The Medina Marrakech
My post on what to do in Marrakech hinted at the craziness behind the Medina walls; we hired a guide for our first day and found this to be a great introduction to the medina in Marrakech.
I arranged our tour with Reda whom I had found on Tripadvisor. Achraf (a colleague of Reda’s) met us at the famous Cafe De France in the Jemna El Fna square early on our first full day in Marrakech. He had already suggested an early meeting time due to the heat later on in the day. We started our tour with a brief history of the medina in Marrakech and a wander around the main square, followed by a visit to the Tanneries where I was expecting the smell to be much worse but it actually wasn’t that bad. It was at this point the true value of having someone with us came into its own as unlike others who had attempted to make their own way there we did not become ‘attached to’ by any one pretending to be a guide for a huge fee. These guys whilst seemingly may be helpful can become quite problematic as after they have led you to the Tanneries will demand a payment which you may not have agreed on and a whole issue starts. Your best plan is to try and navigate yourselves there and ignore all offers of help from hawkers, book a reputable guide in advance and tell them you want to visit the Tanneries or enlist the help of others and be prepared to pay up as it most certainly will not be free.
After the Tanneries we continued through the medina and visited the Quaranic School and the Marrakech museum both exceptionally beautiful inside and worthy of your time to ponder at the mosaic work and decoration. You do have to pay the entrance fees into these two sights separately to the tour but the fees are nominal and both buildings provide some great opportunities for photos.
We then headed off into the Souks with Achraf who explained that each craft has its own area of the Souk, so Ironwork is separate to the Babouches (leather shoes) and so on for example and that the majority of the craftsmanship is done within the souk itself and took us to see the area where the leather is worked on and made into goods after its time at the Tanneries.
He also explained where we should look to purchase anything in the future and advised against being too near the main square, massively helpful when it came to shopping on our last day as we were able to get the best quality at what we feel was a justifiable price. For those who are interested – we bought leather bags, scarves and iron lamps. I could have easily spent a fortune however and have already forewarned the other half that when we eventually buy our own house we will be paying a trip to Morrocco in order to furnish it.
After a brief shop Achraf talked us through some more of Marrakech’s key sights including the Koutobia Mosque, tourists are not allowed to go in but the outside is still pretty stunning and the importance of the Hamman in Morroccan culture.
The tour with Achraf really helped us to understand the layout of the medina and souks and was paramount to use being able to explore with confidence on our own later that evening. The souks and the main square of the Jemaa El Fna come alive at night and some of the best places to watch the action unfold is from one of the roof-top bars or cafes that surround the square. Pick any one on the main square and you won’t go wrong, don’t do we what we did and go slightly off-piste, you’ll just miss the sunset and the action being set up. We went to another bar further down the Rue des Banques which did great 2 for 1 cocktails but our view just wasn’t as good as what we would have had at the Cafe De France right on the square.
We learnt our lesson and after our meal at Nomad (see my other post on what to do in Marrakech) we headed for the busiest bar overlooking the square and took our front row seats to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the madness below.
I don’t think having a guide is necessary for the Medina but for €50 for the two of us it was money well spent in my eyes to ensure we felt comfortable to enjoy the rest of our stay, we still got lost but that’s half of the fun!
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