Marrakech was founded around 1070 by the Almoravids and was, for a long time, a major political, economic and cultural center of the western Muslim world. While serving as the capital of the Almohad caliphate in the 12th century, the city surrounded itself with mighty red sandstone walls and built gleaming mosques, opulent palaces and expansive gardens.
Until 1867, Europeans were forbidden from entering Marrakech unless the sultan granted permission. During a period of unrest in the early 20th century, the French colonized Morocco, leaving behind architectural influences and the French language, which is still spoken by all educated Moroccans.
After World War II, pleasure seekers and notables rediscovered Marrakech. Winston Churchill, Yves Saint Laurent and the Rolling Stones rubbed shoulders with American writers, hippies and visitors eager to see what the fuss was about. A tourism drive led by King Mohammed VI resulted in luxury hotels, shops and restaurants.
Today, Marrakech is made up of two distinct areas. The Old City (also called the Medina) is home to the souks, or traditional markets. In the Modern City are the commercial quarter (Guéliz) and residential area (l’Hivernage) of the city.
Weather, Climate and Geography
With its minimal rainfall, Marrakech is a magical place for a holiday whatever the season. Winter is bright and crisp, while autumn brings delicious fresh produce into the markets. Spring sees the Atlas Mountains covered in flowers, while the city’s red hot summers can be offset by a dray-trip to the sandy coast. For North African music lovers, one particularly good time to visit Marrakech is june or early july, during the Festival of Popular Arts or the third week of june, when the annual Gnaoua Festival is held in Essaouira.
Cell phone roaming charges and text messaging fees can be expensive. Most major cell phone carriers offer international roaming plans. To avoid surprises, we recommend you call your cell phone provider before the trip to confirm they offer service in Marrakech and find the most cost-effective way to communicate while you are out of the country.
The Moroccan dirham (MAD) is the official currency in Morocco. It is divided into 100 centimes, with coins issued in denominations of one, two, five and 10 dirhams; and 10, 20 and 50 centimes. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200.
Safety and Security
Marrakech is a safe city, but as in any destination, you should always pay attention to your surroundings and keep belongings and money in a secure place, not in back or outside pockets. For added safety, we recommend you leave valuables and passports in your resort room safe when touring or participating in activities.
Taxis in Marrakech are safe, but we do not recommend you take a taxi on your own because most drivers do not speak English and you cannot pay with large bills. If you want to go someplace specific, ask the resort concierge to help you make arrangements with the taxi driver.
There are two kinds of taxis in Marrakech: the petit taxis and grand taxis. The petit taxis are for personal transport around the city and are supposed to be metered. Petit taxis tend to be small hatchbacks and are the ones you want to use for short rides within the city limits. Before you get in any taxi, agree to the price first since most petit taxi drivers will not use the meter. Twenty dirhams should take you most places in the Medina. Grand taxis for traveling outside the city are usually big Mercedes meant to share. If you want one to yourself, you will have to pay for every seat.