At the heart of many a Moroccan city is the Medina, the medieval center that preserves not only ancient architecture but ancient customs, traditional ways of life and a myriad of colorful shops and lively street stalls. Marrakesh is no exception; in fact, its sprawling Northern Medina is arguably without comparison, the combination of sights and sounds a truly unique spectacle. Street vendors and fruit sellers, mules and motorbikes all play their part in the chaos of the old city’s narrow thoroughfares, and exploring on foot really is the best way for the discerning tourist to play their part too.
Avoid the Crowds
Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group
Written by a Cambridge-based archaeologist, whose postgraduate (MRes) research has been devoted to Early Iron Age architecture
Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour
Almoravid Qubba, Le Jardin Secret, and Rahba Kedima Square
Remote Tour Included
As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home
Marrakesh: Souks and Scholars
- Dar Bellarj- We start our tour in one of the oldest parts of the Medina, the medieval city of Marrakesh. The Dar Bellarj is a fine example of a typical nobleman’s house with an intriguing history.
- Ben Youssef Madrasa - Some of the finest architectural work to be found anywhere in North Africa, the Ben Youssef Madrasa is Islamic architecture at its very best, with wonderfully carved cedar and exquisite calligraphy.
- Marrakesh Museum - This 19th century palace now plays host to the Marrakesh Museum and its collection of Moroccan art works. Its original owner was once a high-ranking official, until the disastrous deposition of the Sultan in 1908.
- Almoravid Qubba - The Almoravids, the Berber Muslims who conquered much of North Africa in the 11th century, founded Marrakesh one thousand years ago. Less than a century later, however, Marrakesh was captured by the Almohads who destroyed almost every monument of the previous dynasty, apart from this Qubba.
- Le Jardin Secret - It may not have escaped your attention, that the layout of Moroccan townhouses all follows roughly the same format. These ‘riads’ as they are known, are built around a central courtyard and garden, embellished by pools and fountains. As we will discover, this requires some engineering skill, to efficiently pipe water to fountains and irrigate exotic plants in your garden.
- Mouassine Museum & Mosque - This entire area around the Rue Mouassine, was developed simultaneously by the Saadian dynasty in the 16th century. The architectural legacy of these developments is most palpable at this point, with mosques, baths and houses to explore.
- Rahba Kedima Square - Located in the heart of the old souks is the cramped square of Rahba Kdima. Whilst walking here our tour route has passed some of Marrakesh’s most enigmatic stalls and lanes. However, some of the most unusual vendors conduct their business in this lively and riotous square in the central souks.
- Jemaa el Fna - Listed by UNESCO as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Hukmanity’, the Jemaa el Fna and its night time spectacle of performances is one of the most enigmatic cultural events to be found anywhere in the world. Whilst its origins are still relatively unknown, the vivacity of the display lives on, and we will stop here to take stock of the importance of Marrakesh’s central square.