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Marrakech, Morocco

Magical Marrakech
Exotic Souks and Cool Kasbahs


Early risers and thrill seekers may want to take the 6 a.m. hour-long hot air balloon flight over Marrakech. This can be arranged through Travel Link. Today, devote the morning to visiting the stunning Bahia Palace and Dar Sidi Said, two late 19th-century mansions belonging to two brothers who held influential positions in the royal court. The latter now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts with fascinating displays of woodwork, furniture and Berber jewelry.

Take the Riad Zitoune el Jedide either from Djema l Fna or from the Place des Ferblantiers. Between the two mansions, you could make a stop at the Maison Tiskiwin, a townhouse built in a Spanish-Moroccan style that houses the collection of Bert Flint, a Dutch anthropologist who has lived in Morocco for more than fifty years. This collection is strong on costumes, jewelry and textiles from various regions of the country, with special exhibits from the Sahara.


If you are not planning to visit Fez, home to many Koranic colleges or medersas, the Ben Yousef Medersa in the northeast corner of the Medina is a must. This Saadian structure has been beautifully restored and you can see fine examples of tilework, carved plaster and woodwork with different styles of calligraphy and ornaments. Nearby is the Almoravid koubba, the only intact Almoravid structure in the country, whose ornamental motifs form the basis of all subsequent national architecture.

In the immediate vicinity is the Museum of Marrakech, housed in the Dar Mnebbi, built for the Moroccan Minister of Defense at the turn of the 20th century. The Museum is administered by the Omar Benjelloun foundation and holds temporary exhibitions by contemporary Moroccan artists in addition to its permanent exhibition of jewelry and calligraphy. Its hammam is of particular interest. The museum has a bookshop and an adjacent café where you can have a rest before continuing your visit.

The tanneries of Marrakech, behind Bab Debbagh, about fifteen minutes from the museum are also worth seeing, particularly if you are not going to visit the larger tanneries of Fez. You can view the tanneries from the top of the gate or from the roof of the leather shop to the right of the gate. You may like to catch a cab from here to the new city and have a late lunch at one of the workers’ cafés that run between Ave Mohammed 5 and Avenue Moulay Rachid to the east of the Place du 16 Novembre. L’Ouazzani on rue Ibn Aicha is highly recommended. Order a tomato and onion salad and then a mixed grill—kebabs of minced lamb, succulent little lamb chops, chicken, liver and lamb brochettes. If you fancy something different, there is a wide selection of Moroccan and European restaurants in the vicinity to suit all budgets. After lunch, take a leisurely stroll through the shopping areas of the new town before returning to your hotel for a rest before dinner.

Street scene with musicians

Tonight, you may like to enjoy a Moroccan feast with folkloric spectacle. One of the best of this kind of experience, complete with horsemen, is the Fantasia “Chez Ali” held in an ensemble of carpet-lined tents some twelve kilometers out of Marrakech on the old Safi road. Continue to Day 3


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(Updated: 06/02/08 HC)

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