A good 'add-on' but not the best museum


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by koshkha on May 30, 2011

The Musee du Marrakech is not by any measure a world-class museum. The contents of the place are almost instantly forgettable and the modern art which is on display (and for sale) is unlikely to win any awards. It is however still a place I recommend you to visit, because the building which houses it is beautiful, historic and well worth the cost of admission regardless of what's hanging on the walls or sitting in the display cases. It also has a rather nice cafe, but you can use that without having to pay to go into the museum

My husband and I have now been to the museum twice and when I suggested going the second time my husband asked "Is that the one with the awful light fitting?" This is the single thing you are most likely to remember about this museum and it is quite simply hideously unforgettable.

The museum is just round the corner from the Ben Youssef Medersa which is probably the best attraction in Marrakech, though arguably a case could be made for the Majorelle Gardens. Let's say instead it's the best 'indoor' attraction in the city. If you buy an entry ticket to the Medersa for 50 dirhams, you can add the museum and another strange old bathhouse for just an additional 10 dirhams. With an offer like that it's hard to refuse. If you don't want to see the Medersa, a single entry ticket to the museum alone will set you back 40 dirhams. It's easily worth 10 but I'm going to struggle to make a case for spending 40 dirhams on this museum, great cafe or not.

We went first to the Medersa and then headed round the corner to the museum. It was a grey and miserable day and indoor attractions were feeling even more attractive than normal. We showed our 'three attraction' tickets from the medersa and headed in. The museum building is beautiful without being overly flashy. It shows off some of the best elements of Marrakech architecture with the abundant use of multicoloured tiling and contrasting white walls. Entering the first high ceilinged corridor we took a left turn into a set of rooms with gorgeous tiled floors and unattractive paintings exhibited by a French artist.The floors were decorated in zig-zag patterns of green oblong tiles and the centre of the room held a shallow pool with intricate tile work. The next room had interlocking octagonal terracotta tile with little coloured square tiles in between. My love of geometry and balance played out on the floors whilst my dislike of second rate and over priced modern art defiled the walls.

I could put up with this because I knew what was to come – the grand courtyard. Sadly because of the grey skies outside this wasn't looking quite as spectacular as it can. The courtyard is entirely covered to protect the work beneath. A complex contraption of metal tubes holds up a canvas ceiling and at the mid point is the rusty horrible chandelier which we so dislike. Quite why anyone thought suspending something that looks like it has been rusting in a scrap yard for the last 20 years over the courtyard of a beautiful historic building was a good idea is beyond my imagination. Keep your eyes lowered though and you can enjoy the courtyard. The floors are decorated in marble squares and intricate tiling. Potted plants surround a central shallow pool, in the centre of which stands what was probably a fountain but is dry at the moment. Around the edge of the courtyard are photographs and paintings and beautiful tiled fountains. Pillars are tiled up to around head height, doors are carved and gilded and the ceiling of one of the side rooms is painted in glorious patters and colours. The tops of the pillars are decorated in carved and painted wood. Windows are covered in intricately bent metal work with hand painted shutters on the outside to block the light.

The old Hammam or steam room and bath area was showing another modern art exhibition of equally dreadful painting. Try to ignore the art and stick to the architecture. Try to imagine living in a place like this.

After a morning of walking all over the city we were happy to find some arm chairs in the corner of the courtyard and flopped into them. We knew already that there was little to see in the museum exhibits and were happy to just spend quarter of an hour doing nothing and visually drinking in the courtyard. Once my sister and her girlfriend had exhausted all there was to see, we then headed out to the outdoor courtyard for some more literal drinking of cold juices and tea.

I recommend the Museum as an add-on to the medersa but would suggest it's not worth a visit on its own. The cafe is slightly more expensive than eating in local cafes but the sandwiches are superb and the drinks are good. I'm told also by my sister and husband who have to check such things wherever we go, that the toilets are clean and unsmelly.
Musee de Marrakech (Marrakech Museum)
Place Ben Youssef
Marrakesh, Morocco
212 24 44 18 93

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