48 Hours in… Marrakech

December 8, 2014 Nellie Huang

A city rich in tradition, history and architecture, Marrakech makes an excellent introduction to Morocco whether you’re into culture, history or nature. With its jumble of souks (markets), mosques, Islamic monuments and palm tree groves, there’s just so much to see and explore. For those short on time, we’ve packed in some of the best sights in town to explore in under 48 hours. Salaam!

The First 24 Hours

VISIT: The Medina or Old Town
Start your day at the Medina district, which is a mishmash of souks and tanneries. Ditch your map and enjoy getting lost in this old-world labyrinth. The deeper you venture in, the more interesting it becomes. Put on your haggling hat in the numerous craft shops and carpet stores, or bring your camera with you and snap away while weaving in between the picturesque alleys.

Inside the Medina.

Inside the Medina.

VISIT: Koutoubia Mosque
Overlooking the Medina at 77m (253 ft.) high, the minaret of Koutoubia Mosque makes it the symbol of Marrakech. Built in 1162, it’s one of the best displays of the Almohad architectural style. It’s still an active place of worship so sadly, non-Muslims cannot enter. You can however, still get a good view of its exterior.

The minaret of Koutoubia Mosque

The minaret of Koutoubia Mosque.

EAT: Traditional Moroccan Food
Marrakech has a kaleidoscope of traditional restaurants that serve up slews of tagine and couscous. A personal favorite is Les Trois Saveurs in the boutique riad hotel, La Maison Arabe. It’s most famous for the lamb tagine that’s topped with saffron, sesame seeds and turmeric. I highly recommend trying the pigeon pastille, a crispy pastry full of flavourful pigeon meat. You can also sign up for the hotel’s cooking class.

An assortment of Moroccan dishes cooked in the tagine

An assortment of Moroccan dishes cooked in the tagine.

VISIT: Medersa Ben Youssef
Continue on to the Medersa Ben Youssef, the largest theological college in the country. This Islamic school of learning was built all the way back in 1565 by the Saadians, characterized by courtyards, intricately carved stalactite ceilings and Kufic inscriptions. This is an excellent spot to learn more about Islamic architecture.

SHOP AND EAT: Djemma el Fna:
As the sun sets, head straight to the city’s most iconic landmark, the Djemma el Fna square. Its name means “the assembly place of the dead,” but it’s far from being dead. Bustling with so much energy and fervour, the square is often packed to the brim with street performers, musicians, storytellers and snake charmers. You’ll get to see a whole spectrum of Moroccan life here.

By night, the humdrum is replaced by street food stalls selling sizzling meat skewers, stewed snails and sheep’s head. The square is covered with rows upon rows of colourful pomegranate juice stands and spice stalls. If that’s too much for you to handle, escape to one of the many rooftop cafes and restaurants overlooking the square.

Djemma en Fna by night

Djemma en Fna by night.

The Next 24 Hours

VISIT: Palm grove on camelback
For those not planning on exploring the rest of Morocco, you can make the most of your time in Marrakech by heading out to the palm tree grove and rock desert just 20km (12.4 mi.) away from the city. You’ll feel as though you’ve traveled far beyond the city into the heart of the desert. Book a taxi to bring you out to the countryside and simply join a tour that includes a camel ride through the desert.

Palm tree grove near Marrakech.

Palm tree grove near Marrakech.

VISIT: Marrakech’s Museums
Marrakech is home to an excellent collection of museums that are worth visiting for a better understanding of its history. One of my favourite museums is the Dar Si Said Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts, home to an interesting display of Moroccan carpets, door and window frames, as well as Berber jewelry and pottery artifacts. The Marrakech Museum is also worth a visit, with an eclectic collection of contemporary art, ceramic work and textiles.

Beautiful Islamic inscriptions

Beautiful Islamic inscriptions.

EAT: Lunch alfresco style
Mix up your culinary samplings with some modern Moroccan cuisine at this traveller’s favourite haunt, Café de Épices (Café Spice). Located in the thick of the souk, this rooftop café and hangout spot fuses old and new in terms of both flare and flavours. Tyr the trio of Morccan salads or the fluffy vegetarian couscous, you won’t be disappointed.

Moroccan lamb meat balls.

Moroccan lamb meat balls.

VISIT: Majorelle Gardens
If you still have some time in the afternoon, make your way to the lush, tropical gardens and vibrant blue studio of painter Jacques Majorelle. His famous artwork and collection of cacti, palms and ferns have become an important attraction in Marrakech.

RELAX: At a hammam
Unwind and let your hair down at a traditional bathhouse also known as hammam. It’s been an integral part of Moroccan life since centuries ago and these days, hammams are visited by both locals and tourists. There are hammams throughout the medina, ranging from basic sit-down baths to luxurious spas. Hammam Dar el-Bacha is the city’s largest traditional hammam, with affordable prices.

Exterior of a hammam.

Exterior of a hammam.

EAT AND PARTY: Modern Moroccan cuisine:
End your time in Marrakech with a bang and see a different side of the city at restaurant and loungebar, Le Comptoir. As a fixture in Marrakech’s nightlife scene, Le Comptoir is a great place to soak up modern Moroccan vibes, feast on Franco-Moroccan cuisine and enjoy a belly dance performance.

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures to Morocco encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater for different tastes. Cities like Fez, Marrakech, and Casablanca evoke images of medinas, spice markets, and couscous, while the geographic extremes—from the Atlas Mountains to beach resorts to camels in the desert—make it eminently photogenic. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this enchanting country as you’ve never seen it — check out our small group trips to Morocco here.

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