How to Spend 72 Hours in Marrakech

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Marrakech, Morocco – colourful, mystical and exotic. A city where medicine men and snake charmers entertain in central squares and secret alleyways hide hammams, museums, cafes and spice markets. Whether you wish to explore the history and mysteries of the North African city or discover the culture and food of Marrakech, 72 hours is a great introduction for a longer trip!

UNESCO Cultural Space Jemaa el Fna

Jemaa el Fna is one of the main cultural spaces of Marrakech, a vast square at the Medina entrance, surrounded by low-rise terracotta buildings housing shops and cafes. During daylight hours, visitors can have henna tattoos painted on their hands - a symbol of good luck in the Berber culture or stop for a glass of freshly squeezed blood orange juice while browsing leather goods, clothing and rugs.

Break for lunch at one of the many street food stalls. The vendors serve everything imaginable from traditional ‘harira’ vegetable soup to grilled merguez sausage, fried fish and a whole host of unusual Moroccan delicacies.

As day turns to night, Jemaa el Fna transforms into an exotic and chaotic, action-packed venue. The alluring aroma of barbecue food lingers in the air as hawkers vie for trade and medicine men tempt passers by with potions to cure all ailments. On the pavement, men wearing colourful headgear sit cross-legged playing ‘pungi’s’ to charm snakes, and tarot readers lay cards on tables. If things get a little too hectic, retreat and enjoy the spectacle of Jemaa el Fna from a rooftop terrace, while sipping sweet mint tea and feasting on mezze.

Ancient Souk Semmarine

A few steps from Jemaa el Fna square, is Souk Semmarine, the largest market in Morocco and one of the oldest. This market has existed on the same site for over a thousand years and is still a thriving hub of trade and industry. Many goods found in the souk today are identical to those sold here hundreds of years ago.

The souk stall holders sell everything from hand-woven Berber rugs and brass buckles to gemstone babouche slippers and jewellery. Traders sit outside on leather pouffes sipping tea, chatting with other vendors, only breaking to negotiate the best prices with tourists.

In arched alleyways, leading away from the main thoroughfare, ceramic pots and plates are displayed in rows, each painted in bright colours and decorated with geometric patterns. The scent of spices fills the air as jute bags are peaked with mountains of saffron, cumin and nutmeg. As darkness falls, shops selling glass lanterns illuminate in a kaleidoscope of colour creating a magical, mysterious ambience.

Instagram Hotspot Jardin Majorelle

Around 30 minutes’ walk northwest of the Medina, Jardin Majorelle is situated in the French Quarter of Marrakech. The botanical gardens were originally the idea of Jacques Majorelle, a French Orientalist painter, who fell in love with Morocco while travelling in the early 1920s. He was inspired by the vivid blue colours found in Berber villages and on tiles around Marrakech and decided to create an enchanting oasis in the city using the same colour palettes.

He painted the Cubist style villa, garden walls, fountains and courtyards in the same blue colour, now trademarked as ‘Majorelle Blue’. Unfortunately, when Majorelle and his wife left the estate, it fell into disrepair, until the 1980s when it was rediscovered by French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and co-founder Pierre Bergé. The pair restored the villa, curating a gallery inside to display Majorelle’s paintings.

In the beautiful gardens, winding pathways lead to palm-lined plazas, cacti and bamboo forests. Pretty water features and lily-pad ponds offer serene spaces, where one can meditate or try to spot the 15 endemic bird species that make the estate their home. When exploration is complete, consider popping next door to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, showcasing exhibits that pay homage to the renowned fashion designer.

Stay at the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech

On the edge of the desert, located south of the city, 5-star Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech Hotel unfurls like a beautiful Berber carpet beneath the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. The luxury hotel boasts outstanding views and showcases a blend of traditional and contemporary décor, coupled with fine dining and memorable guest experiences.

There are several accommodation types to choose from, each benefitting from golf, mountain or garden views. Guest rooms and suites are spacious and many feature terraces where one can enjoy breakfast, read a book or marvel at the sunset. The exclusive Prince Villa is a perfect choice for special occasions. The epitome of elegance, the villa comes with its own outdoor pool set in lush gardens, a private hammam and dedicated butler.

Romantic meals can be enjoyed alfresco by candlelight at international eatery Le Carevane, or sample Moroccan dishes at Al Aïn decorated with hand-painted ceilings, Zellij tiles and accompanied by live music. In addition to four restaurants, there are also bars serving signature cocktails, sushi and wine from the hotel’s private cellar.

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