"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Jemaa el-Fnaa Marrakech by night.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

October, 2008.

When I look back on my adventures in Morocco, I always think of Marrakesh as the trip’s dazzling centrepiece. Everything they say about the city is true, it is nothing short of intoxicating. Indeed Marrakesh is a feast for the eyes, a place that is overflowing with art and colour. This energy thrives among the buildings, both inside and out. It runs riot through the markets and across people’s clothing. It fizzes through the city sounds from dusk to dawn and is present in the smells and tastes that ebbed and flowed during my stay.

Browsing a food market in Marrakesh October 2008

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

I was very fortunate with accommodation on that trip. Back in those days I was teaching English at the European Commission in Brussels. Upon hearing that I was going to Marrakesh, a student of mine put me in touch with a friend who had an apartment there for rent. Thus I made an enquiry, received a very fair offer and boom, that was that. Best of all, the apartment was a delightfully homey traditional riad located in the heart of the centre. Just a short walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city’s grandest public square.

Staying at a traditional riad in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Wherever you stay in Marrakesh, sooner or later all paths lead to Jemaa el-Fnaa. Dating back to the 11th century, when it was founded during The Almoravid Dynasty, this giant square has long been the beating heart of the city. Traditionally a gathering place for storytellers, comedians, actors, musicians, chefs, tradesmen and animal trainers, Jemaa el-Fnaa carved its reputation as Morocco’s unmissable open-air theatre.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Djemaa El Fna at dusk.

Jemaa el-Fnaa at dusk.

Photo courtesy of Luc Viatour.

Regarding its name, historians have bickered between themselves for centuries. This is due to the fact that translating it throws up a number of potential explanations. One is Assembly of the Dead, a reference to the belief that public executions regularly took place here throughout the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.

Djemaa El Fnaa black and white photo 1930

Jemaa el-Fnaa photographed in 1930.

Fittingly, the entire square was a bit dead when I first encountered it one sunny October afternoon. This, I learned, was par for the course, because these days Jemaa El-Fnaa doesn’t truly come alive until after dark.

Jemaa el-Fnaa Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Nevertheless, there were a few things that piqued my interest. Here and there, crowds gathered around the dozen or so blue umbrellas that had set up early. In some, fiercely contested card games unfolded through a series of giddy whoops and rumbling groans.

Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Crowds gather on Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

At another station, the city’s so-called henna ladies drew in tourists with promises of traditional body art. I’d been unfamiliar with henna, a muddy paste formed from the leaves of the henna plant. Traditionally applied for weddings and other big celebrations, the artists use either a pen, brush, nozzle or stick to paint directly onto the skin.

Henna hand art in Morocco.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Moreover, they often apply a protective coating made from lime and sugar, which encourages longevity. Watching the ladies at work was fascinating. Unfortunately though, they proved so aggressive with their sales techniques I couldn’t linger as long as I would’ve liked.

Traditional henna art in Marrakesh.

A henna design on Jemaa el-Fnaa.

At some point I instinctively ducked under another umbrella, where I got quite a surprise. “Hello, sir, you come to meet snake?” Uh… in actual fact I wasn’t sure I had. Grabbing me by the hand, a young boy in a purple-grey robe pulled me down to sit with him on the ground. “Sir, I make snake dance, she love the music!” he grinned.

Travel Morocco

Before I knew what was going on, he’d pulled a wooden flute out of his bag and had begun playing a jaunty tune. His snake immediately reacted, shooting up and swaying rhythmically from side to side. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Not until, that is, another charmer insisted I take his snake into my hands. Looking back, I should’ve said no and made my excuses. However, a touch hypnotised by the experience, I let myself become ensnared in the performance.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Sitting with the snake charmers Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Much like my camel safari in India, taking part in snake charming is something I definitely wouldn’t do again. Back then, I wasn’t aware of the unethical practices of snake charmers. I didn’t know, for example, that such snakes usually have their fangs removed in order to ensure maximum safety. Nor indeed that some unscrupulous charmers even went as far as sewing their snakes mouths up, an absolutely horrendous practice.

Snake charmers in India 1945.

Modern day snake charming originated in India sometime in the early 20th century.

As for the actual charming, in most cases the snakes’ attentiveness is down to the fact that they’ve been trained to associate the music with feeding time. The charmers I met that day on Jemaa el-Fnaa were fairly laid-back, seemingly happy with the fee I gave them at the end.

In contrast, I have read numerous stories of charmers demanding inflated fees. Adding extra amounts for touching, holding, taking photos and anything else they can dream up. Some even get verbally and physically hostile. For more on Marrakesh’s murky snake culture, check out this interesting article from Peregrine Adventures.

Snake charming Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

In the evenings the square burst into life at around dusk. Restaurant tents sprang up offering every kind of Moroccan dish imaginable. From lamb tajines and couscous plates to fried fish, kebabs, makouda (deep fried potato balls) and piping hot bowls of Harira, a wonderfully rich tomato soup with lentils, chickpeas and shredded beef topped with coriander.


Harira Moroccan soup.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

One of my greatest culinary discoveries on Jemaa el-Fnaa was a traditional dessert advertised simply as Spice Cake. There’s little online literature about it, which I found surprising, as the cake was available at stalls all over the square. I would describe it as a kind of moist, fluffy ginger cake with hints of cardamom. Mmmm.

Eating delicious spice cake in Marrakesh.

Spice Cake.

If one really wants to double up on the ginger, you can take the cake with a glass of spicy ginger tea. Probably a bit too sugary for some, but I couldn’t get enough of this winning combination.

Spice Cake and ginger tea Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Gingery delights on Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Admittedly, I was a touch disappointed with the so-called nightly entertainment on Jemaa el-Fnaa. In fairness, several articles I’d read had prepared me for this. Bemoaning the fact that much of the square’s traditional music and theatre had given way to scammy fortune tellers and fairground games such as the bucket toss and balloon darts.

One very popular activity, pictured below, was a fishing game where you had to hook up bottles of soda using a very long, ungainly rod. Yes, the prize at the end of it all was a bottle of soda. Meh.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Evening games on Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Fishing for a disappointing prize.

Overall though, I loved the whole vibe surrounding Jemaa el-Fnaa. One evening, while exploring the Old Medina, I wandered into a tumbledown antique shop.

Among the grubby plates, cups, teapots and jewellery, I came across a beautiful canvas painting of Jemaa el-Fnaa at sunset. I instantly fell for it, spellbound by the glowing horizon and blurred crowds. The man who worked in the shop claimed to have painted it himself. Following a bit of bartering we settled on a price and it was mine.

Visit Morocco meeting a Marrakech artist

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Needless to say the souqs are a huge part of Marrakesh’s appeal. However, with no particular interest in shopping, and having already scoured the markets of Casablanca, we made do with just a cursory walk through the main alleys.

One thing I did do was pick up a giant bag of traditional sweets from this friendly vendor at Souk Semmarine. What a bounty it was, bulging with delicious Moroccan staples such as baklava, mammoul and chebakia.

Traditional Moroccan sweets Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

I also found myself reeled in by a herbal store (herboristerie). Not that I had any interest in stocking up on their so-called medicine, but because the whole enterprise proved so fascinating. Cramped, dark and cool, the interior was pungent with competing spices and oils. Shelves filled the walls, with hundreds of glass jars and their contents of weird flakes, mysterious powders and gloopy liquids.

A Marrakesh Herboristerie.

Traditional Moroccan medicine Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

The store’s white-coated workers, meanwhile, wandered around asking customers if they had a specific ailment for treatment. Those who buy have their chosen amount weighed before the final bill comes in.

Herboristeries are a big deal in Marrakesh, so it’s always fun reading people’s opinions. The jury definitely seems to be out. Some say the natural remedies on offer are a revelation. But there are plenty of naysayers too who insist these places are little more than scam centres. If you do partake, keep a careful eye on the weighing process and what kind of bag they use, as there are plenty of clever tricks employed to encourage an inflated price.

A traditional herbal store in Marrakesh.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Before leaving, I had a good laugh at the aphrodisiac shelf and its row of giant jars. Not missing a beat, one of the pharmacists came up to me with a sympathetic look. “Sir, you will be amazing by how much this can change your life”, he claimed, nodding towards the jar pictured below.

100% aphrodisiac Herbal store in Marrakesh

A jar of herbal aphrodisiac, Marrakesh style.

Away from the markets, I crossed off several sites that showcase some of the city’s most stunning architecture and art. First, we popped into the utterly gorgeous Marrakech Museum, housed within the former Mnebhi Palace.

Built in the late 1800s, this incredible building was home to Morocco’s Minister of War, Mehdi Mnebhi. From 1900 to 1908 Mnebhi was literally the right hand man of Sultan Abdelaziz, who encouraged his minister to build the lavish home and spare no expense.

Marrakech Museum.

Marrakech Museum.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

The resulting structure was a masterwork of Moorish design, with stone pillars, carved cedar wood doorways and mosaic tiling throughout. Its showpiece, beautifully restored in 1997, is this vast central courtyard, a tree-laden riad garden back in Mnehbi’s day.

Visit Marrakech Museum.

Marrakech Museum.

It was such a joy doing a 360 of that courtyard, picking out all the exquisite design details. Particularly the staggering central chandelier, made of brass plates adorned with epigraphic cuttings.

Inside Marrakech Museum.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

A maze of corridors, rooms and smaller squares run off the main courtyard. They call it an art museum, but the actual pieces of art on display play second fiddle to the house itself. Rather, you might come across an occasional row of sculptures running up a set of stairs. Or a tiny room, like this one, sparsely decorated with just a handful of paintings made by local artists.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Small painting room Marrakech Museum.

Marrakech Museum.

My favourite part of the museum was getting onto the upper floor viewing galleries. Just gazing out over the courtyard imagining what an amazing home this must have been for Mnebhi.

Exploring Marrakech Museum.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Unfortunately for him though, he lost ownership of the house in the early 1950s. This was when the French, in cahoots with Thami El Glaoui (the autocratic ruler of southern Morocco), overthrew Sultan Mohammed V. El Glaoui simply took the palace himself as a spoil of war. Mnhebi, working in London as the Moroccan Ambassador, could do nothing but thank his lucky stars he wasn’t in Marrakesh at the time.

The history of Marrakech Museum.

Marrakech Museum.

After Morocco regained independence in 1956, the state claimed ownership of the palace. In the 1960s it became a girls’ school before undergoing an ambitious renovation in the 90s. The Omar Benjelloun Foundation carried out the work, overseeing its transformation into a museum.

Marrakech Museum.

Mosaic tilings in Marrakech Museum.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Another incredible complex is Bahia Palace. Built in 1867, this was a palace in the true sense of the word, as it was the home of Sultan Muhammad bin Abd al-Rahman. His son, Ba Ahmed, later ruled from here and was responsible for much of the surviving structure we see today. Many of the family’s grandest royal ceremonies and celebrations took place in the sweeping Court of Honour, pictured below. 

Back Courtyard Bahia Palace Marrakesh.

Bahia Palace, Marrakesh.

Photo courtesy of Val Traveller.

Much of the treasures once housed within the palace were sadly lost to looting in the years that followed Ba Ahmed’s death. Still, the compound has been beautifully restored and, much like Marrakech Museum, it’s a joy to go exploring around its 150 rooms and courtyards.

Bahia Palace Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Another similarity to Marrakech Museum is the abundance of traditional art, including vaulted Islamic muqarnas and marble fountains from the city of Meknes. Some of the gorgeous painted shuttered windows were among my favourites too.

Traditional Moroccan art at Bahia Palace.

Bahia Palace.

One afternoon, on our way between sights, I stopped for a photo outside Koutoubia Mosque in the medina’s southwestern quarter. Dating back to the 12th century, this is Marrakesh’s oldest mosque and arguably the city’s most iconic landmark. At 70-metres high, its minaret might not be bothering any world records, but it is the highest structure in Marrakesh.

The history of Kutubiyya Mosque.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Its name comes from the old Arabic word for bookseller, referencing the fact that hundreds of book vendors used to trade around the building’s entrance. As a non-Muslim I couldn’t actually go inside, but it was cool to hear the call for prayer blaring out of its pinkish form.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Koutoubia Mosque Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Koutoubia Mosque.

Another brief stop came at the Saadian Tombs. This massive burial compound serves as the final resting place for a host of Moroccan sultans, along with their wives, brothers and closest political advisers. Sultan Ahmed al Mansour oversaw its construction in the 1580s.

Sultan Ahmad-Al-Mansour.

Sultan Ahmad-Al-Mansour: “Get me some gold y’all'”.

In fact, well aware that he himself would end up in the complex one day, he demanded nothing but the best materials. I’m talking the very finest imported Carrara marble and pure gold sourced from The Middle East. Pictured below is the tombs’ pièce de résistance, Chamber of the 12 Pillars. 

Saadian Tombs Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Photo courtesy of Matt Kieffer.

In a city that is generally lacking greenery, I’m so glad I paid a visit to the lush oasis that is Majorelle Garden. As regular readers know, I adore botanical gardens and this lovingly tended 2-acre space has a truly unique history attached.

Majorelle Garden Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

The celebrated French painter Jacques Majorelle bought the land in 1923 having fallen in love with Marrakesh. Soon, he began painting there from a small shed before starting work on landscaping and planting the land.

The French painter Jacques Majorelle.

Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962).

It all went so well he decided to build a painting studio on the grounds. And then a cubist villa for himself and his wife, Andrée Longueville, to live in. He hired the French architect Paul Sinoir to design it, naming his home The Blue Villa. Today it houses an exhibit on Majorelle’s life in Marrakesh in addition to a Berber museum.

Majorelle Garden.

Jacques Majorelle's Blue Villa in Marrakesh

The Blue Villa at Majorelle Garden.

Incredibly, Jacques spent the next forty years improving and expanding his garden. Strolling down shaded pathways between bamboo groves, pretty ponds, rose plantations and cacti corners, one gets a clear sense of what a labour of love this must have been for him.

Exploring Majorelle Garden.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Wherever you go, there are pleasing injections of Majorelle Blue amid the greenery. You can see it on plant pots, water features, doors and walls. The term refers to the distinctive shade of blue in which Jacques often painted. A colour he says he discovered on the tiles of traditional Moroccan houses.

Majorelle Botanical Garden in Marrakesh.

Majorelle Blue.

Majorelle opened his garden to the public in 1947 due to the fact that it had become too expensive to maintain. However, by the mid 1950s it had fallen into an ever-increasing state of disrepair. And things only got worse when the great painter died in 1962.

Visiting Majorelle Garden.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that, at long last, Majorelle Garden got the makeover it so desperately needed and deserved. Fascinatingly, it was none other than the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who spearheaded the movement.

Yves Saint Laurent looking very cool.

“Nice garden, I’ll take it”.

A huge fan and collector of Jacques’ work, he saved the garden from ruin and revamped it so that future generations could enjoy this special slice of Marrakesh nature and history. When Yves himself died in 2008 his partner Pierre Bergé scattered his ashes within the garden. He also installed this touching memorial, which consolidates Yves Saint Laurent’s own place in the Majorelle Garden story.

Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh.

Yves Saint Laurent Memorial in Marrakesh.

Yves Saint Laurent Memorial.

Like this? Take a look at more of my articles from across Morocco.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.

Check out Leighton Travels on Instagram!


  • qprgary

    We found it fascinating and enjoyed some of the off beat food in the square. The hawkers are a pain in the arse following you everywhere but at least we were used to it having lived in the Middle East.

    February 8, 2023 - 12:03 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you also enjoyed Marrakesh, despite the aforementioned pain in the arses. Those Henna ladies on Jemaa el-Fnaa were vicious, far more so than the snake charmers as it turned out. Thanks for checking on, Gary!

      February 8, 2023 - 12:24 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    I once saw the ‘Henna ladies’ in action – they were very creative and I was amazed at how detailed their artwork was (and fortunately, they were not aggressive at all)! I didn’t know the background on snake charming (it is indeed terrible), but you will NEVER find me near a snake anyway! And to be honest, the entertainment at Jemaa el-Fnaa during the evening sounds a bit like our church bazaars when I was a kid (well, without the scammy fortune tellers of course 😉). The Marrakech museum looks beautiful – great photo of you at the window. And I would definitely love a wander through the Majorelle Garden. Thanks Leighton, I enjoyed yet another great post!

    February 8, 2023 - 2:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I’m glad to hear that you also got to see some Henna creativity in action. And that the people who did it weren’t dreadful. Not being near a snake ever sounds like a pretty good call ha ha, note to self. Thanks for checking out my time in Marrakesh Corna. It’s a special place that, in theory, I’d be open to returning to one day.

      February 8, 2023 - 3:03 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Wow! This post has it all. I’ve seen videos of the market and it looks amazing and overwhelming. I didn’t know about the inhumane treatment of the snakes. I’m not a fan of snakes, but it is still sad for them.

    February 8, 2023 - 3:18 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Lyssy, Marrakesh is a city that indeed has it all in many ways. It can be a bit too full-on for some people, but the chaos is a key part of its DNA I think.

      February 8, 2023 - 3:25 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Wow Leighton, just wow. I could almost smell the spices and hear the call of the muezzin. An amazing place full of colours and mystery. The experiences with the henna ladies, the snake charmers and other touts would leave me a bit cold too. Nice to see, but the same as in most places, nobody watches for free for long. Thanks so much for taking us along. Allan

    February 8, 2023 - 3:57 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      The general hassle could take the sheen off of the Marrakesh experience for some. But I found that most of it was centred around Jemaa el-Fnaa, as you would perhaps expect. Overall, I loved the look and feel of the city, it has some really unique sights and the food is wonderful. Wish I’d taken the time to shoot more of the cuisine. Thanks, Allan.

      February 8, 2023 - 4:08 pm Reply
  • Diana

    What a great tour of Marrakesh! I think this is the first time I’ve heard of most of these places; generally I just hear about the souks and the central square. Nice to know the city has much more to offer.

    February 8, 2023 - 4:15 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah that’s great that I introduced you to some new stuff Diana. I think Majorelle Garden was perhaps my favourite place, just love the history behind it and could really picture him there planting and painting. Thanks for dropping by!

      February 8, 2023 - 4:22 pm Reply
  • anoush

    Your Marrakesh article is full of fascinating details, places and people. Bahia Palace and the museum look spectacular. Awful treatment of the snakes, I do hope that these days people are more aware of the practices behind these ‘spectacles’. It’s great that you are writing about it. I would be quite put off by the henna ladies and other hawkers. Despite that, I wouldn’t be able to resist wandering around souqs and perusing herbal shops. I suspect, however, that Majorelle Garden would be my favourite place in the city. One of my favourite monuments is made entirely of Carrara marble – The Altar of Augustan Peace.

    February 8, 2023 - 4:18 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anoush, thanks so much for your comment. Majorelle Garden was my favourite too! You can feel the weight of history behind it and that the people who currently maintain it really care about what they do.

      February 8, 2023 - 4:25 pm Reply
  • Memo

    You set the mood well with the poetic descriptions of the city in your opening paragraph. What a feast of Moorish architecture! I never realized that henna was a paste that created a raised design. You should have gotten something QPR related. Would love to see the Majorelle Gardens. The Blue Villa is reminiscent of Frida Kahlo’s Blue House in Coyoacán, Mexico.

    February 8, 2023 - 4:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, I would love to see those ladies henna the QPR badge. An interesting observation about Frida, I wonder if she and Jaques Majorelle ever crossed paths? Cheers Memo, I am only ever occasionally able to pull of “poetic”, so I’ll take that as a win.

      February 8, 2023 - 4:41 pm Reply
  • Stan

    well this was an action packed piece. as diana said you have included a bunch of stuff i suspect most bloggers don’t bother with. you really took the time to see different angles of marrakesh i think. like you and a few others it is the majorelle garden that appeals the most.

    February 8, 2023 - 4:57 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Stan, I think that the markets and Jemaa el-Fnaa are of course central to what makes Marrakesh so special. But my favourite experiences, as always, were those quieter more understated moments. Like when the main courtyard emptied in Marrakesh Museum and I had it virtually to myself. And Majorelle Garden…. I would quite like to buy a piece of land one day and do something similar. Ha… it’s a nice daydream.

      February 8, 2023 - 5:04 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    What a unique city. I can see why you loved Marrakesh, Leighton. My grandmother visited there once, and she loved the markets and Jemaa el-Fnaa too. She was enchanted with the snake charming, but I’m sure she had no idea they practiced animal cruelty. I certainly had no idea. All of the food you showed looked amazing! Would it be scary to visit Jemaa e-Fnaa at night now? The botanical garden looks absolutely magical. While I wouldn’t want to live in such a place as Marrakesh, I would love to visit someday.

    February 8, 2023 - 6:57 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Kellye, I’m not sure the square could be described as “scary” but there is a definite edge and one certainly needs to have their wits about them. Just in terms of pickpockets and children begging for food. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, that’s for sure. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour and am surprised/delighted to hear that your grandmother paid a visit! What year would that have been? And I’m really curious what brought her to Marrakesh? Something specific or just plain old curiosity?

      February 8, 2023 - 7:06 pm Reply
      • Mike and Kellye Hefner

        My grandmother went there as part of a tour to Spain and Morrocco. She had a friend about her age, and they traveled a lot. Sometimes they went on cruises and some trips were just tours. I was so glad she got to do that before she got too old to travel. By the way, she also got to fly with Wylie Post as a young woman. She led an interesting life.

        February 9, 2023 - 3:16 am
      • Leighton

        Wow! The tales she must have told… Would love to hear more about her one day.

        February 9, 2023 - 8:25 am
      • Mike and Kellye Hefner

        My grandmother did have stories. I sure wish we had recorded her telling them.

        February 9, 2023 - 7:05 pm
      • Mike and Kellye Hefner

        Oh, it was in the 1990s. She died a few years ago at the ripe old age of 96.

        February 9, 2023 - 3:17 am
      • Leighton

        Sorry to hear that Kellye but hey, ripe indeed. I’ll be very happy if I get anywhere near my 90s and maintain a modicum of good health.

        February 9, 2023 - 8:27 am
      • Mike and Kellye Hefner

        That’s what I’m thinking too. My mother is 82 and she isn’t as vivacious as her mother was at that age.

        February 9, 2023 - 7:03 pm
  • travelling_han

    Ooof that snake would make me recoil. Marrakesh looks like an incredible city, full of life and noise and colour. I’d love to visit one day and eat my way around the city, as well as visit all the beautiful mosques and buildings to enjoy the architecture.

    February 8, 2023 - 7:03 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Snakes are not very nice, eh? I could never understand people that keep them as pets. Glad you enjoyed this look at Marrakesh nevertheless Han, it’s a fascinating place from top top to bottom.

      February 8, 2023 - 7:08 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    The museum is gorgeous with such intricate details. The fine details in the wall in the picture of you in the window must be spectacular in person. I have to admit though, I skipped through the whole middle section with the snakes. Maggie

    February 8, 2023 - 7:16 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      That’s ok Maggie, I can supply you with a brief summary. “Snake charming is unethical and cruel, give those guys a wide berth”. I’m glad you like Marrakesh Museum, it’s a stunning building with a juicy history. A lot of shit went down between those walls.

      February 8, 2023 - 7:20 pm Reply
  • Christie

    What an interesting experience you had Leighton, to see and learn a bit about the Moroccan culture. I’ve seen many Indian and Pakistan ladies with wonderful patterns, here in Canada, but I was not aware the practice is popular in Africa as well. I would have liked probably to see a snake charming, but from far, for sure🙂. Its pretty bad they are not treating them well, but I guess those snakes are actually poisonous.. ugh..

    February 8, 2023 - 7:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Christie, I appreciate you reading and getting in touch. Cool that you’ve been able to witness some henna in Canada too, I think I have seen a few studios in London over the years. Those snakes almost certainly were poisonous yes, but not anymore! It’s such a murky business, I wish I could wind back the clock and choose not to sit with them.

      February 8, 2023 - 8:02 pm Reply
      • Christie

        I hear you.. there are a lot of murky businesses these days, if they can make few pennies.

        February 8, 2023 - 10:52 pm
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Fascinating post Leighton. Marrakesh has long been on my list of places to visit. We were nearly in touching distance of Morocco whilst in Gibraltar but didn’t have chance to visit then. I dislike snakes, someone once placed one around my neck without my permission and I still recoil at the thought of it.

    February 8, 2023 - 8:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Marion, thanks for checking in. Marrakesh is one of those must-see cities I reckon, it has a special vibe to it quite unlike any other city I’ve visited. Where were you when someone put the snake on you? What a terrible breach of trust!

      February 8, 2023 - 9:02 pm Reply
  • thomasstigwikman

    Marrakesh certainly is a beautiful place. That’s awful sewing the snakes mouth up. I hope they didn’t do that to the fella you were watching. Must have been scary by the way.

    February 8, 2023 - 9:10 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      No sewn up mouths for me that day, thank goodness. I was a bit scared yes, but also a touch hypnotised by the whole charade. Call it the folly of youth. Thanks for reading and contributing to the thread, Thomas.

      February 8, 2023 - 9:20 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    The tiles, architecture, arches, and markets… There is a unique atmosphere in this city. Glad to see many of the places I didn’t get to.

    February 8, 2023 - 9:11 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for the catchup Ruth. Essaouria is the next one, out on Sunday. I remember reading your article on it not so long ago.

      February 8, 2023 - 9:19 pm Reply
  • bronlima

    A wonderful city and as usual a very enjoyable read. I wish I had kept track of all the names and places during my travels. The Majorelle is such a peaceful place, but it is only now that I am remembering the name and finding out about its history. Thank goodness for Leighton Travels!!!!

    February 8, 2023 - 11:57 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Geoff, I just knew that you’d been to Marrakesh. Glad you enjoyed the Majorelle Garden backstory, among other things. Luckily I have always been good at keeping notes. But when I’m trying to do an article and I see that I dropped the ball with info on something, it really eats away at me ha ha.

      February 9, 2023 - 8:12 am Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    what a visual feast of art, architecture, landscaping, and market spices! I did have to laugh when the jar of aphrodisiacs was the largest jar there- proving the old marketing strategy of what sells gets the biggest focus. I hate snakes- I would probably be more likely to pay to stay away from them- but reading how the charmers treat the snakes made me angry. I may not like them, but they shouldn’t be treated so badly either.

    February 9, 2023 - 12:07 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, I’m sure they would’ve taken your “stay away” money too. What a circus. The spice shop was a bit like the henna shtick where I wanted to stay longer and observe, but of course they soon hone in you and that’s that. Glad you enjoyed my tour of Marrakesh, Meg!

      February 9, 2023 - 8:17 am Reply
  • Anna

    Such an interesting and informative post Leighton! Good stuff!

    February 9, 2023 - 1:04 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Anna!

      February 9, 2023 - 8:20 am Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    Sadly, we missed out on Marrakesh when we were in Morocco a few weeks ago, it looks amazing. Like you, I love botanical gardens, and would have loved spending some time there. We also experienced very aggressive sales people, they all have the best and most unique products! The snake handlers though, that’s just horrible. Thanks for sharing!

    February 9, 2023 - 6:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Tricia, I’m sure you’ll get to Marrakesh one day. I would definitely like to return to Morocco one of these years and see Rabat, Fez and Chefchaouen. I’d be interested to know if the snake shtick is still such a big thing in Marrakesh in this more enlightened age we live in.

      February 9, 2023 - 6:16 pm Reply
      • Travels Through My Lens

        We enjoyed Rabat, it is a beautiful and modern city. The underlining poverty, however, is difficult to process. I would also like to see Fez; maybe someday we’ll return.

        February 9, 2023 - 6:28 pm

    Wonderful city, absolutely full of life, as you say. The first time you witness evening in the main square is one of those travel moments you never forget, no matter how far you travel. In amongst the huge variety of sellers, performers and scammers, there are those selling second hand teeth….probably the single most repulsive thing I’ve ever seen for sale! We also sat transfixed watching an older local lady eat her way through a whole sheep’s head…that’s another story altogether! Good to read this and bring back memories of a favourite place.

    February 9, 2023 - 11:06 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, strangely I regret not seeing the teeth guy. But maybe I’m ok with missing out on the sheep head woman. Also wish I’d taken a few more photos of the weird and wonderful people in general. Thanks for visiting!

      February 9, 2023 - 11:09 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    The snake charming is too much. I am terrified of snakes. Even looking at some of your pictures made me squeamish. I do admire your willingness to try new experiences though! I love the design, arched windows and doorways, and all the mosaic tiling in the Marrakech Museum.

    February 9, 2023 - 12:57 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I totally understand the snake thing. I’m not terrified of them though and was very curious back then to see how the whole thing worked. Now of course, I know better. The Marrakech Museum seems very popular among readers, glad you liked it too!

      February 9, 2023 - 6:14 pm Reply
  • Mallee Stanley

    The Marrakesh Museum almost rivals the Alhambra—nothing surpasses Islamic architecture in my view. Hope I can get there one day. A great post.

    February 9, 2023 - 7:01 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      That’s a bold statement Mallee re the museum and the Alhambra. But one I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with. And yes, Islamic architecture all the way. Thanks for dropping by, really appreciate your readership and kind words.

      February 9, 2023 - 7:29 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    I am impressed at the artwork and architecture in this area, it is so unique and detailed. Also the Majorelle Garden is beautiful!

    February 9, 2023 - 9:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading about my visit to Marrakesh!

      February 9, 2023 - 9:39 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    I have mixed memories of Marrakesh, the word ‘baksheesh’ comes up far too often, plus a bad experience with a car to be collected from the pound and a flat tyre just before I was due to fly home. Fortunately there is the Majorelle garden, located near my hotel, there was always a long queue, I went there just after a heavy shower, there was almost no one.

    February 10, 2023 - 1:36 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh dear, that’s a lot of hassle to deal with in one trip. Sounds like you have a few good stories to tell. A wet and lush Majorelle Garden mostly for yourself sounds like it made up a little for all the shit stuff. Thanks for dropping by.

      February 10, 2023 - 8:38 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    Marrakesh was the first city I visited that introduced me to Morocco: it was a chaotic few days in town, as I navigated the winding medina, got catcalled by local men, got solicited to buy cheap items, nearly got robbed, and overall saw so many of its notable sights (highlights including the Marjorelle Garden and Bahia Palace). Honestly, I have mixed feelings about my stay in Marrakesh (as well as in all of Morocco), but it certainly isn’t an unassuming country, that’s for sure!

    February 10, 2023 - 7:15 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Wow, Rebecca. I actually remember some of this cropping up in one of your previous articles. A lot of that sounds… very tough indeed. Having “mixed” feelings isn’t so bad I suppose, as it would have been easy to write Marrakesh off as a total disaster. Rather, you got through it and enjoyed some of the stuff you saw. Character building, as they say. Thanks for reading!

      February 10, 2023 - 8:44 pm Reply
  • ourcrossings

    Riads are incredible places to stay because they give a genuine Moroccan experience. They are known for being exquisite displays of intricate Moroccan architecture and everywhere you look, you can see the beautiful, hand-laid tile work Morocco is associated with. The hospitality and food we received during our stay in a riad, was unforgettable and so was the large courtyard in its centre with an open ceiling. We were surrounded by lush trees, plants, flowers and even turtles, it was undoubtedly one of the best travel experiences. thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    February 10, 2023 - 1:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Sounds like you definitely enjoyed your own Moroccan riad experience. Thanks for your comment, Aiva.

      February 10, 2023 - 8:46 pm Reply
  • Travel with a Pen

    You captured Marrakesh so well and this post brings back memories of our time in Morocco in general. Both the fun and not so fun bits!

    February 10, 2023 - 5:19 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Amarachi. It’s an incredible city for sure, but nearly everyone needs to take the rough with the smooth. Hoping your not so fun bits weren’t too bad.

      February 10, 2023 - 8:48 pm Reply
  • Priti

    Beautiful Marrakesh! Thanks for sharing your experience with excellent photos! 👍

    February 11, 2023 - 4:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you so much Priti, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

      February 11, 2023 - 5:17 pm Reply
      • Priti


        February 11, 2023 - 5:18 pm
  • Coral Waight

    How marvellous to have had the chance to live in Marrakesh.

    February 12, 2023 - 4:17 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Coral, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I wish I’d had the chance to live in Marrakesh for a while, but actually this was just a four-night stay. I really packed in the sightseeing but of course only managed to tick off the main highlights and a few under-the radar spots. Next time, as they say.

      February 12, 2023 - 5:06 pm Reply
  • Little Old World

    I love the architecture in Marrakech, it’s so detailed and ornate, and just utterly beautiful. You’ve really captured the good and the not-so-good parts of the city in an evocative and thought-provoking way.

    February 12, 2023 - 6:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Totally agree re the architecture. Thanks for the kind words and for contributing to the thread!

      February 12, 2023 - 6:41 pm Reply
  • Nic

    I loved Marrakesh, the whole city is simply hypnotizing and I know I will have to go back one day, as there was so much left to explore. Thank you for reminding me of the Marrakech Museum by far one of my favourite places in the city. I couldn’t stop staring at all the detail, the beautiful mosaics… everything was simply stunning.
    I was disappointed with Majorelle Garden but I supposed it was because I carried a very romanticised idea of the place, being a fan of Yves’s work myself, and having watched the film Yves Saint Laurent (from 2014) featuring beautiful scenes in the gardens of Majorelle. I have to agree with your views on Jemaa el-Fnaa – there was so much buzz about this place online, but I found it too overwhelming and I was constantly harassed by scammers and sellers shouting in my ear… it is a shame though, I feel like I missed out!

    February 13, 2023 - 11:39 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Nic, thanks for dropping in. I’m glad that parts of this article resonate with you and agree that Marrakech Museum is one of the city’s dazzling centrepieces. It’s amazing how on any given day people can have such contrasting experiences. As I’ve said before, much of it is down to the whims of the travel gods I reckon. For me Majorelle Garden was so peaceful and quiet, it was just the tonic I’d needed for an otherwise buzzing city.

      February 14, 2023 - 10:15 am Reply
  • Neha Chauhan

    Loved your journey and way of explaining things , specially the snake Dance under Umbrella. Morocco is in my list and that will be ticked one day 🙂

    February 14, 2023 - 5:45 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Neha, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Hope you get to Marrakesh one day. I have plenty more articles on Morocco if you are thinking of planning a longer trip.

      February 14, 2023 - 10:15 am Reply
      • Neha Chauhan

        Thanks and for sure I’ll go through others as well !

        February 14, 2023 - 11:03 am
      • Leighton


        February 14, 2023 - 11:05 am
  • agndoden

    Great blogging work!

    February 26, 2023 - 5:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your comment!

      February 26, 2023 - 8:15 am Reply
  • gederedita

    wow..very interesting to know from you blog. I come from Bali and never been come to this place. thank you for sharing about Marrakesh

    March 6, 2023 - 5:56 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

      March 6, 2023 - 7:59 am Reply

Leave a Reply