Prepare a tip for the performers
The Jmaa El Fna square is a UNESCO heritage site, largely due to the story tellers that pass on stories in Arabic, but also note the musicians and various other stalls. However, be prepared to pay a small tip of 5-10Dir whenever taking pictures/videos of their performances.
These interesting performers are most commonly spotted at night. During the day, look out for the snake charmers (dare you not prepare a tip when the other side has a cobra at its beck and call?!) and the delicious orange juice stalls!
Diamant noir, a nice place where to spend a few hours and drink some beer even if drinks are not so cheap.
If you look for a moviment night, you can try the Sherzazed, but check if it is open before letting the taxy go away, it's often closed for weeks after riots and fights, but, if you are not involved in those stuffs you'll join the best moroccan music and drink the cheapest beer. There is no particular dress code and the entrance is 100 DH.
Vietnamese food in Gueliz
I ate at Le Dragon D'Or Vietnamese restaurant one evening during my visit to Marrakech in February 2007.
This was the only Asian restaurant that I saw during my stay in the city, but I did note from my guidebook that there are Indian and Thai restaurants in Marrakech.
Le Dragon D'Or is located on Boulevard Zerktouni in the modern Gueliz region of the city, just a couple of minutes walk east of Ave Mohamed V. It is approximately 25 minutes walk from Djemaa El Fna square.
By Moroccan standards, this is an expensive restaurant. Consequently, the only people dining there when I visited were tourists, not locals.
The restaurant has a handful of tables in an outdoor courtyard and a large interior.
The menu is available in French, Arabic and English and my waiter spoke English fluently.
Starters include a selection of soups (30 - 50 Dhs) vegetable, meat and shrimp spring rolls (50 - 60 Dhs) and salads.
Main courses are quite expensive, ranging from 70 - 160 Dhs, with the higher prices being for seafood stir fries. The selection was pretty standard for this kind of restaurant: various beef, chicken, seafood and duck stir fries and curries, including ingredients such as pineapple, ginger sauce, sweet and sour sauce, cashew nuts, and a number of fried rice and noodle dishes.
There are no pork dishes sold here and there is no vegetarian section on the menu.
After 4 days in Marrakech, this was the first place that I visited that served alcohol. The menu includes a variety of cocktails, red and white wines and three choices of bottled beer (the local Flag Speciale, Heineken and Bud). I opted for:
Prawn crackers and side dishes - Cost: Complimentary
I received a complimentary bowl of prawn crackers and a plate of spicy carrot, cabbage and cucumber.
Shrimp spring rolls - Cost: 55 Dhs
3 very tasty spring rolls filled with small shrimps, seaweed and vegetables. Served with salad, a spicy seafood dip and a bowl of steamed white rice.
Chicken with Chinese noodles - Cost: 75 Dhs
A plate of very tasty thin rice noodles (similar to "Supernoodles" from a packet, and I don't mean that in a bad way) and dozens of pieces of good quality, well cooked chicken and mushrooms. The portion wasn't huge but it was enough to satisfy.
2 bottles of Flag Speciale beer - Cost: 25 Dhs per 330ml bottle
The beer tasted like nectar after 4 tee total days in Marrakech!
Good quality Asian food in a touristy restaurant. Far more expensive than local options, but a nice change from the local cuisine. Highly recommended!
Saadian Tombs 2
Please see my tip above for history of Saadian Tombs, etc.
The mausoleum is entered through a narrow passage way, which opens into a gardened area, surrounded by walls.
The mausoleum consists of the garden (where over 100 tombs covered in mosaics lay amongst grassed areas) and three halls.
The central structure, is The Hall of the Twelve columns, and is the most impressive. Carved cedar wood doors open into the vast space, where Columns of Italian Carrere marble rise to a vaulted roof.
Here, are the remains of Ahmed al-Mansour (The former Sultan of the Saadian Dynasty and planner of this mausoleum) his son and grandson.
A Marcharabia (carved wooden panel that traditionally separates the sexes) may also be seen.
In the tombed area and along the outer walls are well preserved examples of brightly coloured zellij work (intricate mosaic designs, typical of Islamic and Andalucian architecture) with Koranic calligraphyand Stucco stalectite work .
It is thought that the artwork was influenced by that of the Alhambra Palace in Granada. (This could probably explain why I was so underwhelmed when I visited The Alhambra a few months after my visit to Marrakesh - I'd already been stunned by the architecture and artwork here in Marrakesh!)
Slightly apart from the other two, is the tomb of the Sultans mother, Lalle Massaoude. Built by her son, this was the site where the decapitated body of the founder of the Saadian Dynasty , Alol esh Sheikh was buried.
The 100 tombs in the garden contain remains of other members of the royal family- including many children, and members of the Royal household's staff.
The visit around the tombs doesn't take too long, (unless there's a large tour group - just wander around the gardens, and they'll soon be gone onto their next site)
My second visit here there was a TV crew from NBC recording a series about Islamic countries and peoples opinions, so we had to wait while they filmed.c*
"The Other Morocco"
Marrakech is not only a fantastic city, it is also a symbol of the Morocco that once was, and which still survives here. The streets of the old and pink city have been too narrow to allow effective introduction of cars. And tourists searching for the "real" Morocco have turned the medieval structures of Marrakech into good business.
The hordes of tourists that come here all through the year have still not managed to destroy the character. Actually, their high number contribute in a positive way to preserve things. The inhabitants are truly proud of their city's fame, and Moroccans all over the country never let down an opportunity to visiting.
The most worthwhile tourist traps are centred to a rather small zone, starting in the north with the suuqs, continuing through the town square of Jemaa l-Fna with its crowd of storytellers, musicians and the Koutoubia mosque which minaret is visible from practically anywhere in Marrakech.
Going beyond this, the Menara gardens, by young Marrakechians considered as the most romantic place in town, is high up on the list. But don't forget to visit one of the many examples of sights left by the many Europeans and Americans who fell so much in love with Marrakech that they constructed their palaces and gardens here.
Marrakech' reputation as a pot of hustlers is not undeserved, but few things happen here that can't be handled. If you show respect, and keep your things close to your body, and remain alert in a crowds, nothing bad will happen to you. Marrakech' old quarters has many poor people with few chances to find regular work. But in recent years, an effective tourist police has helped conditions considerably.
What is central in order to understand the position that Marrakech has, is that it never has been Arabic, always Berber. While Arabs and Berbers mingle in most parts of Morocco, Marrakech remains a bastion of Berber culture. It was its own centre in the struggle against the French earlier this century, and could have become a capital in a country away from Morocco if history had wanted it differently. Anyway, its position has been strong for such a long period, that it is from 'Marrakech' that 'Morocco' is derived.
Marrakech is situated close to the Atlas mountains, and on most days you can see blue mountains covered with snow over the rooftops. Marrakech has been a resort for many years, and comes with all the luxury those being able to pay for it, could demand. The setting of Marrakech is splendid, the city exceptionally beautiful, and the liveliness almost never ending. The city offers most sorts of activities, from pool swimming in hotels to excursions to the mountains, which in winter time involves skiing.
But Marrakech is also a place of questionable reputation. True or not true, the story goes that just 40 years ago, one out of every three woman was a prostitute, either full time or once in a while. Children were no exception in this, but the child prostitution scene described by Nobel price laureate Elias Canetti in his 1950's travelogue The Voices of Marrakech is fortunately gone.
Marrakech is a city of history, and all with a few days to pass here must see the beautiful, large mosque and madrasa of Ben Yussef inside the large suuq, that begins at the northern side of Jemaa l-Fna. For deeper understanding of Moroccan architecture, the Almoravid koubba, 20-30 metres south of the mosque of Ben Yussef. Palaces like El-Bahia, El-Badi and Dar Si Said were built to please the senses, while those who cannot get enough of gardens can still feel old greatness in Agdal garden.
"Jemma El Fna"