Marrakesh: The Red Gem of Morocco – Harry Sanderson

As our adventure through Morocco has continued, our group has been privileged with the opportunities to explore most of its main tourist and historical sites.  Last weekend, we took a bus from Rabat down into the heart of Morocco and stayed in Marrakech. The tourist capital of Morocco, Marrakech is known as a mystical, lively city that offers a deeper look into Moroccan culture. Famously known as the “Red City” for the red brick that almost every one of the buildings in its city limits is made out of, Marrakech provides a unique experience as it has maintained its ancient buildings while also modernizing to provide comfort for the thousands of tourists that visit it every year.

Much like our previous trips to Moroccan cities, Marrakech was a chaotic mix of organized activities and mindless exploring. On the first night we were there, we left our riad out of the Jewish quarter and began touring Marrakech’s medina. As we have explored every city’s medina which we’ve visited, I was accustomed to the crowded and confusing layout of this medina. However, I was incredibly surprised by the variety of peoples aimlessly wandering the Medina streets. Compared to Fes, the crowd of Marrakech’s medina was incredibly European. Looking down the street, blonde hair glittered in the fading sunlight – a sight you become unfamiliar with living in Morocco for six weeks.

Then, we emerged out of the congestive streets to find the Jemaa el-Fna – the most famous city square in all of Morocco. It was the most crowded and diverse area I had ever seen. The scent of street food filled the air, the sharp yelling of shop vendors advertising their wares attacked your ears, and you delicately tread through crowds watching story tellers, dancers, and even flutists serenading cobras. As we stayed in the square, exploring its many entertainments, more people just kept coming. It felt like the square had been at capacity when I first arrived there, yet the steady flow of people didn’t stop. When we left the square after dinner, it was nearing midnight; however, it appeared that our group were among the early departures.

Thus, Marrakech’s medina provided an incredibly unique experience, with an emphasis on the diverse and beautiful activities it offered. The trip to Marrakech helped to represent a greater theme across Moroccan cities: the balance between embracing their rich histories while embracing the modern world. Marrakech did this by taking its history and making it the forefront of its modernity through tourism. While Fes was more historical and less modern, and Rabat has been more modern with less history, Marrakech proved to embrace a balance between the two. This idea is why I believe Marrakech is an exceptionally special Moroccan city. While critics would say that the embracement of tourism has taken away from the authenticity of the Marrakech experience (A fair argument, to be sure), it would be unreasonable to deny the city of Marrakech the ability to modernize, as any city and its citizens should have that right if they wanted to modernize. Since Marrakech has taken advantage of its history and utilized it to elevate its own citizens’ standards of living, it has done a much better job than cities that simply tear down its roots to be replaced by structure-less modern society. Thus, Marrakech was an eye-opening experience that helped show me the different types of modernization that can occur in historically rich cities.


A view of Jemaa el-Fna from one of the terraces overlooking it.

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