“I believe that Marrakech ought to be earned as a destination. The journey is the preparation for the experience. Reaching it too fast derides it, makes it a little less easy to understand.”
― Tahir Shah
Marrakech is one of the imperial cities of Morocco, also known as Marrakesh. It is the third largest city in Morocco, after Casablanca and Rabat, and lies near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. The name Marrakech originates from the Amazigh (Berber) words mur (n) akush, which means “Land of God.” Its location and contrasting landscape has made it an enviable destination in Morocco.
The city is divided into two distinct parts: the Medina, the historical city, and the new European modern district called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle. The Medina is full of intertwining narrow passageways and local shops full of character. In contrast, Gueliz plays host to modern restaurants, fast food chains, and big brand stores.
Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls (the medina), bordered by modern neighborhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic center and tourist destination.
History of Marrakech
The Marrakesh area was inhabited by Berber farmers from Neolithic times, and numerous stone implements have been unearthed in the area. Marrakesh was founded in 1062 by Abu Bakr ibn Umar.
It was little more than a remote outpost before the Almoravid Berber leader Youssef bin Tashufin, cousin to the sultan, and his wife Zeinab founded what would become the city of Marrakesh in 1062 A.D. Under Tashufin’s guidance, Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural and religious center. Tashfin completed the city’s first mosque (the Ben Youssef mosque), built houses, minted coins, and brought gold and silver to the city in caravans. The city became the capital of the Almoravid Emirate.
Marrakesh is one of the great citadels of the Muslim world. The city was fortified by Tashfin’s son, Ali ibn Yusuf, who in 1122–1123 built the ramparts which remain to this day, completed further mosques and palaces, and developed an underground water system in the city known as the rhettara to irrigate his new garden.
Marrakesh is known as the “red town” because of the distinctive Kasbah wall that surrounds the city’s medina. Yacoub el-Mansour redesigned the city and incorporated a fortified Kasbahs, beautiful gardens, covered markets called gissariats and the Koutoubia mosque, the city’s major landmark.
Nearby is the 12th-century Kutubiyyah (Koutoubia) Mosque with its 253-foot (77-metre) minaret, built by Spanish captives.
When Morocco became independent in 1956, the new monarchy ousted the Glaousa family, but since then, the city has become a haven for artists and activity. Now, more than fifty years later, Marrakesh remains an important city with a rich cultural history that attracts visitors from around the world.
Marrakech is famous for its parks, especially the Menara olive grove and the walled 1,000-acre (405-hectare) Agdal gardens. An irrigation system built under the Almoravids is still used to water the city’s gardens.
Top Destinations in Marrakech
- Ali ben Youssef Medersa
- Bahia Palace
- Djemaa el-Fna
- Jardin Majorelle
- Maison de la Photographie
- Musée Berbère
- Musée de Marrakech
- Saadian Tombs