Medina Walking Tour in Marrakech (Self Guided), Marrakech

Dating back to the 19th century, Marrakech's Medina reveals an old Islamic capitol featuring important architectural historic and cultural sights, surrounded by beautiful ramparts. In 1985 it was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This walking tour will take you to the most popular attractions in the south part of Medina.
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Medina Walking Tour in Marrakech Map

Guide Name: Medina Walking Tour in Marrakech
Guide Location: Morocco » Marrakech (See other walking tours in Marrakech)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The Medina of Marrakech
  • Ben Youssef Madrasa
  • Musée de Marrakech
  • La Qoubba Galerie d'Art
  • Almoravid Koubba
  • High Tech Souk
  • Mausoleum of Sidi Abd El Aziz
  • Fondouks
  • Marrakech Souks
  • Rahba Kedima Square
The Medina of Marrakech

1) The Medina of Marrakech

The Medina of Marrakech is the oldest part of the city, surrounded by ramparts. You enter this quarter through one of the many gateways and it is full of ancient splendors that you will have a wonderful time visiting.

Before the Almoravid Dynasty, the capital of what is now Morocco was based at Aghmat, which today is an archaeological site 30 km from Marrakech. When the Almoravides captured the city in 1062 and installed their reign, their leader Abou Bakir ibn Umar wanted a new capital.

Two rival cities vied for the honor (and the expected wealth) of becoming the new capital, but to avoid further rivalry, ibn Umar chose to build his city on the plains near the River Tensift, where nomads often set up their temporary encampment.

By 1070 the new capital was beginning to take shape, with palm trees and orange groves planted and houses set up around narrow streets, but the new threat of rival tribes, notably that of the Almohades, made their sultan have a wall put up around the city.

The Medina was finally captured by the Almohades in 1147 and many of the beautiful buildings were destroyed and then rebuilt for the new dynasty. The Medina stayed the capital of Morocco until 1269 when the Almohad Dynasty fell. It was again the capital between the 16th and 17th centuries and once more in 1792.

The city naturally expanded outside the walls of the Medina, where you can still see the ruins of many ancient palaces, the Koutoubia Mosque, the Ben Youssef Madrasa and the famous Saadian Tombs, among many other magnificent testaments to the greatness of the Moroccan Empire.
Ben Youssef Madrasa

2) Ben Youssef Madrasa (must see)

Editor's note: The building is currently being refurbished and will probably reopen to the public in 2019/2020 (no date has been announced yet); however, the museum attached to the Madrasa is open.

You will find the Ali ben Youssef Madrasa in the medina district of Marrakech and you shouldn’t miss a trip to visit this important building. Madrasa means “centre of learning” and can be ascribed to a school, a college or a university – in this case the building served as an Islamic college where students came to learn and study the Koran.

The Ali ben Youssef Madrasa was named after the Almoravid Sultan who reigned between 1106 and 1142. It was founded in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 16th century during the Saadian Dynasty. The college closed in 1960; it was restored and opened as a historical site in 1982.

One of the biggest theological colleges in North Africa, it housed up to 900 students in very cramped conditions, as there were only 130 tiny bedrooms. In these basic “cells” there was little room to lay a sleeping mat and use an area for studying and for cooking – so take plenty of photos to show your kids the next time they moan about not having enough space!

The large central courtyard is beautifully decorated in carved cedar and marble with lovely stuccowork. The tiles are laid out in geometrical patterns and bear inscriptions – mostly phrases from the Koran – as, of course, no human or animal representations are allowed. There is a big pool that served for ablutions before entering the prayer room that backs onto the courtyard.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Musée de Marrakech

3) Musée de Marrakech (must see)

The Marrakech Museum is housed in the 19th century Dar Menebhi Palace which was restored in 1997 by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation. It is one of the best examples of Spanish/Arab architecture and made up of rooms around a central courtyard with three fountains, seating areas and detailed tile work.

This courtyard, which is now the atrium of the museum was once open to the sky but now has been covered with glass and textiles to create the impression of being inside a tent. The centerpiece of the atrium is undoubtedly the magnificent chandelier made of metal shards, each one delicately decorated with inscriptions and geometric symbols.

The side rooms around the courtyard have lovely painted wooden ceilings and they house the exhibits, featuring historical books and manuscripts, clothes, coins, carpets and pottery from Arab, Berber and Jewish civilizations. You will see several jewel-encrusted daggers and swords and many beautifully decorated examples of the Koran.

The museum also holds temporary exhibitions on modern Moroccan art, but sadly, the explanations of each item, along with those in the permanent exhibition are all in Arabic/French.

There is a café that serves mint tea, very strong black coffee and small snacks. Artwork and souvenirs are on sale in the museum shop.

Why You Should Visit:
As long as you don't go inside expecting a historical museum experience, you will enjoy a stop here.
It's a beautiful building and a very good place to check the modern art of Marrakech.
The interior courtyard is stunning with beautiful tiled floors, elegant arches and wonderful decoration.
Another attraction is the huge wooden chandelier that looks like a UFO (and actually, it does).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6:30pm
La Qoubba Galerie d'Art

4) La Qoubba Galerie d'Art

Whether you are an art lover or just looking forward to discovering Moroccan art, La Qoubba Galerie d'Art is the right place for you to visit. Here you will find paintings from all over the country, all reflecting modern and postmodern styles. The gallery is located not far from the Marrakech Museum.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 9am-1pm, 2:30-6:30pm
Almoravid Koubba

5) Almoravid Koubba

There aren’t many buildings that have survived the centuries in good condition, so visiting the Almoravid Koubba is a real treat for amateur archeologists.

It was built in the 12th century and is the sole surviving Almoravid building intact in Morocco. It had been renovated and rebuilt in the 16th century, before being buried under an outbuilding attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque when the mosque was renovated and enlarged.

Like so many cities, Marrakech today is much higher than it was when it was founded. This comes from the custom of importing earth to cover the rubble of buildings that had been destroyed or pulled down.

The Koubba remained hidden until excavation work around the mosque began in 1948. It was finally excavated in 1957. Once it stood on ground level, but now you will reach it down a flight of steps.

The small building has a ribbed dome and windows cut into ornate shapes. Inside it has motifs of acanthus leaves, palms and pine cones. It has a unique support system for the roof, being octagonal overlaid by a square.

There is quite a lot of calligraphy representing passages from the Koran. The foundation inscription is the most ancient example of cursive Maghrebi script in North Africa. The Koubba was used for ablutions before entering the mosque.
High Tech Souk

6) High Tech Souk

Located near the Almoravid Koubba, High Tech Souk is widely considered one of the most bizarre and strange souks of all. It is probably the hilarious contrast of small insignificant shops tucked into mud-brick walls exhibiting all of the latest inventions of the high-tech industry, from flat-screen TVs to digital cameras and computers.
Mausoleum of Sidi Abd El Aziz

7) Mausoleum of Sidi Abd El Aziz

The Mausoleum of Sidi Abd el Aziz is not open to non-Muslims, but don’t let that put you off going to admire it from the exterior.

This small mausoleum was built in 1508 on the orders of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdellah. The building is white with a pointed roof tiled in green. It has wooden, carved eaves and a horseshoe shaped entrance.

Sidi Abd el Aziz was born Abou Faress Abdelaziz and he was a silk merchant in Fès. Apparently he underwent some kind of religious conversion and gave up his business to become a fervent follower and principle disciple of Sidi ben Slimane, the founder of Moroccan Sufism.

He moved to Marrakech were he preached Sufism ethics to craftsmen and corporations in the Ben Youssef Mosque. Sufism is the belief in the inner mystical dimension of Islam and its aim is to turn the heart away from everything except God. It was and still is a popular movement and gains adherents during times of conflict and “social decadence”.

There are no saints in Islam, but Sidi Abd el Aziz, Sidi ben Slimane and five others are considered the “Seven Men” – equivalent to Christian saints – because they are all buried in the same city. Sidi Abd el Aziz is honored on Saturdays.

8) Fondouks

Originally storehouses and workshops of local merchants, the Fondouks are nowadays very popular among tourists. Only 140 of them are left today in Medina. These beautiful medieval courtyards and inns offer the best treatment one can wish for. They also have a quite interesting architecture.
Marrakech Souks

9) Marrakech Souks (must see)

No visit to Morocco would be complete without spending hours the Marrakech Souks, of which the best are to be found alongside Jemaa el-Fnaa.

These souks are set up in narrow winding streets with stalls and galleries and where haggling is the name of the game, because nothing is priced and when you ask, you’ll be given a much higher price at the outset. Don’t worry about offending the trader, he expects you to barter and would be disappointed if you didn’t.

You’ll find everything in these souks and the only problem is to decide what you can carry home as a souvenir. There are toy camels by the score, made of suede with leather bridles; you will see traditional costumes, bolts of material beyond counting and leather goods from belts and handbags to shoes and boots.

There are ornately carved wooden boxes, jewelry, rugs and carpets. You will find traditional music instruments, and if you aren’t a good player, you can buy CD’s instead. In some of the galleries, you can watch ironsmiths and tanners at work.

When you get thirsty you will, of course, find stalls selling fresh orange juice or some of the best mint tea you will find in the city. The best part of these souks is the spice stands, where you will find every kind of exotic spice sold in jute bags to keep it fresh.

Why You Should Visit:
Loads of quality goods that you can get for practically nothing (if you can barter!) and if you like to be in the crowds and feel the vibes, just an amazing place to be.

As there are about 11,000 shops to roam through, it is recommended to hire a guide who will tell you the places to buy whatever you want and will get the best price for you.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-10pm; Sun: 9am-10pm
Rahba Kedima Square

10) Rahba Kedima Square (must see)

If you want to get the feeling of stepping back in time to early Marrakech, you don’t have to look further than the Rahba Kedima.

This is one of the best market squares in the Medina district of the city. It is really more of a triangle than a square and is more exciting and friendly than the souks.

The sellers set up their wares on the ground or on trestle tables and they are always happy to haggle. They all seem less harried and happier than the sellers in the over-crowded souks and you are certain to find a great bargain here.

You will find traditional hand-woven baskets, raffia bags and a superb array of brightly colored woolly hats. Some of the stands offer a mind-boggling range of goods: dried scorpions, leeches for medicinal purposes, snails (whose slime, you will be assured, does wonders against wrinkles) and other strange and sometimes rather repulsive objects used for witchcraft and black magic.

The square is lined with rug shops and spice shops selling all kinds of exotic herbs and spices. Some shops sell animals – chameleons and other lizards and tortoises. Don’t forget that it is illegal to take these animals home with you, due to quarantine laws, so don’t get carried away and tempted by the low prices.

When you have finished your shopping, do go and have a coffee or a mint tea in the famous Café des Epices, which also sells sandwiches and snacks.

Why You Should Visit:
Like any bazaar, this market square has quite an impact and will keep you spellbound.
It's very easy to lose yourself in the array of Moroccan articles, spices and smells.
More sophisticated and stylish than other, busier spots.

The owners here are a bit more aggressive than in the souks – some will try to chase you down to buy stuff.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-6pm

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