marrakesh things to do, marrakesh guide

Marrakesh, Morocco | Good gracious, did we ever fall head over heels with this gorgeous city. The only thing we wanted to do after cold, rainy Barcelona was soak up the sun and get lost in the maze-like medina. We knew from the get go that maps were pretty much useless so we just gave in and wandered to bustling Jeema El-Fnaa, the massive city square, for freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the dozens of citrus carts. I cannot think of a better way to start a day.
marrakesh orange juice
While I had read ahead of time that you shouldn’t take photos without asking permission, I took a chance on an unknown kid and tried to snap a sneaky pic of this snake charmer. Stealthy I was not. One of the snake charmer’s colleagues (read: hustlers) saw me snap the photo and pulled me into the circle where he proceeded to drape a pair of snakes over my shoulders. Yes. He draped a pair of snakes on my shoulders. 
jeema el-fnaa snake charmers, marrakesh snake charmers
I repeat: he draped a pair of snakes on my shoulders. Then he told me to kneel by the cobras while he took some photos of Warren and me. I mean, what else could I do? My super awkward smile was part “get these snakes off of me, like, now” and “this is going to make a super good story when we get home.” I drew the line when the snake hustler approached me holding two massive snakes. I made Warren pay the extortionist “photo fee” and we made our way to the safety of one of the many rooftop cafes in the area.
marrakesh snake charmers, snake charmers
Once we made it to the cafe, I had mostly gotten over the whole being draped with snakes thing and we decided to refuel by ordering maybe the best chicken tagine I have ever had and couscous. We relaxed as the locals do: drinking mint tea and people watching (and stork watching–there were tons of nesting storks in town for the spring. Massive creatures, storks.). 
marrakesh kasbah cafe, marrakesh tagine, tagine
After lunch–and with some urging from a woman who claimed “I am not a hustler!”–we stumbled upon the lovely Saadian Tombs, which were discovered in 1917. They are absolutely gorgeous. The craftsmanship in the intricate carvings and mosaic work was amazing. 
 saadian tombs marrakesh
Whenever we got lost in the medina, we either found a touristy looking person and followed them, or gave a kid a few dirhams to show the way. Both ways were surprisingly effective and we never worried about being too lost in the narrow cobbled alleys. Our biggest concern was not getting killed while navigating said narrow cobbled alleys with all the donkeys, scooters, cars, and pedestrians darting about. What I loved most about Marrakesh was the gorgeous architecture. I’m on board with any place that celebrates courtyard living, as illustrated by the meticulous one at Bahia Palace. 
bahia palace marrakesh
Like the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace glittered with beautiful carvings and paintings. It was the perfect getaway for the sultan and his harem. And every corner showed exactly why its name means “brilliance.” 
bahia palace marrakesh
Since we were on a palace kick, we walked over to El Badi Palace, a scorched, rambling structure that was financed (as Warren repeatedly told me–one of the many perks of being married to a Portuguese economic historian…) by Portugal as ransom for some war. 
el badi palace marrakesh
We climbed to the top to investigate a bunch of storks standing guard around the palace. 
el badi palace marrakesh
And were rewarded with a stunning view. 
el badi palace marrakesh
We whiled away the afternoon exploring the medina and buying all sorts of awesome things, like poufs and Berber wedding rugs. It turns out that I really love to haggle–it’s like ebay but in real life–and totally scored. We should haggle in American shops. And just look at all the spices and aromatics that overflowed from colorful baskets. The dyed dried cactus flowers smelled amazing. 
marrakesh spices
By late afternoon, we were bushed so we went back to our lovely riad (traditional courtyard guesthouse) to relax. Our riad was tucked into a peaceful alley and was nearly impossible to find our first night. But getting away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh was well worth it. 
Like Barcelona, we used AirBNB to book this beautiful place, So Cheap So Chic Riad. It was perfect–cheap and chic, just as its name promised. They have a few friendly dogs and cats that will nap with you as you lounge on one of the many couches that surround the pool.  
so cheap so chic riad
After we relaxed, we went back into the fray to get some of the famous street food grilled up in Jeema El-Fnaa. It’s dirt cheap and delicious. We dined on kebabs and pastilla–a savory pastry filled with sweet spiced chicken and folded into a flaky phyllo dough crust and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It’s Warren’s favorite thing in the world.
marrakesh street food
It stays light forever in Marrakesh so we spent much of the evening wandering around the many shops while the call to prayer echoed from Koutoubia Mosque.
koutoubia mosque marrakesh
Dusk in Marrakesh is pretty magical, what with all the lanterns glowing and street performers dancing. We learned some valuable lessons our first day: 1) do not, under any circumstances, take pictures of snake charmers–unless you enjoy being draped with snakes 2) you will be hustled somehow somewhere so just roll with it and 3) eat all the time (and top each meal or snack off with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice). Not too shabby. We went to bed exhausted but excited to do it all over again the next day. 
Stay tuned: over the next few Mondays I’ll share some more of our adventures in the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert, and the most delightful and beautiful place in Morocco–Chefchaouen, also known as the Blue City
If you missed any stops along the way, check them out below!
The Great Spain/Morocco Adventure Recap

-Game Plan/Travel Itinerary for MoROCK’n It
-The Adventure Begins at a Brooklyn Wedding
-Getting Hustled By Snake Charmers in Marrakesh (The Red City)
marrakesh lanterns

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  1. says

    Oh my goodness! I would not have been able to force any kind of smile onto my face if I had a pair of snakes draped over my shoulders. You are very impressive. I'm glad you lived through the experience and could refuel with some delicious food after you made sure you would live to tell the tale!

    The pictures are beautiful…what a lovely area!

  2. says

    These photos are over-the-top beautiful! Gorgeous!! What an amazing place to explore. I'm inspired to put it on my list! Thanks! (PS. Snakes!? AH! At least it DID make for a good story!)

    • says

      Thanks, Erica! My trusty little Canon point and shoot is my favorite travel buddy (besides Warren, of course). I later read that this guy got salmonella poisoning from touching snakes and thanked my lucky stars that I managed to make it through the trip without getting violently ill!

  3. says

    Incredible!! Now I'm adding it to places I want to visit. The Last Crusade didn't really turn me onto it. I don't even know what I would have done with that snake charmer!
    Your face was priceless!

    Also, you're such a beauty. Like total stunner!

    • says

      Aren't they brilliant? I am such a klutz that there is no way I could ever come close to making something as lovely. Totally jealous of those artisans!

  4. says

    And I thought my trip to the "Wild and Wonderful" West Virginia last year was exciting?! Wow, Amy, these pictures are amazing and your description is delightful. I love how adventurous you are!

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