Marrakesh is the crowning jewel of the Maghreb – the western part of the Muslim world. With medieval towers looming high above in its skies and expansive gardens beautified by millennia-old caliphs and sultans, Marrakech boasts the past as rich as the city of Baghdad and a future as vibrant as the city of Dubai. Marrakesh is also called the Red City owing to the historic building carved out of red sandstone. Marrakesh is among the four Imperial cities of the Kingdom of Morocco and its beauty attracts a large amount of European, especially French celebrities and fashion designers towards the elegance the city exudes. The city is engulfed with traditional marketplaces, called souks that have sold spices from India, wildlife articles from Africa, Perfumes from France and soap from the oldest soap making factories in the world, for ages. The ancient Berber chieftains realized the impact of the sun and the dire requirement of water in an ordinary Berber life. Since then, underground channels traverse through Marrakesh to feed the many gardens that are associated with the kings and caliphs of old. These gardens are now national treasures of Morocco and Marrakesh, its bazaars and its many historical places were awarded as UNESCO world heritage sites in 1987. Marrakesh is a place for the Sufi soul, a home for those who desire that old charm of the Islamic Golden Age, preserved magnificently by technology and modernization.
Things to doMeeting with History
Visit the museum of Marrakech, and see the historical artifacts that shaped the city into its current form. Swords of kings, coins used by merchants in the age of a great caliph, memorabilia of the bygone French protectorate era and a celebration of Muslim architecture, engineering and design are exhibited in the Marrakesh Museum. Morocco has been always from its people, for its people and by its people and to witness that in one museum housing this great legacy is breathtaking. Jemma El Fnaa
The labyrinth of traditional market places or souks that have now been declared as a world heritage site is called the Jemma El Fnaa. Everything that can be sold and barter or bargained over is sold there. From souvenirs, to clothes, to toys and to ornaments made from African gemstones, Jemma has it all. So sharpen your bargaining skills, get in your comfortable boots on and don’t forget to turn on the GPS of your phone to find the way back! The Palaces
The palaces that were once and some are till Royal residences of the Sultan of Morocco are open for public exhibitions. The Moroccan architecture really comes to life as it still echoes Andalusian esthetics of Muslim Spain, in its original, uncorrupted glory but still addresses to the Sub-Saharan climate. The Bahia Palace, means ‘brilliance’, was built in the 19th century and was intended to be a palace unlike any other. From the mosaics, to the shallow fountains lined with Arabesque titles, to cusped intricate archways and bas-reliefs, the palaces of Marrakech are must see. The Gardens.
Marrakesh Gardens were once proud possessions of the former rulers of Morocco. It gave them a sense of achievement and grandeur to possess a little piece of heave in the middle of a barren desert. The water ways underground still till the gardens and today they are also open to be visited by locals and foreigners alike. The Sufi culture, deep in Moroccan roots appreciates and celebrates beauty and love. Gardens like these are more like philosophical expression of faith than just well-kept green houses for plants. In fact the festival to celebrate the Seven Saints of Marrakesh often begin in ‘sacred’ gardens like the Menara Gardens in Marrakesh.
Culture and HistorySince time immemorial, Marrakech was inhabited by Berber farmers. Marrakesh was found in 1062 by Abu Bakr ibn Umer a cousin to the Almoravid King Youssef ibn Tashfin. The first buildings ever constructed were Quranic schools and madrasas. The city saw rapid growth, and building and palaces were constructed with Andalusian influences and Sub-African demands creating something truly unique and grand. These monuments include Morocco’s oldest Ben Youssef mosque, which still stands today. The underground water labyrinth was dug to supply Marrakesh with much needed water in 1125 AD. The years that followed saw a demise of Marrakesh with an onslaught on the ruling family by the more staunch Almohads. The Almohads later added to Marrakech and built on the ruins left by the Almoravids. In the centuries to come Marrakech gained popularity among artists, historians, philosophers and polymaths alike. Among them was the illustrious Averroes or Ibn Rushd, whose books and insights educated much of Europe for the next 700 years. Marrakesh also became a destination for the Sufi Islam, in fact Marrakesh is still referred as the City of the Seven Great Sufis. After another period of turmoil Marrakesh rapidly regained its lost place, when the Saadian Sultans came to power. El badi palace was constructed that was a replica of the Alhambra Palace in Cordoba. It was adorned with Italian marble, Sudanese gold, Indian porphyry and Chinese jade. The Saadian amass more wealth and power as they showcased their control from Algiers to modern day Senegal, Mali and Niger. Caravan destined for trade with Europe, particularly with Spain, England and the Ottoman Empire, flowed through Marrakesh. With a century of unrest, a child on the throne, warring tribal chiefs and rising European ambitions Marrakesh saw troubling times after the Treaty of Fez that divided Morocco between French, Portuguese and Spanish colonial powers. In 1900, a Pasha, backed by the French ruled Marrakesh. His lavish lifestyle and disdain for Morocco’s ancient traditions began a nationalist movement that quickly ended the French protectorate of Morocco. The Sultanate was reinstated, and Morocco gained independence in March 1956.
Under the current Sultan of Morocco, His Majesty Muhammad VI has pledged to double the number of tourists to 20 million per year. Despite the Economic crisis in 2008, Marrakech has been constructing hotels and resorts ever since, and is eager to host International conferences to showcase its efforts. In 1994 the Marrakesh Agreement for World Trade and world water council conference were held in Marrakesh, and attended by hundreds of delegates in 1997. Recently the United Nation Climate Change Conference was hosted by Marrakech in 2016.