The 19 kilometer (11 mile) long Remparts de Marrakech encircles the biggest medina (old Arabic town) in Morocco, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1985. It is the historical heart of Marrakech. The beautiful minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, dating from Almohad times, overlooks the medina, whose epicenter is the famous Jemaâ El Fna. The ochre buildings, the hustle and bustle of the markets and commercial streets filled with artisans, and the beauty of the monuments and riads (guesthouses) hidden behind alleyway walls make the medina an enthralling place to visit.
Starting directly north of Jemaâ El Fna square, the Souks quarter is made up of ancient souks (markets) that are divided into craft guilds, which have retained their location on the square for centuries. This is probably the most touristy quarter of the medina, with its numerous surrounding riads and its maze of little alleyways, which are full of shops and always crowded with pedestrians. In the center of it all, you'll find the shadowed kissarias (covered souks) area. To the east, Mouassine Street leads to the big Mouassine Mosque and the Fontaine El-Mouassine.
Dar El Bacha Quarter
Between the Souks quarter and the Bab Doukkala quarter lies the Dar El Bacha quarter, whose name comes from the former palace of the despised Pasha of Marrakech in the beginning of the 20th Century, and the lively Riad El Arous area. Riad El Arous is one of the main motor vehicle-accessible streets in this part of the medina. In the northwestern part of the medina, the area of Bab Doukkala, which served as a leper colony during the Middle Ages, offers many riads along with some of Marrakech's best restaurants, such as the Dar Moha, Le Restaurant, Pavillon and the famous Dar Yacout. This lively and dynamic storekeeper quarter occupies a favorable location, as it links the medina's Souks Quarter to the east, and to the modern Gueliz district to the west. The busy bus station lies after the Bab Doukkala gate. You can easily reach the Bab Doukkala area by taxi.
South of the medina, this was the center of power of the political capital that was Marrakech during the Almohad period. Saadian rulers in the 16th Century also settled here, as is evidenced by the vestiges of the Palais El Badi that Sultan Ahmed El Mansour commissioned to be as distinguished as his reign. The political importance of the Kasbah has lessened recently. South of the quarter stands the Royal Palace, built in the 18th Century, which is one of many domiciles belonging to the current King of Morocco, Mohammed VI. South of the palace lie the Agdal Gardens (Jardins de L'Agdal), dating from the 12th Century. Northeast of the Kasbah quarter is the Mellah quarter, the historical Jewish quarter, which unfurls row after row of lively alleyways full of little shops and markets. North of Mellah, Riad Zitoun El-Jedid Street, with its nice shops, leads to Jemaâ El Fna Square and the museums of Dar Si Said and Maison Tiskiwin (Musée Bert Flint), along with the Palais de la Bahia. Though it doesn't attract the touristy crowd of the souks, the Riad Zitoun area is one of the most Europeanized quarters of the medina.
Ville Nouvelle (New Town)
The New Town lies outside the medina's ramparts. It dates back from the times of the French Protectorate, when the Gueliz district was built west of the medina. The project was assigned to a French urban planner in 1912 and first aimed to accommodate the French administration and its officials. Many buildings from those times are now threatened by the present real estate frenzy in Marrakech. The name of this district comes from Gueliz Mountain (which was used for the building of gate Bab Agnaou ), west of Marrakech.
Today, this district serves as the downtown of modern Marrakech. It is the district of offices and business headquarters, of banks, travel agencies and the train station. In the manner of the Rue de la Liberté, a little shopping heaven, it is also the district of mega-shopping, offering mostly luxury shops and international brands. On the cultural side, there is the Théâtre Royal. The Avenue Mohammed V crosses the Gueliz district. This central avenue, always very trafficky during rush hour, links three squares, namely Place Abdel Moumen Ali, Place du 16 Novembre, and Place de la Liberté, after which it enters the medina through gate Bab Nkob. Behind Bab Nkob, you'll find the Cyber Park Arsat Moulay Abdeslam. Place Abdel Moumen Ben Ali is easily accessed by pedestrian-only streets and hosts the Délégation Régionale du Tourisme de Marrakech along with cute coffee-houses and shops. As for the Place du 16 Novembre, its home to the central post office and the large municipal market (Marché Municipal) where the district's inhabitants come to buy fruits, vegetables, spices, etc. for daily cooking needs. The magnificent Jardin Majorelle & Musée d'Art Islamique lies north of the Gueliz district.
This quarter lies southeast of the Gueliz district. Several big standing hotels and some ritzy villas have been constructed here in this posh and verdant district that's appreciated for its quietness, but also for its happening nightlife spots like the Casino de Marrakech, the ThéâtrO or the Comptoir Darna. The Hivernage district is expanding around the ever-expanding Avenue Mohammed VI.
The history of Marrakech is indissolubly linked to its palm grove, which was born at the same time as the city, thanks to an ingenious irrigation system commissioned in the 11th Century by the Marrakech's founder, Youssef Ben Tachfine. The palm grove stretches northeast of the city for about 6400 hectares (15,814 acres). This surface is much smaller than it used to be, evidence of its frailty due to constant drought. Some measures have been taken to aid the palm grove, like the creation of a date-palm nursery in order to replant the trees if they die. But the palm grove isn't only a big garden planted with palm-trees in the shade of which grow the fruit trees; it has also become one of the most sought-after residential districts, and undoubtedly the housing goal of most Marrakech VIPs. In the shade of the palm trees lie golf courses, luxury hotels and the villas of some politicians and stars from France and abroad.