The Medina in Marrakesh, Morocco

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    Morning in the Medina

    Morning in the Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    Photos of the Marrakech Medina rarely does the atmosphere justice because you really have to hear, see and smell the city for the full impact. Marrakech is one of Morocco's imperial cities. The Medina is the old, walled part of town where life continues much as it has for hundreds of years. Mopeds battle for the right of way with donkeys in the narrow alleyways filled with shops selling steel, wool and live chickens. The main thoroughfares are crammed with shoppers, tourists and kids going to school.

    Tucked away in all corners of the Marrakech Medina, you'll find Riads (traditional houses) that have been lovingly restored and turned into exquisite boutique hotels. The heart of the Medina is the Djemma el Fna, the main square, which transforms itself every night as hundreds of stalls are set up to provide cheap and delicious fresh food. After dinner you can watch snake charmers, fortune-tellers and story-tellers perform until the early hours of dawn.

    Mornings are bustling in the Medina as people are out shopping for lunch and tourists start to mill around looking for bargains.

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    Chickens for Sale, Medina, Marrakech

    Chickens for Sale, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    Live chickens are bought to take home and then slaughter. You'll see people carrying chickens home on mopeds, in buses and taxis. If you hang a chicken upside down by its feet it stays totally calm and is easily transportable.

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    Medina, Marrakech

    Medina, Marrakech
    © Sjaak Zijlma
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    Music Shop, Medina, Marrakech

    Music Shop, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    Music Shop, Medina, Marrakech

    Music Shop where I bought a copper trumpet-like instrument which handily folded up and was small enough to easily fit into my suitcase.

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    Spinning Yarn from Wool, Medina, Marrakech

    Spinning Yarn from Wool, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    The medina is comprised of many different souqs (markets) traditionally divided up by trade. So, while you're walking around, you'll come upon different areas where you'll see carpenters at work, or metal workers and in this case, yarn makers. The wool is spun by hand, and then brought to the dye souq (conveniently located nearby) to get dyed in the appropriate colors, often using natural dyes.

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    Carpenter, Medina, Marrakech

    Carpenter, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    Some of the old Funduq's (Caravanserais) that were used by traders as hotels and stables hundreds of years ago, are used today to house carpenters, metal workers and other shops. This photo is of a man demonstrating his technique of making a small wooden peg at an old Funduq. Within seconds I had this lovely, intricate wooden pendant in my hand, all for a small tip and a smile.

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    Herbs and Spices for Sale, Medina, Marrakech

    Herbs and Spices for Sale, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma
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    Wool Dyers, Medina, Marrakech

    Wool Dyers, Medina, Marrakech
    © Sjaak Zijlma

    Wool is dyed here using both natural and synthetic dyes.

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    Butcher Shop, Medina, Marrakech

    Butcher, Medina, Marrakech
    © Sjaak Zijlma

    You can really customize your cut of meat in the Medina and get exactly what you want. Once you get used to the smell and gore, it's quite fascinating to watch a butcher at work.

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    Late Afternoon at the Djemma el Fna

    Djemma el Fna, the central square in the old part (Medina) of Marrakech, Morocco
    Chloe Grant

    The Djemma el Fna, the heart of old Marrakech, starts to come alive in the late afternoon as snack stalls are replaced with more substantial fare.

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    Food stalls, Djemma el Fna

    Food stalls, Djemma el Fna, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    Dinner on the Djemma el Fna is a must when you visit the Medina in Marrakech. From delicious kebabs to a tasty sheep head -- it's all there for you to pick and choose from. Be prepared for the hard sell as stall owners jostle and compete to seat you at their particular stall. Take your time and enjoy the game with a smile, it's all in good fun. A meal here shouldn't set you back more than $8.

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    Djemma el Fna at Night, Medina, Marrakech

    Djemma el Fna at Night, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    You have to spend at least one night on the Djemma el Fna. It's really a highlight of any visit to the Marrakech medina. Rooftop restaurants are perfect places to sip some tea and watch the entertainment below. There are snake charmers, story-tellers, fortune-tellers, dancing monkeys, ladies applying decorative henna -- it's a medieval party every night.

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    Tile Shop, Medina, Marrakech

    Tile Shop, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    The tile work in Morocco is incredible and much of it comes from little shops like this where the artisan makes and paints the tiles in the traditional manner.

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    Antique shop in the Medina

    Antique shop in the Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    You can get some good deals on antiques in the Medina, but you really have to know what your looking for.

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    Courtyard of the Riad Kniza

    Courtyard of a Riad (traditional home converted to a small hotel), Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    The Riad Kniza is my favorite place to stay in Marrakech. It is a very friendly, family run Riad in a great location. I loved being able to walk outside and be right in the heart of the medina without the throngs of tourists. It's in the heart of the local shopping area and there was no one hustling us to buy anything. The owners were very helpful and staff was extremely personable. The room prices are at the higher end of the scale, but the water and fruits were complimentary, and the breakfast was delicious on the rooftop terrace. A really classy place to stay.

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    Breakfast Served at La Maison Arabe

    Breakfast Served at La Maison Arabe, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    La Maison Arabe was one of the first Riads to open in the Marrakech Medina. It's very luxurious and beautifully decorated but I found it to be less personal than the Riad Kniza. The traditional breakfast was really fantastic though.

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    Nuts and Dates on display

    Nuts and Dates on display at the Djemma el Fna during the day, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    Nuts and Dates on display at the Djemma el Fna during the day, Medina, Marrakech

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    Doors, Medina, Marrakech

    Doors, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    Everywhere you look in the Medina, you find something beautiful and hand made. You can spend at least a whole day just looking at the doors.

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    Courtyard of the Maison Mnabha, Marrakech

    Courtyard of the Maison Mnabha, Medina, Marrakech
    © Anouk Zijlma

    This is one of Lonely Planet's top picks of places to stay in the Medina, it's the Maison Mnabha which is very reasonably priced and is located near the souqs and the Djemma el Fna. The owner is a friendly English man who has lived in the Medina for many years and offers a wealth of information. It's not as fancy as some of the up market Riad's but it's beautiful nevertheless.

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    Inside a Carpet Shop, Medina, Marrakech

    Inside a Carpet Shop, Medina, Marrakech
    © Sjaak Zijlma

    The dreaded Moroccan carpet shop. Anyone who gets a guided tour of Marrakech will no doubt end up inside a carpet shop at some point. Enjoy it. Accept the cup of tea and don't feel pressure to buy anything, just give the guy who rolls out the hundred carpets for you to look at, a little tip.

    I actually bought the carpet in this photo. Before I left for Morocco I priced out what a handmade Moroccan carpet would cost in the US. So I had an idea of what would be a good deal. I then cut the initial offered price by 75% and worked from there. When we finally bargained down to the price I had in mind I said it would also have to include any type of tax, service charge and SHIPPING. So the price I ended up paying included everything.

    It's normal for the carpet seller to list the final price you paid as less than what you actually paid. This is to help you avoid paying too much on import taxes. The carpet arrived back in the US within a few a weeks, and I had to pay about $30 extra for import taxes. It's also a good idea to write your name on the back of the carpet, so you can be sure it's the right one when you finally receive it at home.

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    Pastries, Medina, Marrakech

    Pastries, Medina, Marrakech
    © Sjaak Zijlma
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    Snake Charmers, Djemma el Fna

    Snake Charmers, Djemma el Fna, Marrakech
    © Sjaak Zijlma

    Snake charmers will often charge you a little for taking a photo like this.

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    Medina Walls, Marrakech

    Medina Walls, Marrakech
    © Sjaak Zijlma

    The Medina is a walled city with several main gates leading out. The walls date back to the 13th Century and run for a total of around 12 miles.

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    Tanneries in Marrakech

    Tanneries in Marrakech, Morocco
    Chloe Grant

    The tanneries of Marrakech are not as impressive as those in Fez, but still interesting to visit. They're located near the Bab ed-Debbagh gate in the old city.