Traveling through Marrakech’s medina is a journey back through time. One of the Royal Cities of Morocco, Marrakech combines modernity with the eloquence of 1,001 Nights. While the city can be confusing at times, there are certain things every visitor must experience.
If a city has a soul, then Marrakech’s soul is the Djeema El Fna. The largest square in North Africa, the Djeema El Fna is a UNESCO World Heritage site best known for its eclectic mix of merchants, storytellers, and snake charmers. The Djemma is an experience in itself for its shopping, people watching and delicious food stalls.
Be sure to practice your haggling skills before heading into the labyrinthine souks and markets behind the old walls of the city. Loosely organized by trade or item sold, the narrow and windy lanes leading through the souks are a once in a lifetime experience. Once you have found something you like, haggle with the merchant until you reach a fair price for both parties. If you can’t settle on a price simply walk away; the merchant will almost always drop his price to get you back.
For a midday break, stop at any of the numerous cafes and restaurants and enjoy a traditional Moroccan meal of tagine. Moroccan tagine are slow cooked meats braised at a low temperature. This slow cooking results in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. Like a conventional stew or Dutch oven meal, there aren’t many rules and you can use any meat, spice or vegetable that you prefer. One of the best tagines in the city can be found at the Café de France, located right on the Djeema El Fna.
After a long day of dodging donkeys and scoring deals at the souks, it is time for a relaxing visit to a hammam. A hammam is a cross between a steam bath and a comprehensive detox session. It begins with a thorough washing, followed by application of the famous Moroccan savon noir, or black soap.. This gooey, black tar-like substance is made from a mixture of oil and crushed olives, soaked in salt and potash and is famous for softening the skin and removing impurities.
The savon noir makes the scrub with a traditional brush a much more pleasant experience and allows for a more comprehensive exfoliation. After yet more cleansing and steam, all tension and concerns seem to simply melt away.
Visiting Marrakech is an adventure, centered much more on experiences than touring museums or monuments. Spend a few days living as the Moroccans and you won’t ever want to leave.