A Dozen Photos that’ll Make you Want to Visit Marrakesh

I’m from Texas and know heat, but I might have gotten a little soft living in France. After all, 90 degrees is considered a heatwave in Paris. Walking through the medina, the sun beat down through the hazy air. Heat radiated from the pavement, searing my legs. August is not the ideal time to visit Marrakesh, but I was happy to be there nonetheless.

A flight from Paris to Marrakesh takes around 3:30 and usually costs less than €200. Why I’d never taken the time to visit Marrakesh before is beyond me. Perpetual sweating told me that I should have chosen a month where swimming pools weren’t close to the boiling point, but c’est la vie. Like the locals, I got out in the mornings and evenings and lounged in the air conditioning and pool during the hottest hours.

Despite the fact that my trip to Marrakesh felt like five days in a dry sauna, I loved the city. The French, Berber, and Arabic cultures are blended to create a place unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The cuisine has become one of my favorites, most notably for its creative use of spices. Architecture in the ‘Red City’ is vibrant, ornate, and sometimes otherworldly. Often I felt as if I was walking inside of an opulent jewelry box, and others, it was like walking back in time. Old meets new. Grit meets glamour.

Marrakesh is a gift to the photographer. Colors are brighter and daily scenes play out as if they’re scripted specifically for the camera. Even an average photographer like myself managed to capture plenty of nice clicks. Here are a dozen of my favorite photos that will make you want to visit Marrakesh, too.

Four Seasons Resort Marrakesh

My trip was part vacation and part work. I was on assignment for Four Seasons Magazine writing about Moroccan food. For the first three nights, I stayed at Four Seasons Resort Marrakesh. The expansive property is located outside of the medina, so it’s a place for true tranquility. Literally an oasis within the desert, the Four Seasons is lush. The dramatic fountain lined with palm trees was the view I enjoyed each morning for breakfast. My suite overlooked the massive pool, where I spent the afternoons plunging into the water, eating frozen fruit, and trying to keep my iPhone from overheating.

The Medina Souks

Visit Marrakesh Souks

The souks in the medina {old town} seamlessly blend together like an American city and its suburbs. The only real way for a visitor to distinguish between them is by the products that are being sold. From lamps to leather and spices to silk, there’s plenty to ignite your imagination and set your wallet on fire.

Visit Marrakesh Souks

Dive deeper into the depths of the souks and you’re likely to see the craftsmen {and boys} working. You’re also likely to get lost. It’s a maddening maze, but there are plenty of young men willing to lead you out…for a small fee. But isn’t getting lost part of the fun? It’s like pushing doors in Paris. Around each corner lies a new adventure and a possible treasure.

Visit Marrakesh souks

There are said to be more than 3,000 souk stalls, but this area isn’t just for shopping. It’s a peek into the lives of people who live and work in this labyrinth. With the exception of the height of the heat, there’s a perpetual buzz. Throughout the day, bread is cooked and delivered via wooden carts, and noisy motorcycles navigate the narrow alleys, weaving through the throng of people. Time spent in the Marrakesh souks is organized chaos at its finest.

Tanneries

I couldn’t visit Marrakesh without seeing the tanneries. Known for its leather production, the tanneries are a big part of the souk landscape. Finding them wasn’t so easy, but again, there were plenty of eager Moroccans willing to lead the way {for a fee}. Truth be told, I could have simply followed my nose, but the information about the leather production was worth the small price.

Visit Marrakesh tanneries

Before entering the tanneries, I was handed a sprig of mint, which would help cover the stench. The foul smell wasn’t coming from the cow hides baking under the August sun, but instead the diluted pigeon poop used to soften the hides. The first process is known as iferd and lasts 3-6 days, depending on the season. This is when the hides soak in the aforementioned pigeon poop fermented with tannery liquid waste. After, the hides are wrung out and the hair is scrapped off. Then, the hides are placed in pits filled with lime and argan-kernel ash, where they’ll stay for 15-30 days.

Visit Marrakesh tanneries

During the qasriya stage, the hides are washed and soak another day in water, and you guessed it, more pigeon poop. This makes the leather more pliable. In the fourth stage, the hides are scraped with broken pottery pieces, which preps them for the dye. Applied only by hand, the dyes are made from natural resources, such as fruits, vegetables, and trees. For proof, one only has to look at the workers, whose arms are stained a rainbow of colors up to their elbows. After drying in the sun, the hides are stretched between two ropes, making them more supple. From there, the leather is turned into poofs, babouche slippers, bags, and coats.

Ben Youssef Madrasa

visit Marrakesh Ben Youssef Madrasa

Through a small, non-nondescript arched entrance was a lovely surprise: Ben Youssef Medrasa. The nearly perfectly square building was once one of the largest Islamic colleges in North Africa. Within, the painted ceramic tiles and ornate plaster cornices led to a swift jaw drop. The carvings surrounding the open-air courtyard are beyond ornate, with geometrical patterns that left me mesmerized. On the second floor, to the east and west sides, I watched visitors having their photos taken among the mashrabiyas. Given the chance, I declined the same photo. I didn’t want to mess with perfection.

Bahia Palace

Visit Marrakesh Bahia Palace

With 12:00 pm and the ridiculous afternoon heat quickly approaching, I walked into the Bahia Palace. Somehow, the scorching heat subsided; I was already impressed without seeing a single mosaic tile. Meaning ‘Beautiful Palace’, the Bahia Palace is just that. Set on two acres and comprised of 150 rooms, the palace was originally built in the late 19th century for Si Moussa, chamberlain of Sultan Hassan I. Enlarged and passed down to other Moroccan rulers, it became the home of the resident general of France in Morocco during the Colonial period. It was the French that added electricity, heating, and fireplaces.

Today, it’s open to the public for visits and is home to the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Keeping with its royal origins, King Mohammed VI and his family sometimes stay in the Bahia Palace. I can’t say I blame the king. With all of the orange trees, fountains, carved stucco and cedar, Technicolor windows, and floors covered in zellig tiles, I’d happily trade my Paris pad for a few nights in the Bahia Palace, too.

Majorelle Gardens

visit Marrakesh Majorelle Gardens

At 9:00 am, I stood in line waiting to get inside the Majorelle Gardens. Strategically situating myself beneath the water misters kept me from hopping in a cab and heading back to Riad Les Yeux Bleus {I HIGHLY recommend this riad} for a dip in the pool. The line moved quickly, and I couldn’t visit Marrakesh without seeing arguably one of the most gorgeous places in the city.

visit Marrakesh Majorelle Gardens

Forty years of work by Jacques Majorelle went into developing this garden compound in the Red City. The French painter began creating the botanical oasis in 1923, which features a bright blue Cubist villa, where he lived with his wife until their divorce. During the property’s second life, it was purchased and restored in the 1980s by the famous French fashion designer, Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner {both in love and business}, Pierre Bergé. In 2008, when Saint Laurent died, his ashes were spread at Majorelle.

Indeed, the Majorelle Gardens were worth the wait. The multitude of ‘exotic’ plants, vibrant colors, and water features draw the lens like a moth to flame.

Jemaa el-Fnaa

visit Marrakesh Jemaa el-Fnaa

Think of Jemaa El Fnaa as Main Street in Anytown, USA. It’s the hub of not only the medina, but Marrakesh. My first look at Jemaa El Fnaa was overwhelming in every way. It was hot, which I’ve clearly established. It was packed, loud, and frenzied. My senses were overwhelmed, but in the best possible way.

visit Marrakesh medina

The vast, wide-open space was filled with street artists, storytellers, musicians, and food stalls. From grilled meats to nuts to snails, Moroccans were bellied up to temporary tables enjoying the evening. Originally, this public square was built by the Almohads and where public executions were held. On this night, the only possibility of death, I thought, would be from heatstroke.

Have I mentioned that Marrakesh in August is hot?

 

Outside the Medina: Four Seasons Resort Marrakesh

Inside the Medina: Riad Les Yeux Bleus 

 

[map autofit=”1″] [pin tooltip=”Four Seasons Resort Marrakesh”]Avenue de la Ménara, Marrakesh, Morocco[/pin] [pin tooltip=”Ben Youssef Madrasa”]Rue Assouel, Marrakech 40000, Morocco[/pin] [pin tooltip=”Bahia Palace”]Rue riad zitoun el-Jedid, KASBAH, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco[/pin] [pin tooltip=”Majorelle Gardens”]Rue Yves St Laurent By A-Maps، Marrakech 40000, Morocco[/pin] [pin tooltip=”Jemaa el-Fnaa”]Rue El Ksour, 38, Marrakech 40000, Morocco، Marrakech 40000, Morocco[/pin] [pin tooltip=”Riad Les Yeux Bleus “]7 Derb Elferran Bab Doukkala, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco[/pin] [/map]

 

 

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Sign up to receive news and updates!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

39 Comments
  • realtravelmate
    March 7, 2018

    Great post, I have always wanted to visit Marrakesh and your blog and photos have inspired me to fulfil this.

    (I also enjoyed reading your disclaimer about your affiliate links, funny, honest and original 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      Merci beaucoup! Get to Marrakesh (and Morocco in general). It’s really a lovely country.

  • Beth
    March 7, 2018

    Fantastic pictures for sure!! Fun post, love it! Beth

  • Rachelle
    March 7, 2018

    Marrakesh in August!? Man, you’re brave! Your pictures are simply stunning. Like you alluded to, Marrakesh is one of those places that is literally begging to be photographed from every angle. I want to visit someday, but getting there from the West Coast of the US is going to be pricey!

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      Possibly a little crazy, too. That is a long trek from the west coast, but you could package it with Europe or Northern Africa. That’s totally doable.

  • unaveronicavagante
    March 7, 2018

    I love your photos! They make me want to go right now…
    I’ve been hearing great things about both the city and the country, but I’m still kind of reluctant about traveling solo there…

    • Leah Walker
      March 10, 2018

      Honestly, I never felt unsafe or was harassed. I found the people I interacted with very kind.

  • Leigh
    March 7, 2018

    What an amazing trip – I think if I stayed at the Four Seasons, I would never leave the hotel! (This is a big problem for me at nice hotels, haha!) I did not do well in the Southeast Asian heat and humidity, so I better save Marrakesh for a cooler season!

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      I have that problem with nice hotels, too. Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend going in August, but there was no humidity, so you’re good there.

  • NieNie
    March 7, 2018

    OMG your photos just make me want to visit even more! This is high on my bucket list currently and I want to go sooooo bad! I may try to do a solo trip this year if time allows it! Thanks for sharing, I will definitely be saving this post for later!

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      I’d totally go to Marrakesh if you have time. It’s just such an energetic place.

  • Margot Billeaudeaux
    March 7, 2018

    Love the bicycle photo.
    Always wanted to see but will probably never get there, so I travel through your pictures and writings for now. How fortunate you are to have a job like This! A dream come true.

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      Thank you! Yes, this job beats being in the classroom teaching Shakespeare!

  • Francesca Murray
    March 7, 2018

    I had never heard of a Tannerie before reading this. Not sure I’d visit one given the stench haha, but you introduced me to a lot of things to do in Morocco. The most I knew there was to do was drink mint tea, shop at the souks and visit the blue city.

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      Oh, I didn’t even scratch the surface. There are so many things in Marrakesh that I didn’t get to. Honestly, it was just too damn hot to really get out and explore. The mint tea, however, is awesome.

  • Rosie
    March 8, 2018

    I love your photos. I have just been through my photos of Marrakesh and yours are 10000% nicer. I bet the Garden Majorelle was a real treat in the heat. We visited in January and it was really cold. All the pools were at freezing point lol.

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      Thank you! I was on a photography and writing assignment, so I brought out the big-girl camera. 😉

      It’s difficult to imagine Marrakesh being so cold. It sounds good to me!

  • Jewels
    March 8, 2018

    Beautiful!! During my last visit, I wish I was able to stay in Marrakech longer! I spent more time in the Sahara, Fes, and Chefchaouen. But this is all the more reason to go back!

    • Leah Walker
      March 9, 2018

      See, I didn’t get to go to any place else but Casablanca. I want to go back and visit the places you did, too.

  • Ufuoma
    March 10, 2018

    Lovely post. I am off to Marrakesh in May and this post has me so excited to go. I’ll be headed to the Majorelle Gardens first and I cannot wait. Going during ramadan and hoping it is still as vibrant as ever.

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      I’m sure May will be marvelous in the Majorelle Gardens. Have fun!

  • Danila Caputo
    March 10, 2018

    I live in the South of Italy where we’re also used to the heat, but I think that Marrakesh would be too hot even for me! Good idea to go out early in the morning or in the evening! Also I had no idea that you can distinguish the souks by the products that are being sold!

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      Oh, I’ve been in southern Italy in August, and it doesn’t hold a candle to Marrakesh!

  • Fiona Maclean
    March 10, 2018

    Such vibrant colours. Did you find yourself being heckled a lot? I have to admit I’m put off Marrakesh by the idea that I’ll be constantly pestered by street sellers. Some great places though that I didn’t realise were in Marrakesh to visit, like Bahia Palace and Ben Youssef Medrasa

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      No, not at all. Everyone was very kind and respectful to me. I never felt uncomfortable at all.

  • Tom Bourlet
    March 11, 2018

    The Majorelle gardens look stunning, almost like the supposed images of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (nerd in me came out there). I haven’t actually been to Marrakesh, so many people I know have so I’ll definitely have to give it a visit, the photos look amazing

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      Give Marrakesh a chance, but don’t go in August!

  • Indrani
    March 12, 2018

    Such fantastic pictures! The color coordination is attractive.
    I find souqs very attractive, they have such old world charm. Hard to find it in other markets.

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      Thank you! There is so much color in the Red City.

  • Ghia Lorenzo
    March 13, 2018

    This place is really amazing! I too enjoyed my stay in Morocco, so many things to do and the Souk’s souvenir shop and Ben Youssef Madrasa is so cool! I love your photos, so vibrant and crisp.

  • Claire
    March 13, 2018

    Marrakesh looks incredible, I haven’t been at all to Africa but I can’t wait to go! I would love to wander about the Souks and get lost, you have some beautiful photos here 🙂

  • Megan Jerrard
    March 13, 2018

    I would love to visit Marrakesh – as a photographer I’m looking forward to capturing the vibrant colors throughout the city, and experience the melting pot of cultures. I can’t wait to visit the souks and tanneries, and am now very excited to take photos at Ben Youssef Medrasa. Thanks for sharing your photos – hope I can come home with shots just as incredible! PS awesome gig by the way, writing for the Four Seasons Magazine!

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      I’d love to see your photos from Marrakesh. Go soon!

      And, yes, it was a great assignment. I always love working with Four Seasons.

  • Lauren
    March 13, 2018

    Wow, this is such a dreamy place. I’d love to go to the Ben Youssef Medrasa. Everything is so bright and colourful – it’s beautiful. Bucket list goals for sure!

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      Yes! And I want to go back and see all that I missed. I highly recommend Marrakesh.

  • Siddhartha Joshi
    March 16, 2018

    Wow…I just love your pictures…so moody and soulful. Marrakesh is everything I thought it would and maybe even more. I love the souks and the madrassa. I’ve actually never been inside a madrassa before but then most aren’t as beautiful either…

    Haha…and I will take your advice and not visit in August 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      March 30, 2018

      Thank you for the kind words about my photos. I’ve come a long way in those terms. But yes, don’t visit in August!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers

Have the world delivered to your inbox
Well, maybe not the whole world, but some of it. Either way, subscribe to my newsletter for news from Paris and wherever else the road takes me.