Since its establishment at the end of the eleventh century, Marrakesh has been a city where culture, economics and politics converged, to create a powerful centre of influence. The city’s long and complex history, beginning with the founding Almoravids, through to the golden age of the Almohad dynasty in the mid-thirteenth century, is visible in the city’s magnificent architecture, and vibrant atmosphere. The city is home to several renowned monuments that reflect the significant cultural influence of the city, as its inhabitants transformed the notion of the urban landscape. Today, many of its monuments and landmarks are renowned worldwide, and the heart of the city, the lively Medina, is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
The architectural jewels of the Medina
The magnificent minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque immediately makes a striking impact upon the skyline of the Medina. While it may not be that high, reaching 77 metres in all, it towers above the palm trees and low lying buildings surrounding it. Built in a traditional Almohad style and topped with four copper globes, it is the largest ancient mosque in the country, decorated with ornate arches and hosts a cool garden within its plaza.
The late nineteeth century Bahia Palace, while relatively young amongst its neighbouring monuments, captures a blend of traditional Islamic architecture and Moroccan mosaic work. Inside the complex a network of walled gardens winds through, with groves of orange, cypress, jasmine and banana trees. Although the Palace is used predominantly by the Moroccan Government, parts of the complex are open to visitors, who can tour its varied craftsmanship.
Though diminished in its extent, Marrakesh’s original reputation as a centre of culture and learning can still be experienced today in the Ben Youssef Maddrassah, the fourteenth century Islamic college that is the largest of its kind in Morocco. No longer active as a resident college, the Madrassah is open today to visitors to explore its vast clusters of cells, that surround the open courtyard, carved in cedar, stucco and marble. Across the square from the mosque lies the Koubba el Badiyin, the oldest construction in the city, taking visitors back to the earliest roots of the Medina’s history.
Explore the craft and cuisine of the souqs
The underground souqs, or markets of the Medina show off the vibrant atmosphere of the area, with stalls selling wares of all kinds, from local crafts, brightly coloured textiles and ornate metal works, as well as street foods, fragrant spice merchants and baked treats, filling the narrow, winding alley ways. Alongside the market sellers are henna artists, musicians, fortune tellers and more, combining to create a charming and exciting ambiance, that reflects the constantly changing and evolving Medina.
Just a short distance away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina are Marrakesh’s luxurious riad guest houses. Cool and spacious, these large guest houses are the ideal place to stay in Marrakesh, surrounded by the lush countryside. Though they are just minutes away from the buzzing energy of the Medina, they also provide a serene, tranquil getaway, and the perfect place to relax