Marrakech is geographically located near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and a few hours away from the Sahara Desert. The contrast of landscapes is as distinct as the two parts of the city. Inside the Medina is the old historical city, with endless labyrinths, narrow passageways, and alleyways filled with local shops and souks, or bazaars. The Djemaa El-Fna is the main square that is the highlight for many tourists and photographers. Outside the Medina walls is the Gueliz, or Ville Nouvelle – the European district with modern restaurants, fast food chains, and internationally branded stores.
Ben Youssef Madrasa is one of the largest madrasas in North Africa. A madrasa is an educational institution that can either be secular or religious. The school was closed in 1960 and reopened in 1982 as a historical site for public viewing. The school is attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque, and it is also known as the Museum of Marrakech showcasing local art and architecture.
Dar Si Said Museum, also known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts, is set in an old palace. The museum holds artifacts from Morocco through the ages, including wood carvings, musical instruments, and weaponry.
I booked a city tour through my hotel’s concierge to see the highlights of Marrakech. Trusting the quality and standards of the hotel, I expected a luxury tour experience. Unfortunately, it was anything but luxurious.
Our private tour guide was contracted by the hotel. Once in the Medina, we walked into the depths of dust and mud, soot and filth, stray cats, and beheaded goats bleeding and hanging from bike handles. Definitely not a luxury tour. I wish the hotel and guide had forewarned us of the details of the Medina.
Outside of the Medina in Gueliz, the Majorelle Gardens is a famous destination because of the French fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent. The gardens and park were designed by its original owner, Jacques Majorelle, in the 1920s through 1930s. A small portion of the garden is open to the public, including a small Berber Museum featuring artifacts of textile and jewelry. In 1980, Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge bought the property after falling in love with Marrakech. Following his death in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the public garden, while his body rests in his private estate.
Angela Sibal of Foodicles is a Food & Luxury Travel Blogger who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now bases herself in Manila, Philippines.