept secret in Chefchaouen… There were very few tourists when I was visiting.

Maybe is just because I can’t resist a market, while most people don’t give a damn about it… The only thing I know is that If there’s a farmer’s market close by, I’m there!

True to be told I’m the same at home, I like to buy good fresh produce that is locally grown, and support local farmers.

Local Farmer’s Market

Chefchaouen’s Farmer’s Market is full of fresh produce that is locally grown. Pure temptation to the eye and the stomach. A great place to go for a walk first thing in the morning. All the colours and smells are the perfect combination for a memorable experience.

The market happens three days a week, Monday, Thursday and Saturday. On these 3 days, the farmers of the Rif valley come down to the city to sell their wares.

Have you been to Chefchaouen?

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

The Fez Tanneries – Just hold your nose

Just hold your nose and get ready for a real hassle

Fez is famous for its leather goods, which are made in one of the three ancient tanneries inside the medina. The largest and oldest is the Chouara tannery, which is over a thousand years old.

You will definitely hear people asking you if you want directions to the tannery. Just remember, that on warm days, you won’t need directions, I assure you can fell the smell from distance.. and there is also the app maps.me and wall signs.

If you want to avoid the hassle make sure you don’t accept any unrequested help.

How to get to the tanneries

If you want to have a look at the tanneries the only way to do it is through one of the shops, there’s no other way. That means you need to “handle” the vendors.

I personally didn’t have any problems I paid 10DHR and no one tried to sell me anything but my partner does look a bit Morrocan, that might have helped a bit 😅.

We went inside the shop, looked at the tanneries, and left the shop without getting so much as a: “Would you like to look?”, let alone a hard sell.

What are the tanneries?

The tanneries are the place where workers transform animal skins into brightly-coloured leathers by soaking them in vats.

The tanneries spread out like a tray of watercolour paints, where cow, sheep, goat and camel hides are taken to be preserved, dyed, and turned into handbags, jackets and wallets that are sold in the surrounding souks.

The idea of looking at animal’s skins is pretty discussing for me as it is. And doesn’t get any better when you know the processes they use.

The skin is first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, pigeon poop, quicklime, salt and water. A method used for over a thousand years.

I’m not sure that nowadays the colours are still derived from natural products like poppy flowers, henna, indigo, or saffron.

What I do know is that the process is absolutely disgusting. Nowadays it’s so easy to find cruelty-free leathers, that doesn’t depend on animal abuse and exploitation.

Vegan leather it’s a leather alternative that doesn’t involve animal products. What this looks like in practice is a synthetic or natural fabric that’s structured and printed to perform a bit like leather.

If you still want to visit the tanneries, be aware that this is the place where most scams append.

How to Avoid the Tannery Scam

Be ready to encounter dozens and dozens of “helpful” locals giving you advice and tips, like: – “that street/place you want to go is closed”; “if you want to see the tannery you need a guide”; “I can show you the way, for free”; “I’ll help you get a good price”. None of these or any variations of it is true.

In order to avoid being scammed, you need to know that older teenagers and young adult men will be loitering in this area. They’re all working together on this scam.

When someone tries to give you unsolicited advise don’t take their offer. Just keep walking. If they are insistent and try to talk to you, just completely ignore them or just say no. If they keep following you, you can threaten to call the police (190 or 112).

Once at the shop, make sure you make it clear you want to view the views and you are not interested in buying anything. Talk with a smile on your face and a firm but polite tone in your voice.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Marrakech Travel Guide

Marrakech is a wonderful and fascinating city to travel to, but the hustle and bustle, noise, traffic, heat, and the crowds, take some time to get used to.

People have different feelings about the city, same love it others hate it. The intense heat in the Medina, the intimidating nature of some men, pollution, constant harassment, rubbish everywhere, and animal exploitation are between the main reasons,  I can definitely see both sides and no place is only good.

I personally had a great experience, most likely because most people thought my partner was Morrocan 🙂

Marrakech is one of the most visited Moroccan cities and is also called ‘’the red city’’ because of the colour of its walls.

Marrakech is a city of small paths, amazing crafts and colourful atmosphere, is known for its markets, food scene, riads (traditional accommodation around a courtyard) and medina, the heart of the city.

Lost and found in Marrakech, the medina and the souks

The Medina is the ancient walled city that dates from the 12th century, a place to get lost walking the winding streets. All Moroccan cities have an older part where the medinas are located.

Visit the medina first thing in the morning is great, just before everything opens, so you can feel the city waking up. Also, make sure you get off the main streets and explore the hundreds of alleys without shops.

The medina is a place for selling and buying all kinds of products, and their streets are packed with shops and street vendors. The Marrakesh medina is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

The souks of Marrakech are messy, chaotic, colourful, smelly but kind of fantastic at the same time. I loved walking around watching life going by. The souks sell a variety of items such as carpets and rugs, traditional Muslim attire, used clothes, livestock, and fresh produce. Haggling is still a very important part of the trade in the souks.

Unlike the medina, the souk is a temporary structure that goes up in the morning and down later in the day, located in an empty field.

When you walk around, leaving the more touristic routes, you can find markets where you will see locals buying fresh ingredients. 

The alleyways and narrow turns seem to go on and on, they are packed with the busyness of the city so as the streets are usually packed, it’s the perfect place for pickpockets. Don’t be too complacent.

The top tip here is, if you don’t wish to buy anything, don’t ask neither answer. Simply keep walking and smile.  Also knowing two simple Arabic words can get you a long way: La= No, Choukran=thank you. 

Jemaa el-Fnaa 

Somehow Jemaa el-Fnaa comes on top of most websites and guides as a must place to go in Marrakech.

Jemaa el-Fnaa it’s a very busy market in the main square packed with stalls selling local wares/food, musicians, acrobats, and storyteller. Is quite an aggressive place for tourists, in the way you can’t really walk around without being disturbed, the harassment is constant, so get ready to feel overwhelmed to start. 

There are also snake charmers and men with monkeys chained to them trying to get people to pay for a photo. The animal tourism here is cruel so please don’t encourage it by paying to take pictures with the animals. As you know we create the demand..

I would still recommend you to go but lower your expectation…wasn’t my favourite part of Marrakech at all.  You can always go up to one of the bars and cafes overlooking the square and spend some time watching all of the antics going on below.

Some people say that if you skip Djemaa El-Fna you miss the soul of the city unless hardcore harassment is Marrakech’s souls it’s hard for me to agree with that statement.

Be aware of pickpocketers at Jemaa al-Fna square.

Enjoy the calm of the parks
Cyber Park Arsat Moulay Abdeslam

Just outside of the medina is the Cyber Park Arsat Moulay Abdeslam, that dates back from the 18th century,  a set of beautiful gardens with fountains and plants. A perfect place for a walk around and relax.

Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle garden)

The Majorelle gardens are located about 500 meters from the medina, behind the central bus station. It’s a charming place, wrapped by a water canal, with stunning cactus, exotic plants, palm trees, a lily pond, and a small bamboo forest.  Although this was not my favourite, I like the gardens to be tranquil and peaceful, and this one is usually pretty busy.

The entrance fee is 70 Dirhams (£5.50) per person plus an extra 30 Dirham to visit the Berber Museum.

Le Jardin secret

Le Jardin secret is a beautiful private medina garden revived for the 21st century that displays an exotic and traditional Islamic garden. (50Dirhams ~ £4.10)

Menara gardens

This isn’t really a garden, but acres of olive trees and an empty pavilion in the back. Not really worthy of 70 MAD entrance fee at all.

Bahia Palace

The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th Century, and it offers some quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina. The palace has beautiful courtyards and rooms with magnificent ceilings. A must see if you like architecture as there’s lots of intricate tile, paint and woodwork.

The admission ticket is 70 Dirhams (£5.50) to go inside and walk around the grounds.

El Badi Palace

The Badi Palace is in bad shape nowadays but it offers fantastic views of Marrakech from the terrace where you can see the Atlas Mountains on a clear day.

It cost 70 Dirhams (£5.50) to visit the vast palace ruins, with its large pools and orange trees.

Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque is located right by Jemaa el-Fnaa and is the largest mosque in Marrakech. Unfortunately, you can also see it from outside and walk around the gardens unless you’re Muslim.  This place is quite beautiful after sunset when the light bouncing off the mosque.

There’s a public garden right behind Koutobia called Parc Lalla Hasna, is a great place to photograph the mosque and the minaret.

Ali Ben Youssef Medersa

(Closed for renovation works until 2020)

Ben Youssef Madrasa is a Quranic learning centre that was once the largest in North Africa and remains nowadays among the most splendid. The inscription over the entrance reads, “You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded”.

Saadian Tombs

The Saadian Tombs, located in the south of the medina, contain the remains of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and members of his family. 

The structure dates from the late 16th century while interesting, the tombs can be very crowded with visitors. Some ornaments are quite impressive, reminding slightly Alhambra.

The tombs were built with marble imported from Italy and they have beautiful stucco work made with cedar wood.

Bab Agnaou

Bab Agnaou is a beautiful getaway to the old city built in the 12th century, right next to the Saadian Tombs.

The gateway used to have a stone that had a blueish hue in the beginning but that the desert sands turned into the reddish colour.

La Mamounia Hotel

My suggestions are not to stay at the La Mamounia Hotel, where the room price goes at £400 a night, but instead just to visit the most historic and famous hotel in Marrakesh.

Wondering around Marrakech

Walking around without a plan is wonderful, you will stumble on amazing markets where locals are buying fresh ingredients; stunning doors, alleys, and picturesque mosques. 

Landing in Marrakesh can be a bit overwhelming in the beginning, and tourist scams are far too common, be aware and enjoy. Find here the 15 essential tips for visiting Marrakesh  

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha