Marrakech means visiting the famous Djemaa el Fna square over and over again. It also means haggling your way around the souks, but did you know that the city is home to some of the most beautiful historical palaces and religious buildings of Morocco? Follow me as I discover the most stunning palaces in Marrakech!
Medersa Ali Ben Youssef
Situated in the middle of the medina, this will be one of the first historical buildings you’ll come across. The medersa Ali Ben Youssef is a theological college where students learnt the Quran. It was used until the 19th century. The courtyard is a beguiling mix of Hispanic and Moorish decoration: stucco archways, ceramic tiled walls and a refreshing water feature. Not a bad place to study! The courtyard is in stark contrast with the dormitories upstairs: small, cramped rooms that once fitted over 900 students!
Together with the Medersa, this is probably the best place to see what Moroccan artisans were capable of. This 19th century Grand Vizier’s place is the “crème de la crème” of interior extravaganza! The cedar-wood ceilings, carved arches and hand-painted doors are a testimony to some truly extraordinary craftsmanship! It’s worth to linger on here for a while to take it all in!
Dar Si Said
This 19th century mansion houses various galleries displaying Berber embroidery, carved doors and textiles on the ground floor. It’s an interesting introduction to traditional Moroccan crafts. From the inner courtyard, a set of narrow stairs leads you up to the spectacular wedding reception chamber! It’s worth listening to what the guide upstairs has to say, he gives you an idea of how the wedding receptions of the upper class unfolded.
The beak-clacking storks overlook a vast complex of what was once a sultan’s palace. The lavish interior might have been long gone, but you can still get a pretty good idea of what it must have looked like back in the 16th century, wandering around the various parts and ruins. Don’t forget to climb up to the little terrace, which offers you a nice overview of the Kasbah part of Marrakech and over the Atlas mountains. One of my favourite historical sites in this city!
Dating back to the 17th century, but only discovered in 1917 (!), the Saadian Tombs are a mausoleum for Sultan-al-Mansour and his entourage. The tombs themselves are rather small, but this is all about the decoration of the chambers! Get there right on opening time, it’s a small place, so as soon as tour groups descend, it can get pretty crowded!
The medina is truly a magical place to explore! But don’t forget to visit the Ville Nouvelle of Marrakech, where you’ll discover the a completely different side to Morocco, amongst modern art galleries and hipster bars!
Have you visited some of the palaces in Marrakech? What other must-see sites would you add?