Unusual Marrakech: where to go to feel local

Who I am
Aina Prat Blasi
@ainapratblasi
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

After the article on the places and attractions not to be missed in a weekend in Marrakech (Morocco), you are ready to discover the more unusual and less known places that I found returning to Marrakech in the last few times that I have been there. As with all cities, the more time you have the more you can get in tune with the city, visiting the less touristy neighborhoods to continuously discover particular places and more authentic experiences, and Marrakech is no exception.



Health Insurance is required 

Before we get down to business, let me remind you that in Morocco our health coverage is not valid. My advice is to always take out medical-luggage insurance that can cover you during the trip. I am very happy with many insurance companies, a site that compares the policies of different companies and proposes the most convenient policy for that particular trip. To do this you will have to enter the data relating to your trip (country, duration, etc.) and they will send you an email with the best proposal that you can then buy directly online (!!!).

Unusual Marrakech: 7 (and more) places not to be missed

But let's get to the point, if you have a few more days to spend in Marrakech, as well as maybe do one day trip to Essaouira (which always deserves) or one desert trip (1 day or more) , I invite you to visit these places / areas of the city:

1-The Secret Garden 

This garden is located right at center of the medina, in Rue Muassine, and it is an absolute novelty: it has recently been renovated and has only been open since March 2016. I discovered it by chance one of the many times I got lost in the medina. This garden is located in one of the oldest and largest palaces in the medina and is actually made up of two different gardens: the Islamic garden, which evokes the earthly paradise, and the exotic garden with a great variety of trees and plants. Walking through these gardens it is possible to admire the original irrigation system which uses a thousand years old technique; you can also climb the clock tower and the large terrace to admire the gardens and the medina from above. It is a particularly relaxing place where you can also stop for tea or coffee in the bar inside with a visit to the garden.



2-Dar Cherifa 

This splendido riad it is not very easy to find, the entrance is in a particularly narrow alley, but from a certain point of Rue Muassine (not far from the mosque) you will find directions to reach it. It is a perfectly restored and polished XNUMXth century riad which houses a literary café, a restaurant and a tea room. It is a magnificent place, and has a terrace perfect for relaxing lunches away from the hustle and bustle of the medina. They have a program of exhibitions, concerts and conferences that you can find on their site.

3-La Mellah

The mellah, located south of the Bahia Palace, is the Jewish quarter of Marrakech; it was founded by the Saadis in the 1700th century and in the XNUMXs it housed one of the largest Jewish communities in the country. Now few Jewish families actually live there, but the soul of the neighborhood remains the same as it was then and you can still see the stars of David carved above the doors. I liked this neighborhood very much, it is a dusty popular neighborhood with very narrow alleys where life flows away from the tourists who animate all the other districts of the medina. The must-see places in the mellah are there synagogue, with its blue and white majolica "garden", ed the Miaara (the Jewish cemetery), which can be entered against an offer to the guardian. 

4-House of Photography  

Not far from the Ali ben Youssef Medersa, there is this white riad renovated by two art collectors who have made it a beautiful Moroccan photography museum. On the three floors of the museum there are black and white or sepia-toned photos depicting Moroccan landscapes or close-ups and dating back to the early 900s. There are archival photos and videos showing Marrakech in 1910, Rabat and Tangier. The set-up is well done and has a nice terrace where you can have a coffee or lunch in the shade of a pergola enjoying the view of the city. 



5-Mouassine district

This district north of the Jemaa el Fna square winds around the street of the same name, Rue due Mouassine. Hosts the souq of the dyers and, if you come in the morning, you will be able to see the artisans at work, in addition to the fact that you will surely find someone who will make you go up to the terraces (in exchange for an offer) to see from above the spectacle of the newly dyed wool spread on the roofs to dry. If you have already visited Fez and its dry cleaners you can skip this visit. But the real beauty of this district lies in its funduq, or the ancient caravanserais. These buildings have a very different architecture from the riads, they have imposing gates where the horses had to pass, and a large courtyard where the goods were placed. The upper floors of the building instead housed the caravans. The funduqs recall the importance that Marrakech has always had as a stopping point along the caravan routes; today they are often in disrepair, but they are worth going in and taking a look. 

6-Menara Garden

If you want to observe the daily life of Moroccan families these gardens outside the city center are the perfect place to do so. If you come during the week they are quite quiet, but at the weekend they are besieged by families from Marrakech who want to spend the day outdoors. In the center of the gardens there is a very large pool surrounded by thousands of olive trees and a pavilion with a terrace on which you can climb. 


7-The new museums / galleries of Contemporary Art

Marrakech usually hosts a Biennale d'Arte (except the 2018 edition which was canceled due to lack of funds) and has been the capital for several years of design and contemporary art of all the  African continent (has also been designated cultural capital for North Africa in 2020!). In the last decade, several museums and several art galleries (African and otherwise) of rare beauty have opened. Let's talk about the Al Maaden Museum of Contemporary African Art (MACAAL) which is located just outside the city and was designed by the French architect Jean-Francoias Bodin, or the  Montresso foundation (always out of town) that, with the artistic residence Jardin Rouge, hosts international artists to collaborate with local artists (to visit the foundation's collection you will have to book via email by writing to [email protected]). It has also been open for less than 10 years Voice Gallery  with 2 locations, one in the center and another in the industrial area of ​​Marrakech, which, as the name suggests, gives "voice" to emerging local artists. Finally there is the Dar El Bacha - Museum of Confluences, right in the heart of the Medina, born as the residence of Thami El Glaoui (also called the Pasha of Marrakech), inside one of the most beautiful palaces in Marrakech. Inside, don't miss the Bacha Coffee House, where you can taste almost 200 coffee blends from all over the world.


Find all the practical information about the city (restaurants and accommodation) in the first article I wrote about places not to be missed in Marrakech.

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