So what should you expect? Running at about 1.5 million, Marrkesh is a good-sized city. It is crowded and lively, divided into two main parts, the old city, the Medina, and the new city, the Ville Nouvelle, and they represent two very aspects of Marrakesh, and indeed Morocco itself.
The Medina is what you think of when you think of Morocco. It is the heir to the mystical past of Morocco, an old walled city full of narrow winding streets crowded with shops, people, donkey carts, as well as the bane of Marrakesh, little motorized bikes. Zipping up and down in clusters like some miniature Hell’s Angels, you will soon come to despise these scourges. It is in the Medina that all the oriental charm lays. Your days will be best spent just wandering around the city, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. The medina is full of mosques and medrasas worth seeing such as the Koutubia Mosque and the Medrasa of Ali Ben Youssef. The center of the Medina is the bustling Place Djemaa al-Fna, which during the day looks like a parking lot, and is not very pleasing to the eye, but comes alive at night. As the sun sets, the place fills with hundreds of performers and beggars. Shopkeepers line the place with shops selling nuts, dates, and fruit. The most spectacular site, however, are the restaurants that appear. All over the square men set up their own large grill and barbeque and then pull up benches and tables all around their grill. Whoever wants then just pulls up, sits down and gets whatever is grilling. Usually chicken or beef. At night the place fills with light and smoke from these roadside restaurants. Surrounding the place are numerous real restaurants and cafés that often have terraces and roofs from which you can get a good vantage point of the whole square. Argana is a local favorite with a good view.
If you are not adverse to it, spend some time in the modern Ville Nouvelle. Filled with tree-lined boulevards modeled after Europe, this is where to go for fine dining and nightlife, all with its own charm.
Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
by Charles Del Campo
September 16, 2009
February 23, 2003
From journal Driving Morocco: Casa to Erfoud
The road into Casa is a palm-tree lined boulevard with hundreds of art-deco houses on its flanks. I could not help wondering if I was driving into Casa or South Beach, Miami. We immediately headed to Casablanca’s main sight, the Mosque of Hassan II. Built by Morocco’s last king and national hero over a period of 10 years, this mosque is the second largest in the world after Mecca. It is a wonderful masterpiece of modern architecture that maintains the traditional designs and structures so linked to North Africa. The mosque is still expanding, and it is open to non-Muslims (must be accompanied by a guide), but if you wish not to enter, it is still well worth it to walk through its courtyard, gaze up at the towering minaret, and witness this masterpiece built right on the coast of the Atlantic.
After the mosque of Hassan II, you can easily explore the rest of what Casa has to offer in a day. There is the old part of the city, the medina, and while it is not nearly as impressive as the ones you will find in other parts of Morocco, it is still worth a visit. There are some nice old mosques, as well as some good shopping. Beyond the medina, the rest of Casa’s charm lies in just walking around, checking out some of the parks, strolling along the streets admiring the architecture and grabbing a bite to eat. Casa, has good seafood as well as plenty of traditional Moroccan places. After a day, you can move on from Casablanca, but if you want to stay the night, Casa gets lively at night with good bars and nightclubs, and plus, you can witness the giant beams of light protruding from the Hassan II minaret in direction of Mecca.
January 17, 2003
The flight to Marrakesh is shorter and better, with breath-taking views of the stark North African terrain. We fly low enough to see it all--mountain communities surrounded by mud walls, animals grazing, a lone river but myriad wadis, the domed edifices that are the burial grounds of local religious leaders, the Marrakech Express trains speeding toward the city from Casablanca, and more of those mysterious circular fields.
Marrakesh is warm in both temperature and atmosphere. The passport control man smiles at the lime-green ink on my landing card, and another airport attendant goes through the line bringing elderly people to the front--a good thing because this is the longest passport control line in Africa, I expect. There are two men each in three booths, checking maybe 50 passengers, and it takes about a half hour to complete the job.
Once through, we find a nice gentleman holding a "Maison Arabe" sign awaiting us. He takes our bags and we go to change money from a silent guy at the exchange window. Then it’s into the jaunty little Maison Arabe van, out onto a broad boulevard, and into Marrakesh, which is just around the corner.
From journal The Road to Marrakech