Marrakesh, Morocco

Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh is an old fortified city full of vendors and their stalls called the medina, lined up by modern neighborhoods, the most popular of which is Gueliz. Today Marrakech is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major tourist destination and economic centre. It’s interesting to learn what is in this city that attracts tourists and what is unique about it.

Tourism

Tourism is strongly promoted by the reigning Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI, with the objective of doubling the number of tourists coming to Morocco by 2020.  Real estate development and hotel industry in Marrakesh have grown dramatically in the 21st century despite the economic recession.  A number of French celebrities own properties in the city. Marrakesh has the largest traditional market in Morocco with 18 souks selling items from Berber carpets to modern electronics.  A significant number of the population primarily sells its crafts or products to tourists.

The Ménara International Airport  serves tourists while the Marrakesh railway station connects the city to Casablanca and northern Morocco. Marrakesh has several schools and universities, including Cadi Ayyad University. Several Moroccan football clubs are located there too like the Najm de Marrakech, Mouloudia de Marrakech, the KAC Marrakech and Chez Ali Club de Marrakech. The Marrakesh Street Circuit is home to the World Touring Car Championship, the FIA Formula Two Championship and  the Auto GP World Series.

Festivals

Festivals are celebrated in Marrakesh and throughout the country; some of them are observed as national holidays while others are of Islamic celebrations.  Cultural festivals as observed that are being held in Marrakesh comprise the National Folklore Festival, the Berber Festival, and the Marrakech Festival of Popular Arts in which a number of famous Moroccan artists and musicians participate.  The International Film Festival of Marrakech, which dreams to be the North African version of the Cannes Film Festival, was started in 2001.  The festival, which features over 100 films from around the world yearly, has allured Hollywood stars like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Susan Sarandon, Roman Polanski, Jeremy Irons, and many other European, Indian, and Arabic film stars. The Marrakech Bienniale was founded in 2004 by Vanessa Branson as a cultural festival in various disciplines such as cinema, video, visual arts, architecture, literature, and performing arts.

Cuisines

Garnished by orange, lemon and olive groves, the city’s culinary features are heavily spiced and rich but not hot. The use of various preparations of Ras el hanout, a blend of dozens of spices which include ash berries, cinnamon, chilli, grains of paradise, nutmeg, turmeric, and monk’s pepper,. The tanija marrakshia, a local tajine is a specialty of the city and the symbol of its cuisine. Tajines can be prepared with beef or lamb, with fruits, vegetables and spices, including cumin, saffron, turmeric, ras el hanout, and peppers. The meal is prepared in a tangia pot and cooked slowly with steam. Another version of tajine includes vegetables and chickpeas seasoned with flower petals. Tajines can also be basted with a Moroccan ghee that has a flavor like that of blue cheese.

Chicken, shrimp, and lemon-filled briouats are another traditional specialty of Marrakesh. Rice is cooked with saffron, raisins, spices, and almonds, while couscous may have added vegetables. A pastilla is a filo-wrapped pie with minced chicken or pigeon that has been prepared with cinnamon, almonds, spices and sugar for the stuffing.  Harira soup in Marrakesh usually has lamb with a mixture of chickpeas, vermicelli, lentils, and tomato paste, seasoned with coriander, parsley, and spices.  The desserts of Marrakesh include cheesecake with dates.chebakia sesame spice cookies, or tartlets of filo dough with dried fruit.

Photo by cafedumonde on Flickr

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