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Morocco See And Do

Aux Merveilles du Tapis
22 Sebaâ Louyet (Seven Turns) Fez el Bali
Fez
Morocco
Tel: 55 638735

Open daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Proprietor Hamid Hakim isn't just another carpet peddler. In this 14th-century palace, complete with gorgeous carved cedar ceilings, this salesman/orator jokes with customers and offers a witty lecture on Moroccan rugs, architecture, and life in Fez. His assistants serve mint tea and deftly roll and unroll rugs throughout his presentation, without putting undue pressure on visitors to make purchases. The shop does take credit cards, though, and offers reliable overseas shipping.

Bab Boujeloud
Pl. Boujeloud Fez el Bali
Fez
Morocco

Constructed in 1913, this gate is about 1,000 years younger than the buildings behind it. It's proof that age doesn't matter—the relatively youthful structure is the most strikingly beautiful entry point into the old city. Painted flowers and calligraphy embellish its outer blue ceramic tiles and, depending on one's interpretation, the green mosaic interior either represents peace or the official color of Islam. Stop by at sunset for some glowing photo opportunities.

Bahia Palace
Riad Zitoun El Jedid
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000

This 19th-century palace is so elaborate in its decoration it verges on kitsch. Built over seven years for Ba Ahmed, the son of the grand vizier Si Moussa, it includes row after row of apartments—that once housed Ahmed's harem—a trapezoidal garden, a huge tiled courtyard, and many hidden treasures, both in the form of antique objets d'art and the palace's convergence of Andalusian and Moorish architecture.

Open Mondays to Thursdays 8:45 to 11:45 am and 2:45 to 5:45 pm, Fridays 3 to 5:45 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 8:45 to 11:30 am.

Ben Youssef Medersa
Place Ben Youssef
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000

Ben Youssef Medersa's spectacular interiors are so striking that they upstaged Kate Winslet in the scenes they shared in Hideous Kinky. A 14th-century Koranic school that has been lovingly restored, the Medersa has a serene courtyard with a central, water-filled basin; and facades enhanced with tiling, stucco, and carved cedar.

Open daily 9 am to 6:30 pm.

City Walls
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000

Hop into a horse-drawn calèche for a tour around the city walls of the Medina. First constructed in the 12th century, these form a neat circuit of six miles punctuated by about 200 towers and ten main gates. Made of pisé, the fortifications possess a pinkish tinge and glow beautifully in the setting sun. A complete whirl around takes the best part of an hour; prices are fixed by the municipality and are posted beside the carriages, which wait in line on the north side of Place de Foucault (just follow your nose).

Dar Cherifa
8 Derb Chorfa Lakbir
(off Rue Mouassine)
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000
Tel: 212 24 42 64 63

Dar Cherifa is an attractive café littéraire and art gallery in the Mouassine district, housed in a lovely riad dating from the 17th century. Owner Abdellatif Aït Ben Abdellah, a leading light in the rejuvenation of the old city, has taken great pains to expose Dar Cherifa's carved beams and stucco work while leaving walls and floors bare and free of distraction, all the better to enhance the hanging of regular exhibitions by resident local and foreign artists. There's a small library where light snacks are served with tea and coffee, and a courtyard that hosts occasional performances by gnawa and Sufi musicians.

Open daily 9 am to 7 pm.

El Badi Palace
Place des Ferblantiers
Mellah
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000

After famously routing the Portuguese from the southern Moroccan coast in 1578, the great Saadian sultan Ahmed El-Mansour set about erecting this 360-room palace in Marrakesh to celebrate his victories. Taking a quarter of a century to build, El Badi—with its pavilions, sunken gardens, multiple reflecting pools, and fountains—stood for less than a century before the Alaouites (the current rulers of Morocco) took over, stripped the place bare, and moved its riches to their new capital in Meknès. Today, Badi is a spectacular ruin of crumbling pisé (mud brick) walls, faded mosaic floors, and empty ponds and pools that visitors are free to explore on their own. Besides being a tourist attraction, the premises are used for special events during the city's National Popular Arts Festival (usually held in June and July).

Open daily 8:30 to 11:45 am and 2:30 to 5:30 pm.

Jemaa El Fna
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000

Jemaa El Fna, translated as the Square of the Dead, is the main open space in Marrakesh, and is as old as the city itself. Once the scene of public executions (back in the old days, no need to worry), it is now the city's cultural epicenter, thronged day and night with a carnival of local life, including snake charmers (a few dirhams for a photograph with a snake draped over your shoulders; a few more to have it removed); dentists (teeth pulled on the spot); scribes (letters written to order); herbalists (cures for everything and nothing); and beggars (to whom Moroccans give generously). In the evenings, the square becomes a venue for alfresco eating and entertainment of a bizarre nature with troupes of costumed acrobats, storytellers, magicians, transvestite dancers, and semimystical gnawa musicians attended by small knots of wild-eyed devotees giddy on the repetitive rhythms. Tourists are welcome to watch, but nothing here is staged for their benefit; this place is genuine.

Several cafés and restaurants have upper terraces with ringside seating from which to observe the mayhem of Jemaa El Fna. One of the best of the lot is Café Glacier, which is above the Hotel CTM, with its sweeping, 270-degree view from the roof; some people prefer the Café de France. Come at dusk for purple skies clouded by drifts and curls of smoke as food stalls below fire up the griddles and the smell of grilling meat overlaps with the insistent clattering of hand drums.

Kairaouine Mosque
Boutouil Fez el Bali
Fez
Morocco

Open: Daily

Built in 857 A.D. and spanning approximately 10,760 square feet, the immense Kairaouine was Morocco's largest mosque until the 1990s—when the Hassan II Mosque was built in Casablanca. Non-Muslims are not admitted inside the building, but through the open door, visitors can view dozens of Moorish arches and a brilliantly painted ceiling. At the start of the second millennium, this mosque housed the Western World's first university, and its legendary scholars include Pope Sylvester II, the mathematician responsible for introducing Arabic math to Europe.

Kasbah du Toubkal
Imlil
Morocco
Tel: 212 2 448 5611
www.kasbahdutoubkal.com

A stunning restoration of an abandoned hilltop stronghold by two English brothers and their Moroccan partner, Kasbah du Toubkal is two hours and 40 miles south of Marrakesh on the lower slopes of Jbel Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak at 13,671 feet. Guests are driven from the city to the village of Imlil, then transferred by mule. A simple Berber lunch is taken on the Kasbah's upper terrace with snowy peaks looming high above. Afterwards, there is a bit of trekking before the trip back to the city, arriving by early evening. For those reluctant to leave, the Kasbah offers accommodation ranging from dormitory beds to a split-level, glass-walled suite.

Koutoubia Mosque
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000

The centerpiece of Marrakesh is the square tower of the Koutoubia minaret, attached to the Koutoubia Mosque, built in the late 12th century. It's not particularly high—about 250 feet—but it towers over the Medina thanks to a long-standing planning ordinance that forbids any other building in the old city to rise above the height of a palm tree. Unfortunately, the mosque is only open to Muslims, but the views of the tower up close and a stroll in the adjacent rose gardens are worth the visit.

Les Bains de Marrakesh
2 Derb Sedra
Bab Agnaou/Kasbah
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000
Tel: 212 24 38 14 28
www.lesbainsdemarrakech.com

Les Bains de Marrakesh is an elegant spa center, occupying one half of an old townhouse in the southern Kasbah quarter of the Medina. A full range of treatments, from water massage to shiatsu, plus gommage (loofah scrub) and steam cleaning in a traditional hammam, are on offer. Figure on spending about $70 for a 45-minute gommage plus an hourlong massage. Unlike some other local hammams—which we don't recommend visiting unless in the company of a Moroccan who knows the place—Les Bains de Marrakesh is very Westernized and the staff guides the uninitiated through the process (steam, cold-water rinse, perhaps more steam, another rinse before the gommage; then a massage; and lots of time to cool down with a glass of mint tea). Reservations—as far in advance as possible—are a must.

Open daily 9 am to 8 pm. By appointment only.

Majorelle Garden
Avenue Yacoub El Mansour
Bab Doukkala
Guéliz
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000
www.jardinmajorelle.com

Privately owned by late fashion designer and longtime Marrakesh resident Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, the Majorelle Garden was created in the 1930s by French painter Jacques Majorelle whose legacy is a virulent shade of powder blue that carries his name. It colors the water channels, the urns, and the artist's former studio (which now showcases Saint Laurent's collection of Islamic art), making a striking contrast with bamboo groves, cacti, great palms, and pools floating with water lilies. The effect is like walking through a Gauguin painting. A small monument to Saint Laurent, who died in June of 2008 and whose ashes were scattered in the garden, has been erected here.

Open daily 8 am to 5 pm in winter, 8 am to 6:30 pm in summer.

Medersa Bou Inania
Talâa Kebira
Fez
Morocco

Open: Daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This theological college, marked by its green tiled roof, is a prime example of Merinid architecture, and it's the most beautiful of Kairaounie University's residential colleges. Inside, elegant calligraphy graces the ceramic tile walls. The marble floors, sculpted cedar, and carved stucco walls—made with a concoction of plaster and egg white—have held up since this masterpiece medersa was built in 1350. Since it is still in use, non-Muslims must depart during prayer time.

Musée de Marrakesh
Place Ben Youssef
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000
Tel: 212 24 44 18 93
www.museedemarrakech.ma

At the heart of the Medina, the Musée de Marrakesh is a conversion of an opulent, early-19th-century house formerly belonging to a local grandee. Exhibits rotate but concentrate on Moroccan and Islamic arts and crafts such as court ceramics and tribal textiles. The star attraction is the building itself, particularly the polychromatic-tiled central court. There's a pleasant courtyard café and a very good bookshop. Plus, the museum is naturally cool inside—a good place to escape from the heat, since AC is a rarity in Marrakesh and worth the price of admission alone during the hot summer months.

Open daily 9 am to 6:30 pm.

Museum Du Batha
Pl. de l'Istiqlal Fez el Djedid
Fez
Morocco
Tel: 55 634116

Open: Daily, except for Tuesdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed from noon to 2:30.

Housed in an Andalusian palace called Dar Batha that was built in the late 19th century, the Museum of Moroccan Arts displays a collection of native folk art and crafts. Fez is especially famous for its ceramics, and visitors can view china painted with intricate and colorful geometric patterns as well as rustic earthenware pottery. Other exhibits include Berber carpets, ancient copies of the Koran, gold-stitched embroidery, and navigational tools from as early as the 11th century.

Saadian Tombs
Rue de Kasbah
Bab Agnaou/ Kasbah
Medina
Marrakesh
Morocco 40000

This walled royal burial ground and gardens were discovered by accident in 1917, from an aerial map of the Medina made by French colonial officials. It dates from the late 16th century, and was founded by the powerful head of the Saadian dynasty, Sultan Ahmed El Mansour, who is buried here along with many of his family members. Used by various dynasties for more than 200 years, the beautifully restored site numbers more than 60 pagoda-shaped marble sarcophagi housed in two mausoleums decorated with dazzling zellij-tiled walls, cedar columns, and sculpted arches. Most visitors arrive here as part of a group tour, but individuals are free to walk around on their own.

Open daily 8:30 to 11:45 am and 2:30 to 5:45 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.