Getting lost in the Medina of Marrakech is all part of the fun. It takes a strong sense of direction and a lack of panic to navigate the normally busy alleyways. Set out with the idea of exploring and an adventure and you’ll be fine. Go with a film camera and you’ll be even better.
The Medina of Marrakesh is an old Islamic capital originating from the 11th century. It is enclosed by 16km of ramparts and gates. The city owes its original splendour to the Almoravide and Almohade dynasties (11th – 13th centuries), who made Marrakech into their capital.
The Medina has several architectural and artistic masterpieces from different periods in history:
– the ramparts and gates (in pinkish clay, like most of the original structures)
– the Koutoubia mosque (its 77m high minaret is a key monument of Islamic architecture)
– the Saadian Tombs
– Jemaa El-Fna square
– Ben Youssef Madrassa
I can’t count the number of times I’ve lost my way in the Medina.
Fortunately, Marrakech has plenty of things to see so you’ll end up at an interesting place anyway. My best advice – wander aimlessly—without a guide or destination—through the narrow, labyrinthine alleys of the city’s ancient walled medina. In the narrowest, quietest alleys of the medina, don’t be surprised to find a lemon garden or an extravagant Moroccan courtyard. The enclosed courtyard—necessary in Marrakech because of Islamic notions of privacy and the realities of harsh desert climates—offer some of the most beautiful and surprising spaces in the medina.
In the busy main streets of the medina, you’re sure to be bombarded with the aggressive sales tactics of would-be guides and craft-sellers. But wander deeper into the alleys, and you’ll get an up-close view of how people in this city really live.
Mopeds, donkey carts, push-carts, bicycles and tiny, hand-painted trucks all frantically move through the medina. Seeing ancient and modern modes of transport bustle through these tiny streets is a spectacle itself. Do be careful with those speeding mopeds.
The traditional Arab markets, or souks, of the Marrakech medina, are renowned around the world for the exotic and ageless experience. Souks are organized into traditional commodities. There are souks for spices, olives, musical instruments, antiques, crafts, wools and silks, and even brass lanterns.
The motif of the keyhole arch is emblematic of Moroccan architecture, and this beautiful theme can be found in almost any structure throughout the medina. Some of the most striking arches can be found near the entrance of the Ben Youssef Madrasa.
Repeating patterns, bold colours and varied Islamic and North African motifs abound in the medina. You’ll be drawn to stunning tiles and bold colours no matter where you turn in Marrakech.
Map Showing the Location of the Medina in Marrakech.