Marrakech Medina and Monuments (1 day = 9 hours approx)Walk through the city of Marrakech, accompanied by your private tour guide, and discover itshidden treasures, tailoring the tour according to your interests.Your English-speaking tour guide will meet you at your hotel or riad at 9.00am and you will set off for the first stop on your tour: Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech, also known as the Mosque of the Booksellers. The name is derived from the Arabic al-Koutoubiyyin for librarian, becausebook vendors used to ply their wares in the streets surrounding it. The imposing 77 metre high minaret dates to the 12th century and was the inspiration for the the Hassan Tower in Rabat, as well as the Giralda of Seville, and is considered the ultimate structure of its kind. The mosque is made of red stone, and consists of six rooms, one above the other. It was designed so as to prevent anyone gazing in from the minaret to the harems of the king. Even today, this restriction continues to be enforced by blocking Google Earth access to Moroccans.Next you will visit the medieval square, Djemaa el Fna, considered by many to be the true highlight of Marrakech,Africa’s largest square and most famous meeting place. Here, at the heart of the old city, acrobats and jugglers, snake charmers, beggars, boxers, musicians, fresh juice and food sellers all compete for your attention – and a few dirham’s in the process.
Next your guide will help you navigate through the labyrinth-like streets and alleys of the Medina to visit the colourful souks, before stopping for lunch at around 1.00pm.In the afternoon your guide will take you to your choice of monuments. Some of the most fascinating areBahia PalaceThis stunning building, set in a beautiful 8 hectare garden,is an excellent example of 19th century Eastern Architecture. Its name means “brilliance”and it was built for Ahmed IbnMoussa (or Ba Ahmed) between 1894 and 1900 using craftsmen brought in from Fez. It has 160 rooms which are arranged in an open, rambling fashion. The interior is decorated with subtle stucco panels, zellij decorations, tiled floors, smooth arches, carved-cedar ceilings, shiny marble (tadelakt) finishes and zouak painted ceilings.
Thesebeautiful, elaborately decorated tombs date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603), but were only recently discovered (in 1917) and restored by the Beaux-arts service. Theyhave been a major attraction for visitors ever since. The mausoleum houses the bodies of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty, which originated in the Draa Valley.
The Mellah (Jewish Quarter)
“Mellah” is the name for a walled Jewish quarter in Morocco, like a European ghetto. The Marrakech “Mellah” was created in 1558 by Moulay Abdallah. At first this was seen as a privilege, and a protection against attacks by Arabs. At the time of the Spanish religious wars, Jewish refugees from Spain were sanctuary hereby the Sultan. As the population grew, however, it became an over-crowded, poor and miserable place. With the arrival of the Europeans at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Mellah opened up, giving new economical and social possibilities to Moroccan Jews.
The Old Spice Market
Rahba Kedima, or “Spice Square” is a colourful market filled with a wide array of spices including Cumin, Cinnamon, Saffron, Dried Pepper and many more. The sight and the smell of the place are magical. As well as cooking spices, you can buy cosmetic and herbal remedies for any ailment imaginable.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
This Islamic college was originally built in the 14th century, then rebuilt two centuries later.The building was restored in the 1960s and 70s and is a fine example of the best of Moroccan architecture, with beautifully ornate doors, tiled walls and carved plasterwork. It was named after the Ben Youssef Mosque next door and used to house up to 900 students at a time. On the upper level there are 132 small dormitories with bare walls and small windows either looking out over the central courtyard or smaller inner courtyards.
The tour finishes at around 6pm, when your guide will take you back to you hotel.