The ancient Red City of Marrakech – named so for the color of its earthen walls – is perhaps the best known destination for travel in Morocco, primarily for its famous square. The Jamaa-el-Fna square is the social, cultural, and geographic center of the city. Over the centuries, it has served as a meeting place and trading spot for people from the north and south to come together.
Today, the square offers an intoxicating and lively feast for the senses. Musicians, dancers, acrobats, shopkeepers, snake charmers, beggars, healers, and onlookers alike form a diverse and motley crowd. At nightfall, the gargotiers (food stalls) settle and the place is transformed into a vast open-air restaurant. Performers of all kinds showcase their crafts, and the drums resonate into the night. The cultural significance of this spectacle inspired UNESCO to declare it a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”
Elsewhere in the city, there is much to captivate the intrepid traveler. Whether it is a love of history, nature, or shopping that drives one to explore, Marrakech has something for everyone. A bustling metropolis, Marrakech has its share of cafés, shops, and museums, along with the neverending options offered by the city’s ubiquitous souks. Morocco’s rich culture is likewise steeped in sites such as the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa, once the largest Koranic school in North Africa and the Koutoubia minaret, which towers over the city. North of the city lies the Palmeraie, a sprawling garden of over 100,000 palm trees that date back to the Almoravids in the 12th century. Meanwhile, the picturesque Jardin Majorelle, a landscaping project started by French painter Jacques Majorelle and later gifted to the city by French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, provides a peaceful sanctuary amidst hundreds of plant species from around the world.