Like a mirage, the cityscape appears against the backdrop of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains: a sea of palm trees behind the mighty 12 km-long city wall. The city is a unique blend of classic vacation oasis, trendy metropolis and 1001 nights. Not only the world-class art treasures (Koutoubia Mosque, Saadian Tombs, El-Badi Palace, etc.), but also the extraordinary and varied hotel offer have made the royal city famous. The overnight stay in a "riad" (hotels in restored old town houses) with cozy courtyards and roof terraces is certainly one of the highlights of a stay in Marrakech.
Stroll through the picturesque markets of the city (souks) and end your day on the famous Djemaa El Fna Square. The atmosphere is incomparable. The place is the stage of life, fairground, open air theater, street restaurant, fair and circus arena.
Marrakech, also spelled Marrakesh, chief city of central Morocco. The first of Morocco’s four imperial cities, it lies in the centre of the fertile, irrigated Haouz Plain, south of the Tennsift River. The ancient section of the city, known as the medina, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
Marrakech gave its name to the kingdom of which it was long the capital. It was founded in the mid-11th century by Yusuf ibn Tashufin of the dynasty of the Almoravids, and it served as the Almoravid capital until it fell to the Almohads in 1147. In 1269 Marrakech passed to the control of the Marinids, whose preferred capital was the northern city of Fes. Although Marrakech flourished while serving as the capital under the Saʿdīs in the 16th century, the succeeding ʿAlawite rulers resided more often at Fès or Meknes; however, the ʿAlawites continued to use Marrakech as a military post. In 1912 Marrakech was captured by the religious leader Ahmad al-Ḥībah, who was defeated and driven out by French forces commanded by Col. Charles M.E. Mangin. Under the French protectorate (1912–56), Marrakech was for many years administered by the Glaoui family, the last of whom, Thami al-Glaoui, was the chief instigator of the deposition of Muhammad V in 1953.
Surrounded by a vast palm grove, the medina in Marrakech is called the “red city” because of its buildings and ramparts of beaten clay, which were built during the residence of the Almohads. The heart of the medina is Jamaa el-Fna square, a vibrant marketplace. Nearby is the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque with its 253-foot (77-metre) minaret, built by Spanish captives. The 16th-century Saʿdī Mausoleum, the 18th-century Dar el-Beïda Palace (now a hospital), and the 19th-century Bahia royal residence reflect the city’s historical growth. Much of the medina is still surrounded by 12th-century walls; among the surviving gates to the medina, the stone Bab Agnaou is particularly notable. The modern quarter, called Gueliz, to the west of the medina developed under the French protectorate.
Marrakech is famous for its parks, especially the Menara olive grove and the walled 1,000-acre (405-hectare) Agdal gardens. An irrigation system built under the Almoravids is still used to water the city’s gardens. Popular for tourism and winter sports, the city is a commercial centre for the High Atlas mountains and Saharan trade and has an international airport. It is connected by railway and road to Safi and Casablanca.