Have you ever wanted to explore the Sahara Desert or ride a dromedary (camel) across sand dunes? Marrakech, Morocco is a great base from which to enjoy a spectacular desert tour.
Not only can you enjoy the tranquil wilderness of the desert, but you can visit a fabulous UNESCO World Heritage Site and the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains.
In my opinion, the 5 Marrakech desert tours reviewed below are the best you will find. Also see our Marrakech Travel Guide.
If you go on the right desert tour from Marrakech, you can enjoy the warm hospitality of the Berber nomads, sleep in a tent out in the desert, and explore fascinating cultural sites that have attracted the attention of high-profile photographers and movie companies from all over the world.
|Shared 3-Day Sahara Desert Tour From Marrakech To Merzouga||Marrakech: 3-Day Desert Adventure||2-Day Desert Safari To Zagora From Marrakech|
|Departure Point||Pick up from your hotel in Marrakech||Pick up from your hotel in Marrakech||Hotel pick up in Marrakech|
|Departure Time||7:30 AM||7:30 AM||7:00 AM|
|Duration||3 days||3 days||2 days|
|Includes||Expert guide, air-conditioned minibus, 1-night hotel stay in Tinghir, 2 “camel” rides, 1-night camping in the desert, visits to Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, Quzazate, the Todgna Gorges, the Rissani date market, and the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi||Visits to Quarzazate & Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, 2 “camel” rides across the shifting sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, dinner & breakfast, 1 night in a hotel, and 1 night at a desert campsite||Air-conditioned minibus, Visits to Quarzazate, Agdez, the Draa Valley, & Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, 2 “camel” rides, dinner & breakfast, and 1 night at a desert campsite|
Quick Answer: The 5 Best-Rated Marrakech Desert Tours – 
- Shared 3-Day Sahara Desert Tour From Marrakech To Merzouga
- Marrakech: 3-Day Desert Adventure
- 2-Day Desert Safari To Zagora From Marrakech
- Marrakech: 2-Day Zagora Sahara Desert Tour
- Marrakech: Half-Day Desert Quad & Dromedary Tour
Marrakech Desert Tours Reviews
#1. Shared 3-Day Sahara Desert Tour From Marrakech To Merzouga
- Departure Point: Pick up from your hotel in Marrakech
- Departure Time: 7:30 AM
- Duration: 3 days
- Includes: Expert guide, air-conditioned minibus, 1-night hotel stay in Tinghir, 2 “camel” rides, 1-night camping in the desert, visits to Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, Quzazate, the Todgna Gorges, the Rissani date market, and the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi
Do you want to see a “real” desert, like in the movies where there are shifting sand dunes? Yes? Then if you’re considering taking any tours from Marrakech, this one is especially for you!
You even get to ride a “camel” across the sand. Most of your transport during this tour will be in a minibus that takes a maximum of 17 passengers, which ensures you’ll be a member of a tight-knit group of intrepid explorers by the end of your 3-day adventure.
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Your adventure into the Marrakech desert begins with an early morning pick-up from Marrakech and a drive up into the High Atlas Mountains. After negotiating the Tizi N’tichka Pass, you’ll soon come to the unique fortified village of Ksar Ait Ben Haddou.
I could spend days exploring the earthen clay, cubic houses of Ksar Ait Ben Haddou. The ancient settlement contains a half-dozen large kasbahs, which are fortress-like homes that once belonged to merchants made wealthy by trade across the Sahara Desert.
Walking through the streets is like being inside a Bible story—you can imagine Joseph stepping out from one of the ornately carved gateways wearing his coat of many colors.
Because this village is so beautiful and historical, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. You might also recognize it from the many movies filmed here, such as Jesus of Nazareth, The Last Temptation of Christ, and One Night with the King.
From Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, your minibus will transport you to Quzazate, where you can admire the tall towers and high walls of the Kasbah of Taourirt, a fortified mansion larger than most castles.
After lunch, you’ll continue through the Valley of the Roses to Tinghir, where you will be offered a tasty dinner in your hotel before retiring for the night.
Your eventful second day begins with a drive to view some awe-inspiring geological features. The Todgna Gorges is a series of river canyons with steep limestone cliffs to each side (like a miniature Grand Canyon) with the canyon walls occasionally rising as high as 1,300 feet.
In the afternoon, you’ll visit one of the famous date markets of the Sahara Desert in Rissani. This was once the starting (or ending, depending on your viewpoint) point for caravans to cross the Sahara to Timbuctoo.
As the day draws to a close, you’re going to enjoy the highlight of your tour. Your minibus will transport you to the edge of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes.
There, you’ll climb on a “camel” for an amazing ride through the shifting sands as the sun sets on the western horizon.
That night, you will sleep in a tent at a desert campsite. The local nomad hosts will feed you a delicious dinner and entertain you with traditional Berber music accompanied by drums.
Your final day begins with a camel ride from the campsite to the main road, where your minibus awaits. Enjoy a leisurely drive back to Marrakech, stopping in Quarzazte around lunchtime, and navigating the High Atlas Mountains in time to get you back to your hotel around 7 pm.
All in all, this is a fantastic opportunity to see the real Morocco. This is one of the best Marrakech tours you can take. It’s my favorite Marrakech desert excursion, and I believe that the best Morocco Sahara Desert tours are from Marrakech.
For tour prices, transportation and availability:
#2. Marrakech: 3-Day Desert Adventure
- Departure Point: Pick up from your hotel in Marrakech
- Departure Time: 7:30 AM
- Duration: 3 days
- Includes: Visits to Quarzazate & Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, 2 “camel” rides across the shifting sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, dinner & breakfast, 1 night in a hotel, and 1 night at a desert campsite
As a child at school, did you endure a religious education class where the teacher droned on about people 2,000 years or more ago who lived in square houses in the desert—a place with no water except the odd oasis?
Did you ever wonder what life might have really been like back then? What did those cube-shaped, mud-brick houses look like? How did those people live?
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There are many Sahara Desert tours from Marrakech, but this one stands out from the crowd. It’s an opportunity to explore traditional desert villages and examine the realities of a nomadic lifestyle.
Day one begins with a 7:30 am hotel pick-up and a drive through the scenic roads of the High Atlas Mountains to the amazing fortified village of Ksar Ait Ben Haddou.
This ancient village of baked-clay houses is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is such a unique and historically important settlement.
I hope you’re taking a good-quality camera because Ksar Ait Ben Haddou is a renowned location for fashion-model shoots and often makes an appearance in high-end glossy magazines.
You’ll most certainly want good pictures of your friends and you posing in front of the impressive kasbahs and well-preserved medieval streets.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you might even recognize some of the buildings from scenes set in Yunkai during Season 3!
In the afternoon, you will stop near the Atlas Film Studios for a photo opportunity. You may not have heard of the studio, but it is one of the world’s largest, and many top Hollywood epics have been filmed on its various outdoor sets. See if you recognize anything!
Next, you’ll head into the city center of Quarzazate. There you’ll have a fabulous view of the Kasbah of Taourirt, which looms over the surrounding buildings. It is a photogenic structure, with tall orange towers and threatening crenellations.
After you’ve had a chance to explore Quarzazate, your minibus with transport you to Boumaie du Dades. There you’ll be shown to your hotel, where you can freshen up and eat dinner before retiring for the night.
Day two commences with a leisurely sight-seeing tour of the Dades Valley and Todra Gorges. Once you arrive at Merzouga, you will be introduced to a “camel”.
Let’s hope you get on well because you’re going to be riding your dromedary friend across the Dunes of Erg Chebbi. The shifting, wind-blown sand dunes of Erg Chebbi can rise as high as 500 feet above the base level of the desert, and riding through the dunes will create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
After your “camel” ride, you’ll be taken to a Berber desert campsite. Sleeping in a tent in the desert will be another memorable experience. If you wish, you can rise before dawn to watch the sunrise over the sand dunes.
The morning brings a second camel ride, from the campsite to where your minibus is parked. From there, you’ll enjoy a slow and scenic drive back to Marrakech, with plenty of stops and photo opportunities.
This will culminate in your crossing of the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi N’tichka Pass. Back in Marrakech, you’ll be dropped off safe and sound at your hotel.
For tour prices, transportation and availability:
#3. 2-Day Desert Safari To Zagora From Marrakech
- Departure Point: Hotel pick up in Marrakech
- Departure Time: 7:00 AM
- Duration: 2 days
- Includes: Air-conditioned minibus, Visits to Quarzazate, Agdez, the Draa Valley, & Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, 2 “camel” rides, dinner & breakfast, and 1 night at a desert campsite
If you really want to meet the Berber people, to see their traditional homes and how they live on the edge of the desert, then you need to take a desert tour from Marrakech.
Make sure you bring along a good quality camera because you’ll take photographs over these two action-packed days that will amaze your Instagram followers as they follow your progress from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert.
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Your first day begins with an early morning minibus pick-up from your hotel. The minibus holds a maximum of 17 passengers, so you’re guaranteed to be part of an intimate group.
It’s an excellent opportunity to make new friends. You’ll then leave Marrakech behind to set out on your desert adventure. Your interesting and scenic route will take you across the High Atlas Mountains.
Once you’ve reached Quarzazate, there will be a break in the journey so you may peruse the shops in this Berber city and maybe try one of the local restaurants.
Quarzazate is known locally as the Door to the Desert because the whole area south of the city is the Sahara Desert.
Leaving Quarzazate behind, you’ll continue to the oasis town of Agdez, which was once a crucial stopping point for trade caravans crossing the Sahara enroot to Marrakech.
Agdez is situated on the riverbank of the Draa River, the longest river in Morocco.
Your journey will take you across the Draa Valley, where you can admire and photograph the many castle-like homes (kasbahs) and ancient walled villages (ksars) that line the old trade route. Reaching the end of the Draa Valley, you’ll arrive at Zagora.
Zagora is where you’ll experience your first unforgettable “camel” ride as you are taken into the desert as part of a caravan to spend 1 hour exploring the scenic dunes. During your camel ride, you’ll see the sunset over the sands in a blaze of color.
After you bid goodbye to your dromedary, you’ll rejoin the minibus and be driven to a campsite in the Sahara Desert.
There you can enjoy a tasty dinner under the stars while listening to the live entertainment from the tam tam drums played by your nomadic Berber hosts.
Ending a perfect day, you’ll spend the night in a private tent, listening to the tranquil sounds of the desert. But don’t worry if you’re caught short or feel dusty after that camel ride. Toilets and showers are available at the campsite.
If you want, your hosts will wake you before dawn so that you may begin your second day gazing at the eastern horizon as the sun makes its appearance at the dawn of a new day.
Breakfast will be provided, after which you’ll climb onto a camel to ride from your campsite to the main road.
If you’re anything like me, the next attraction you visit will be the true highlight of the tour. Back in the minibus, you’ll drive to the famous fortified village of Ait Ben Haddou.
This well-preserved historical site is justifiably listed as a key UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The earthen clay structures and imposing kasbahs should prove familiar. For years, this collection of unique and fascinating buildings has appeared in major Hollywood epics, like Time Bandits, The Jewel of the Nile, Kingdom of Heaven, and Son of God.
You will have the opportunity to explore the ksar and its many kasbahs at your leisure. It’s a great place to take memorable photographs and meet local people demonstrating their traditional crafts, like weaving on a handloom.
As the day ends, you’ll be transported back to Marrakech along scenic mountain routes to conclude your Marrakech desert trip. The minibus should return you to your hotel for around 6 PM. And I’m 100% that you’ll be pleased you chose this 3-day adventure as your Morocco desert tour from Marrakech.
For tour prices, transportation and availability:
#4. Marrakech: 2-Day Zagora Sahara Desert Tour
- Departure Point: Marrakech
- Departure Time: 7:00 AM
- Duration: 2 days
- Includes: Visit to Ksar Ait Ben Haddou fortified village, visit to the Draa Valley, night in a tent at a desert campsite, 2 camel rides, road trip through the High Atlas Mountains, dinner and breakfast
Are you an avid camper? Have you ever imagined you might sleep in a tent in the Sahara Desert? This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sleep amongst the sand dunes of the Sahara. If you’re intending on taking a Marrakech Sahara tour, then you’ll love this Sahara Desert tour.
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On the first day, your drive south will take you past the city of Quarzazate, known locally as the Gateway to the Desert because the Sahara Desert spreads out across the land to its immediate south. Soon after this, you’ll stop at the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou.
You’ll probably immediately recognize the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou. Not only is it a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the ancient village of earthen clay, fortified houses is also frequently used as the setting for major Hollywood movies and TV shows. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan or you’ve watched Gladiator, The Mummy, or Prince of Persia, then you’ve seen the streets of Ait Ben Haddou.
The half-dozen traditional kasbahs inside the village are especially well preserved. I hope you’ve got a good camera because the ancient architecture around Ait Ben Haddou is stunning. It’s worth taking this tour to see that one city alone.
The second stop of the day is the Draa Valley, where you’ll see a stretch of the longest river in Morocco and have the opportunity to admire its many picturesque and historic fortified villages (ksars) and fortress-like merchant houses (kasbahs).
Next, you’ll reach Zagora and swap your motor vehicle seat for a “camel’s” back for a 1-hour “camel” ride into the sunset. After your leisurely “camel-riding” experience, you’ll be served a delicious dinner at the campsite.
Finally, you’ll be shown to your tent so that you can sleep under the stars in the desert.
Very early the next day, you’ll be transported to Zagora to enjoy a traditional Berber breakfast. As the new day dawns, you’ll greet the rising sun from the back of a “camel” as you ride through the dunes.
Following this, you will be transported back to Marrakech, taking a scenic route through the High Atlas Mountains, where you can admire the snow-capped peaks and beautiful waterfalls.
For tour prices, transportation and availability:
#5. Marrakech: Half-Day Desert Quad & Dromedary Tour
- Departure Point: Pick-up from your accommodation in Marrakech
- Departure Time: 9:30 AM, 3:00 PM
- Duration: 4 hours
- Includes: 1-hour dromedary ride, visit a Berber village, tea, 2-hour quad ride, all the necessary safety equipment for your “camel” and quad rides
Do you want to find out what life in the desert is really like? Why not take one of the Marrakech desert trips? This particular tour is a great opportunity to ride on a “camel” like Laurence of Arabia, visit an authentic Berber village in the shadows of the Atlas Mountains, and drink tea with the locals.
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After you’ve been picked up from your hotel, you’ll be driven out of the city into an alien landscape. Despite the Atlas Mountains in the background, you won’t believe this tranquil and arid terrain is so close to the hustle and bustle of the city.
There you’ll be introduced to your “friendly” dromedary. Don’t worry, your experienced guides won’t let it carry you away. And to protect you and your clothes, and help you look the part, you’ll be equipped with traditional nomadic clothes, so you look like a local.
During your leisurely dromedary ride, admire the beautiful arid scenery—the snow-capped mountains under a cerulean sky, undulating dunes, and the majestic palm trees.
Upon arrival in a desert village, you’ll experience the hospitality of the Berber people. Quench your thirst with a traditional tea break and take a good look around the authentic desert settlement.
Here’s your chance to ask all the questions you ever wanted to ask of a desert dweller.
After shedding your nomadic clothing, you’ll be provided with gloves and a helmet and introduced to a more modern “camel”—a quad bike.
Enjoy the adrenaline rush as you race past the palms and enjoy the bumpy terrain of the desert outside Marrakech.
After you’re back in your hotel room, recalling your adventures that day, you’ll be pleased you chose this tour as one of your Marrakech excursions.
For tour prices, transportation and availability:
Marrakech Travel Guide
Marrakech has long been a key destination for European royalty, celebrities, and the filthy rich. Now, this outstanding imperial city has come within the reach of more humble travelers who don’t want to spend $1,000 per night on a hotel room.
If you want to experience the exotic culture and wild landscape of Africa but with the luxury of modern amenities, Marrakech is an ideal city for your vacation.
Here you can haggle with a Berber stall keeper over the price of a hand-woven rug, ride a camel into the Sahara Desert, take a tour into the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, and walk through the courtyards of a palace built for a Grand Vizier, his 4 wives, and 24 concubines.
But before you book your holiday, it’s a good idea to fully research where you’re going to stay, how you’re going to get around, local restaurants, and attractions. That’s the best way to ensure you get the most out of your visit, and I wrote this guide to will help you on your way.
Airports & Entry
Every year, tourists flock to Marrakech, arriving by airplane, train, or bus. Most international visitors opt to fly. If you are based in Casablanca during your vacation, you should note that flying from Casablanca to Marrakech is over 10 times more expensive than a train or bus journey. Inside Morocco, trains and buses are incredibly cheap.
Marrakech Menara International Airport (RAK) is a clean, modern airport that welcomes over 4 million passengers every year. If you’re traveling from the US, you’ll change planes in Casablanca, but there are direct flights from Paris and London.
The flight from Casablanca to Marrakech takes around 50 minutes. RAK is super convenient for tourists because it’s only 2 miles (a 15-minute taxi ride) from Marrakech city center. But if you’re staying in the Old Town, you will have a considerably longer journey.
Inside the 3 air-conditioned terminals at RAK you’ll see the usual facilities you’d expect to find in any modern international airport, including ATMs, a bureau de change, duty-free shops, retail stores, and food outlets. There’s free Wi-Fi for your convenience.
If you’re religious, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s a prayer room where Muslims can retreat to perform their 5 daily prayers. For passengers with mobility problems, loaner wheelchairs are available. An airport clinic provides basic medical aid.
Getting from the airport to the city center is simple. The two recommended methods are by the hotel shuttle bus and taxis.
The shuttle bus runs every 20 to 30 minutes and stops at most of the major hotels in Marrakech. It is super cheap. Taxis take between 15 and 30 minutes to get to the city center, depending upon traffic conditions.
Avoid the taxis that hover immediately outside the terminal doors. It is better to cross the carpark to where more taxis wait. Apparently, the taxis in the prime location are affiliated with local organized crime!
Agree the price of your fare with the taxi driver before jumping inside if you want to avoid being scammed.
It is not recommended that you drive into the city center yourself. However, if you want, you can hire cars at the airport. Several car hire companies operate desks at the airport, including Hertz and Avis.
The train station is even more convenient for the city center. It’s within walking distance. Like the airport, it’s a modern building with exceptional facilities.
There you’ll find a range of stores and food outlets, including a KFC and an Ibis Hotel adjacent to the station.
In the near future, the railway will become an increasingly attractive option for visitors to Marrakech. The new 200-mph high-speed rail Tangiers-Casablanca link is to be extended to reach Marrakech.
However, for now, the train journey from Casablanca to Marrakech takes between 2½ and 3 hours, and there are 8 services every day.
If you prefer, 3 national bus companies run regular air-conditioned bus services from Casablanca to Marrakech: SATAS, CTM, and Supratours.
The road journey takes around 3¾ hours. These services terminate at the long-distance bus station, which is a 20-minute walk from the city center.
When you arrive in Marrakech, you most certainly aren’t in Kansas anymore. Here are 5 tips to help you enjoy your time in Morocco.
Tip #1: Choose the time you visit carefully
Because of the year-round sunshine and low rainfall, any time of year is a great time to visit Marrakech. However, there are probably specific things you want to see and do, which may be better at certain times of the year.
Winter is when the Atlas Mountains are covered in snow, which makes for great photo opportunities. The weather is also especially cool for Africa, making it a great time to visit if you’re not keen on the heat.
In spring, the melting snow results in amazing waterfalls at the base of the Atlas Mountains and beautiful flower displays in the many parks and gardens around the city.
Summer sees the major local festivals. However, the temperature grows hot, the streets get crowded, and there are a lot of unpleasant smells associated with heat and many people crammed into a small area.
Tip #2: Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll need to see everything in Marrakech
Perhaps you only want to ride a camel through the desert or visit the famous Atlas Mountains, but there’s lots to do and see around Marrakech.
Do your research before you go and don’t miss out on the many interesting and unique attractions. Check the section on Attractions below.
Tip #3: Book Marrakech tours in advance
Marrakech is visited by more and more tourists every year, and the number will increase as the new high-speed train service is opened.
It’s a great idea to avoid possible disappointment by booking tours in advance before you get there. That way you won’t miss out on your once-in-a-lifetime to ride a camel across the Sahara Desert.
Also, reputable tour companies offer free cancellation if you change your mind a reasonable time before the tour begins, so you won’t lose your money if you decide not to go. Check the cancellation policy with the tour operator when you book.
Tip #4: Be very cautious about hygiene
Do not drink tap water. I cannot emphasize this enough. I recommend you use bottled water to brush your teeth. Never take ice in your drinks.
Use antibacterial hand wipes or gel after handling money, handling goods in the souks, or when you are eating out. Be especially discerning about street food.
Watch for the stalls local people frequent because they are likely the safest. Peel fruit before eating it. Washing the fruit’s skin won’t always work because the water might not be clean.
Tip #5: Cover up, especially ladies
Lots of the tourist brochures show men and women lazing around swimming pools in skimpy swimwear. While that may be appropriate within the walls of your raid or hotel, it most certainly will not be accepted out on the streets.
Morocco is an Islamic nation. Yes, it’s a liberal Muslim country, but they still have stricter ideas about exposed flesh than you’re probably accustomed to. If you’re a lady and you step out of your hotel wearing a low-cut T-shirt and very short shorts, you will probably get some dirty looks.
Restaurants & Eating Out
While in Marrakech, you must sample some of the local food. Given its location on the edge of the desert and its key role in the ancient trade routes through this exotic region, you’ll find many unique and interesting dishes on the menu.
However, do note there are three kinds of eating outlet to try the local cuisine: your own hotel, the glamorous restaurants that offer a culinary experience, and the street stalls for the crazy, adventurous tourist. Both options have much to offer.
If you’re staying in a riad, there is a good chance there is a restaurant inside the same building. These small and intimate restaurants are often high quality and inexpensive.
Even if you’re in a budget hotel, you will find the attached restaurant a safe and reliable option. And if you’re lucky enough to be lording it in one of Marrakech’s grand 5-star hotels, you’ll have a French chef and the finest cooks you can find in Morocco…for a price.
In a city frequented by millionaires, celebrities, and royalty, it’s no surprise to find that there are many gourmet restaurants. If you are not frightened by a high tab, Pepe Nero can be found near Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.
For top prices, you will receive high-quality food, both European and Moroccan. But I prefer Le Fondouk near the Marrakech Museum. This atmospheric restaurant is found in the heart of the souks. You can dine on the rooftop terrace and enjoy great views across the Medina or stay out of the sun and eat indoors.
I’m going to suggest you try street food while visiting Marrakech, but please be cautious. Remember again that you’re not in Kansas and heed the warnings given in “tips” above. You’ll find some of the most authentic Moroccan food served in street stalls. However, avoid those only frequented by large crowds of tourists and head for those where you see locals eat.
Wherever you eat, there are various local dishes you should try. Perhaps the most internationally well-known is couscous.
You’ll find this semolina dish served with meat stews and vegetables garnished with a raisin preserve. A popular snack from the street stalls is b’stilla, which is a pie baked with thin layers of pastry and traditionally stuffed with almonds, eggs, and pigeon.
And for something light, a traditional soup called harira is popular with the locals, especially during Ramadan. It is made from chickpeas, lentils, and tomatoes, with added noodles. It is served in small bowls or cups on the streets.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous and crazy, snail soup is considered a delicacy in Marrakech and is sold around Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.
The locals believe it has restorative and digestive benefits. The distinctive brown snails are served still in the shell and immersed in a flavorsome broth.
Personally, I’d avoid this particular local favorite because snails are difficult to clean and prepare for food use.
For those who, like me, have a sweet tooth, try chebakia. This is a popular sesame cookie, fried and served coated with honey.
And you can wash that down with freshly squeezed orange juice. Orange trees grow everywhere around Marrakech, and they’re the most delicious and juicy oranges you’ve ever tasted.
Nightlife & Entertainment
While it is not only possible but easy to purchase alcohol in Marrakech, please do remember that Morocco is an Islamic nation.
That means that drinking alcohol is a discreet business done in relatively private locations, like inside your hotel room and in certain licensed bars and clubs.
You should never take alcohol out onto the streets. Not only would it be dangerous for you, but it would be deeply disrespectful to the local people.
Also, you will find that alcohol is unexpectedly expensive wherever it’s served. And where it is served, the waiting staff will probably request you sit in an area well away from the windows.
They are not being rude to you; they are concerned about offending passersby.
Having said that, you will find that Marrakech does have a good selection of venues for nighttime entertainment, such as casinos, nightclubs, and cocktail bars.
An area of the city renowned for its lively nightlife is Hivernage. There you will find the Royal Theatre, which stages concerts in an amphitheater.
For a truly Moroccan experience, consider visiting Le Comtoir Darna restaurant. There you can watch live belly dancing, fire-eaters, and other extraordinary acts while you enjoy traditional Moroccan or European food.
If you want something European in flavor, check out the Oh La La Show at the Lotus Club, where there are live dancers and a lineup of club DJs.
Like Le Comtoir Darna, this venue is really a restaurant but with a live show added in. The food offered not only includes Moroccan and European, but they also boast Japanese food on the menu!
But if you want to live the high life, you could head over to the famous La Mamounia Hotel near Jemaa El-Fnaa Square where you will find the sophisticated Le Bar Churchill.
Of course, you probably won’t get in without a lounge suit or cocktail dress. It is strictly smart dress only, and they do turn away would-be customers who arrive wearing sneakers and T-shirts.
At least you don’t need to be a guest at the hotel since it’s pricy for a room.
Inside the bar, you’ll love the ambient jazz music and theme, black velvet chairs, and padded leather walls. However, note that the bar is only open Wednesday through Saturday.
If you’re based in the Medina (the Old City), this isn’t a big problem because you can easily walk to many of the most popular attractions.
However, there will be times you want to go somewhere outside the immediate area, or when you’re in a hurry. The easiest thing then is to hail a taxi. There are 3 kinds of taxi in Marrakech: caleche, grand taxis, and petit taxis.
In Marrakech, a caleche is not a lady’s perfume from Hermes. It is a horse-drawn vehicle and one of the best ways to enjoy the sights around the city. If you hail one, note that there are set prices for popular tourist loops, but you will have to negotiate the price for other locations. Set a price before climbing into the cab to avoid being scammed.
Grand taxis are large old Mercedes cars capable of carrying up to 6 passengers. These keep to specific routes and charge a fixed fare.
They congregate at taxi ranks outside the main Post Office in the New Town, Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, and the Central Bus Station.
Petit taxis are smaller, of course, and charge higher rates. You’ll see them all over the city, they are most often beige, and you can flag them down.
But they’ll go anywhere you want…for a price. Make sure you agree the cost of your fare before climbing in.
The local buses are cheap, and there are lots, but they get crowded. If you climb aboard, you pay the bus driver directly.
The No 1 service links the Medina to the New Town, No 8 goes to the train station, and No 11 and No 19 will transport you to the airport. The Central Bus Station is situated on the northwestern side of the Medina.
A particularly great way to get around Marrakech is by bicycle. These are easy to hire, and you can cycle through parts of the Medina that are blocked to road vehicles.
Because of its many world-famous attractions, Marrakech has a long history of tourism. Today, you will find more than 400 hotels in the city. These may be divided into three kinds: the opulent, the standard, and the traditional.
If you have money to spend and want to stay in the same hotel as Mick Jagger, Prince Charles, and Winston Churchill, you could spend a few nights in La Mamounia Hotel, a 5-star hotel in the heart of the old city.
This luxury hotel and casino was used as a setting for the movie Sex & The City 2. Looking around the establishment, it’s easy to understand how it became so popular.
The interior feels more like a palace than a hotel. There is a selection of other eminent hotels in the same area where you can brush shoulders with celebrities, royalty, and millionaires.
However, if you’re on a tighter budget, there are many standard tourist hotels, with the usual facilities you’d expect to find in any other major city.
For example, you could stay in the Amani Hotel for less than $50 per night. From your room balcony, you could admire the snow-capped (in winter) Atlas Mountains. Your room would have an attached bathroom, satellite TV, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, minibar, and tea & coffee facilities.
But my personal favorite is the traditional accommodation—a riad in the Medina (the Old City). In Morocco, a riad is a large traditional home built around a central courtyard.
Many of these old courtyard houses have been converted into hotels, like large B&Bs offering between 7 and 15 rooms. But because they were originally local people’s homes, when you stay in a riad, you are steeped in the local culture and traditions of Marrakech.
The courtyards often feature a fountain or pool and may have a restaurant. A few riads boast rooftop terraces where you can admire a view across the city while drinking mint tea.
Riads vary in price from the more luxurious neighboring the key tourist attractions to more basic hostels on the edge of the city. One I think is truly beautiful and rich in culture is Riad Kaiss in the old town.
This tiny riad only offers 8 rooms, but each is an art masterpiece. Inside the carefully restored old house, you can see colorful Islamic tile decorations and abstract carvings on the antique fire surrounds and columns. Riad Kaiss is one of those within walking distance of the main museums and monuments in the heart of Marrakech.
Before they visit Marrakech, many assume it is a desert city because of its strong associations with the Sahara Desert and the Berber people. Indeed, Marrakech is a great doorway into the Sahara for those who wish to take a camel ride into the desert.
Actually, Marrakech enjoys a semi-arid climate because of its position just to the north of the Atlas Mountains. This means Marrakech experiences a whole 11” of rain each year, a Biblical flood compared to other cities in the region. Quarzazate only sees 4½” of rain annually and Zagora a minuscule 2½”. Those two cities have hot desert climates.
The average daily temperature in Marrakech ranges from 540F in January up to 830F in July. The sunniest month is July, with an average of 10¾ hours, and the most rain falls during November when the average rainfall is 1½”.
Despite the midsummer heat, many tourists choose to visit Marrakech in summer. This is in part due to the popular festivals held during this time, like the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival held every July.
However, if you’re anything like me, the heat and crowds of the summer will distract you from fully appreciating the beauty of this incredible city. Plus, the city stink hits its peak in July.
If you come during winter, the climate is like spring in many parts of the world. This is also when the Atlas Mountains look their best, capped with snow like a scene from a picture postcard. In fact, if you’re lucky, you can even go skiing in Marrakech in midwinter.
There’s so much to do and see in Marrakech that I can’t possibly list all the attractions here. Instead, I’ll mention a few of the highlights to give you a taste of the city.
The main attractions can be divided into cultural attractions, sites of outstanding natural beauty, and major cultural events.
Because Marrakech has served as the capital city of Morocco for much of its long and rich history, there are many interesting buildings to see and visit.
You’ll find palaces, fortresses, and fascinating museums. For me, the most impressive structure of them all is the city wall that gives Marrakech its popular nickname—the red city.
I feel humbled by the orange-red walls that stand 19 feet high and stretch for 12 miles around the city. They were built in the 12th century.
At that time, the largest empire in the world was China. I’ve visited the walls around Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, which were built around the same time. Although Xi’an’s walls are higher, they only stretch for 8¾ miles, which means that Marrakech’s walls in some way surpassed those of the greatest superpower of their time.
When visiting the walls, head for one of the 19 gateways. In my opinion, they are the most interesting part of the structure.
I’d recommend Bab Agnaou gate as it is arguably the most beautiful. Near the palace of its day, it served as the royal entrance to the city.
The horseshoe arch is decorated with alternating sections of stone and brick, and framing the gate are three panels with beautiful inscriptions taken from the Qur’an.
Because each successive ruler has left their own mark upon the city over the passage of centuries, there are 3 palaces and many mansions dotted around the Medina.
You can’t actually enter the current Royal Palace, though you can skulk around the front door and admire the outer wall. But you can visit the much more impressive El Bahia Palace.
The Bahia Palace is an elaborate and extensive complex of buildings set in 2 acres of formal gardens. Built to house the Grand Vizier of Marrakech, his 4 wives, 24 concubines, and all their many kids, this isn’t your average-sized family home.
If you’ve seen photographs of a beautiful courtyard in Marrakech with ornate arches and colorful tile decor, it was probably inside El Bahia. The palace was designed to be the greatest of its age, encapsulating all the best elements of Moroccan and Islamic architecture.
At the heart of the Medina (the Old City) you can find Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. If you want to see the kind of traditional street entertainment you’ve seen in films set in North Africa, like snake-charming and jugglers, then this is where you need to be.
It’s also a great place to find stalls selling the street food mentioned above and freshly squeezed orange juice. The square comes alive every evening. Note that if you pause to take photographs of entertainers in the square then you will be expected to contribute money to their pot.
One of the most interesting cultural experiences you can have in Marrakech is a visit to one of the souks. These colorful markets, with tiny and varied stalls in a maze of alleyways, are the main shopping attraction in the city.
This is where you have the opportunity to haggle with a Berber tradesman to buy a “flying carpet” for the lowest price. You’ll find the souks north of Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.
Outside the city, there are several nearby sites of outstanding natural beauty. The most obvious is the Atlas Mountains since they loom over the city.
Daytrips into the foothills are very popular, and the Ouzoud waterfalls are especially beautiful. A little further off, you can visit the most famous desert in the world. If you ever dreamed of riding a camel across the sand dunes, this is your opportunity.
Every July sees the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival, Marrakech Folklore Festival, and Fantasia Horse-Stunt Event.
These combined events are composed of many separate performances spread throughout the city but focused on Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, the ruined Badi Palace, and the area outside the city walls near Bab Jdid Gate.
Folk singers, dancers, fire-swallowers, and snake charmers perform traditional routines within the walls of the Badi Palace, while horse riders in traditional clothes gallop around in front of the city walls, showing off their equestrian skills.
And for something you’ll probably never see in the 50 States of the Union, sometime around the end of August every year the local Berber people hold the Imilchil Marriage Feast.
This is a huge event where up to 30,000 mountain dwellers gather for a 3-day festival around the tomb of the Oldman in Imilchil, a village in the Atlas Mountains.
During the festival, young women dress up in traditional clothes and silver jewelry then dance to attract a fiancé. Traditionally, unmarried people form engagements at the festival which are then followed up in their home villages by discussions between the families and arrangements for a later wedding.
The festival is a grand celebration of Berber culture, music, dance, and love.
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