Papillon by nightWe still have some Xmas and New Year late availability at the newly renovated Riad Papillon. The Riad has a truly magical atmosphere providing a fantastic location to relax with family and friends.

Check out our December 2010 Special Offers which make a Luxury Riad stay even more affordable.

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Marrakech is always a fun town for people watching, even more so at the moment! Hollywood is in Marrakech and the heart of the Medina is buzzing with activity for the filming of Sex And the City 2.

A few hundred yards from Riad Papillon burly security guards left us in no doubt that amateur photographers were not welcome near the set. The Paparrazi had more success as reported in some of the European press including the Daily Mail

On friday 20th November several streets to the north of the Jema al Fnaa were being used as sets with the choas created by the resulting diversions only adding to the hustle and bustle of the Medina.

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Welcome visitorA butterfly is a rare sight in the urban setting of the old town of Marrakech.  So imagine our delight at the arrival of this welcome guest at Riad Papillon.

It was cunningly photographed by our eagle eyed guardian Abdelatif as it inspected the newly opened Riad. As the Moroccans say ‘Baraka’, what a wonderful omen!

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There is an abundance of property for sale in Marrakesh from traditional Riads in the ancient Medina (old town) to modern Marrakech Villas in the booming Palmeraie and the areas surrounding the walled city. However Real Estate in Marrakech requires patience, particularly in the Medina, and some of the best bargains are not to be found in places other than the internet or the windows of real estate agents.



Looking for a second home?Some of the most stunning new developments in the world of property, Marrakech Villas are sure to exceed your expectation and are relatively easy to buy off plan.



Traditionally Riads in Marrakesh are not marketed on an exclusive basis by western style-agencies. Rather their availability is quietly made known to the network of local ‘Samsar’ who introduce and mediate on behalf of potential buyers. By investing time getting to know the samsar personally the potential buyer gains access to a world of stunning properties for renovation, but as always- buyer beware – in Arabic the word samsar has a double meaning. He is a carrier of poison as well as the carrier of the keys!


Riad Cinnamon

The locations of Riad Papillon and particularly Riad Cinnamon in the heart of the medina makes them outstanding bases to research and explore Marrakesh property. The diversity of real estate for sale in Marrakech is such that property hunting is a holiday pursuit in its own right! and the samsar are as willing to accommodate browsing potential buyers as any of the boutique owners in the famous Marrakech Souks.


Shopping in Marrakech is an experience like no other:  The billowing silk scarves and hand woven shawls, shiny brass lamps in shimmering gold and silver metals, fragrant mint and exotic spices such as cinnamon and cumin, handmade Berber rugs with geometric designs and silky smooth tadelakt bowls in intense sky blues, ox blood reds and jet blacks. However the experience can be seriously terrifying for the uninitiated travellers arriving fresh off the ryan air and easyjet flights more used to buying rugs from John Lewis and lamps from Bhs!
This guide  is based on the knowledge I have gained from adventuring out into the souks over the past five years. I am hoping to help new visitors to  enjoy the Marrakech Shopping experience,  purchase some exquisite handicrafts from the souks and perhaps even make some new friends at the same time.
Shopping in the SouksI have never been trained in the art of negotiation and have not worked as a ‘buyer’. However, in the process of renovating  Riad Papillon -our wonderful newly opened boutique hotel in the centre of Marrakech, I think I have learnt quite a lot about the art and science of ‘haggling’.
In the beginning I learnt the hard way making sometimes costly mistakes. I also managed to upset quite a few stall holders by my clumsy initial attempts at haggling. One stallholder was so upset that I didn’t want to buy his lamps that he called me ‘La Poubelle de la France!’ which means ‘the dustbin of France’ (Some Moroccans are not very keen on the French for historical reasons). I was quite offended by this (as you can imagine) but, caught off my guard, all I could offer as a retort to this was: ‘Mais je ne suis pas francaise!’ which means ‘but Im not french!’ I hasten to add that I do not think I am a dustbin either but, in the heat of the moment, I was not quick witted enough to advise him of that!
Although I would not call myself a ‘haggleguru’ , I do find that I can now haggle with confidence and generally end up with purchases that I truly desire at prices that I am very happy with whilst still preserving the relationship with the seller. I actually enjoy the experience of shopping in the Marrakech souks now and find it exhilarating as well as rewarding.
There are thousands of stallholders-mostly charming and welcoming, a few can be grumpy or plain rude, and some are tricky or dishonest. All, however are master salesmen and are highly motivated to sell to you generally at the highest price possible.
Each of us has his or her own style and so let me just offer some broad haggling guidelines and then let you conduct the negotiation in your own unique style.
1. Firstly, remember to keep your cool and your sense of humour at all times. The soaring temperatures can result in frayed tempers and not speaking the language can make one feel frustrated and confused. Just take your time and remember you are on holiday and this is supposed to be fun!
2. Secondly, remember that Haggling is, in some respects, like taking part in a small play or pantomime. There are certain roles and lines that are predictable and some that are not. It is useful to know how these roles and lines generally work so that you play your part well and even enjoy it.
3. Thirdly, I think it is always important to remember that you are a guest in someone else’s country (even if the stall holder may forget that sometimes!) and to behave politely and respectfully even if the haggling starts to get a bit heated.
4. Although haggling can be viewed as a game or a play it should also be remembered that although you may be haggling to buy something worth a tiny fraction of your monthly income, for the stall holder the negotiation may represent his next meal quite literally. Therefore I advise only to haggle over something that you do actually want to buy not just for the fun of it.
Haggling over pottery 5. Be assertive and clear, not passive and absolutely never  aggressive in your interactions. If a salesman starts bringing down dozens of scarves that he thinks you are interested in just because you looked at them and didn’t stop him, then you may well end up feeling embarrassed to refuse them so be clear when you do not want something as well as when you do.

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A Red City, a Rainbow of dialects

Moroccans are by and large excellent linguists and natural communicators – what they lack in expertise they make up for with enthusiasm. Across Marrakech, and particularly in the souks, the visitor is best advised to put aside inhibitions and join in!

Classical and Moroccan Arabic

Arabic is the official language of Morocco with classical Arabic taught in schools, it is also the language of the Koran. The locals recognize Egyptian Arabic from television particularly the keenly followed Egyptian soap operas. The Arabic spoken in the street of Marrakech is a distinctive Moroccan dialect known as ‘Darija’ which borrows a lot from French but also Berber. Darija is a living language and increasingly also borrows and adapts English words as well.


South and Central Morocco, was a French Protectorate from 1912 to 1956. Not surprisingly French is universally spoken by educated Moroccans.  It is the alternative language of administration so for example legally binding documents to buy and sell property can executed in French. French is without doubt the most useful European language for travellers to Marrakech.


Berber dialects, predominantly Tamazight, are widely spoken in Marrakech, indeed some of the locals particularly older women in ethnically Berber households speak no other language. There are three closely related Berber dialects in Morocco: Riffan in the north and the Rif Mountains; Tachelhit in the centre Middle Atlas; and Tamazight in South and the High Atlas. Since 2011 Berber has been recognised as an official language alongside Arabic and French.


Staff at Riad Papillon, Dar Habiba and Riad Cinnamon speak fluent English. English is not widely spoken amongst older Moroccans although this is changing with the younger generation.


Unlike the North of Morocco much of which was formerly a Spanish territory the Spanish language is not widely spoken in Marrakech

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The historic El Baroudiyine district is located in the centre of the Marrakech medina at the northern edge of the Souks which lead down to the Jema al Fna.

The area contains some of the most important Islamic buildings in the Medina all located around the open ‘Place de la kisaria’.

Ben Youssef Medersa MarrakechTo the north, built in the twelth centry by an Almoravid Sultan of the same name, is the Ben Youssef Mosque, the largest mosque in the medina. The Ben Youssef serves the community of the central medina and is approaching the end of a comprehensive renovation during which many of the locals have prayed at home. In common with most other mosques in morocco it is not open to non muslims.


Open to the public

Adjacent to the mosque is the Ben Youssef Medersa , considered by some the finest building in the city after the Koutoubia Minaret. The Medersa is a Koranic school and is usually open to the public from 9am to 6 pm allowing visitors to appreciate its richly decorated sixteenth century interior.

On east side of Place de la Kisaria is the renowned Musee de Marrakech (Marrakesh Museum) which occupies a stunning palace built by Mehdi Mnebhi a nineteenth century government minister and restored in the 1990’s by Omar Benjelloun. The museum shows an important collection of Moroccan art and sculpture open from 9 am to 7 pm. It also hosts an exciting programme of contemporary exhibitions.

Koubba El Baroudiyine

In the midst of all this culture and history the area actually takes its name from its oldest monument of all. Marrakech’s only remaining example of a complete building from the 11th century Almoravid dynasty, the Koubba El Baroudiyine. At first sight a modest structure the Koubba is of huge architectural significance containing in its simple design many of the arches shapes and decorations on which centuries of Islamic buildings have been based. It is normally open from 9am to 1pm and 2.30 to 6 pm.

Riad hotel, Marrakesh

Riad Cinnamon is located on the quiet Derb El Hajra off the Rue Baroudiyine to the east of the Ben Yousef Mosque in the heart of the Baroudiyine distirct. The luxury Riad hotel is only two hundred metres from the Place de Kisaria and is the perfect base from which to explore this extraordinary area.

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A Fondouk or Funduq also known as a Caravanserai is a mediaeval building designed as an urban hostel for commercial travellers and merchants- the Marrakshi equivalent of the coaching inn – a camel motel! Set around a generous central courtyard a typical Fondouk has a series of chambers on the ground floor traditionally used to accommodate beasts of burden with a corresponding series of lockable chamber on the first floor which doubled as storage for merchandise and sleeping quarters. Fondouks were equipped with fountains to water animals and scales to weigh the goods traded there. Often they were lavishly decorated and many specialised in attracting merchants from a particular background for example Jews, Christians or sub Saharan Africans.

There is concentration Fondouks just north of the El Baroudiyine district of Marrakech where travellers would have had easy access to trade with the Souks occupying the area to the north of Jema al Fna.

Many Fondouks fell into a sad state of disrepair after the age of the great camel caravans but most are still standing. These substantial buildings were adapted to use as workshops or subdivided into homes and all manner of living and working spaces.

Holidays in Marrakesh

In Marrakesh today there are many poorly maintained decaying Fondouks offering a glimpse of an ancient trading culture. It is encouraging to see an increasing number sympathetically restored, often with public money, finding a new lease of life as workshops or showrooms for traditional Moroccan crafts. One of Marrakech leading restaurants ‘Le Fondouk’ is occupies a beautifully adapted caravanserai just to the east of the Marrakech museum.

Marrakesh Riad

Both Riad Papillon and Riad Cinnamon are ideally located to explore Fondouks as well as the other sights and sounds of the Marrakesh Medina.

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Leather work

The Moroccan leatherworkers are truly amazing. You can watch them create and craft everything from handbags to shoes to goatskin lanterns. Furthermore, they are well known to make custom bags/gloves/aprons at astonishingly cheap pricing (if well haggled!) although the leatherworkers can be an absolute mission to find, they are definitely worth a visit.

Metal working and Blacksmithing

Metal work at Riad PapillonThe blacksmiths in Marrakech are extremely talented. They create beautiful lampshades in pierced sheet metal-work, metal grilles used for windows and mirrors, and intricately patterned swirling designs for special dining tables and chairs.

Some metal-workers produce beautiful silver and gold coloured sinks and mirrors by beating a single piece of metal into the exact shape. Others cast metal into taps which are then etched with traditional Berber designs and embellished with bands of copper or bronze. Riad Papillon arranged for one guest to have a short introduction to Moroccan blacksmithing, he spent a week working with a local Marrakshi blacksmith who didn’t speak a word of English (communicating with using hand gestures). Moroccan metalwork is totally different from what you may have experienced in the UK. They rarely use a furnace and tend to work the metal when cold then make enjoinments and fabrications using a spot welder.


Marrakech crafts, large potsProbably the most commonly seen form of pottery in the shops of Marrakech is the tagine stove, plate and steam cover. These are available in a huge range of sizes and contain a great variety of designs and patterns in glazes and paints. 


Morocco is well known for its Tadelakt which is unique to the region, it’s basically a form of plaster made from the local limestone which is mixed with egg white and natural dyes to form a unique colour. After leaving it for about two weeks it’s covered in a special black soap which has the effect of giving it a shiny appearance and making it water resistant.


marrakech crafts, carpet displayAs you walk through the streets of morocco you will certainly notice the massive colourful blankets of cloth –silks, wools, linens and even man-made fibres -draped all around and above the market stalls. Morocco is an amazing place to go to buy cloth and other fabrics for both professional tailors and hobbyists alike.

Ryad Marrakech

If you are interested in crafts you are sure to have a fantastic holiday in Marrakesh. That’s the beauty of staying in a Ryad, Marrakech is on your doorstep.

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The Arabic word Riad means garden and some of the most beautiful gardens in Marrakech are to be found in the medina providing shade in traditional houses. There are also a number of public gardens which are well worth a visit.

Majorelle Gardens

Marrakech GardenEstablished in the 1920’s by French painter Jacques Majorelle and made famous as the Marrakech residence of the late Yves St Laurent. This garden is located in the New town of Guiliz and is very much a City Garden screened by high walls and very much an African garden with its splendid cacti, palms and bougainvillea. The artist’s studio is now a museum of Islamic art which also exhibits some works by Majorelle himself.

Menara Gardens

Menara GardensOutside the medina about a mile and a half from the Koutoubia mosque, a pleasant walk but as there is very little shade on the route it is best avoided in the heat of the day. The focal point of the garden is an immense lake with an elegant royal pavilion sitting behind it. The perfect backdrop to this tranquil scene is provided by acres of fields which have been olive groves since the twelfth century.

Agdal Gardens

The ‘Jardin Agdal’ cover more than 30 acres and like the Menara gardens were laid out at the time of the twelfth century Almohad dynasty. Agdal contains a great variety of plants as well as a number of pavilions some of which are open to the public and some of which are kept for the private use of the Moroccan Royal family. The gardens are located behind the Royal Palace to the south of the Medina.

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Gnawa, or Gnaoua , trance music is a familiar sound in the place Jema al Fna, Marrakech. Visitors and locals alike gather around groups of musicians to share a unique experience. Gnawa is a mixture of African, Berber and Arabic religious songs and rhythms. The music is considered both a prayer and a celebration of life. Many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa.

Gnawa MarrakeshIn a Gnawa song, one phrase or a few lines are repeated over and over throughout a particular song though the song may last a long time. In fact, a song may last several hours non-stop. The norm, though, is that what seems to the uninitiated to be one long song is actually a series of chants, which has to do with describing the various spirits, so what seems to be a 20 minute piece may be a whole series of pieces. Because they are intended for listeners in a state of trance, these pieces go on and on, provoking trance from different angles.

The melodic language of the stringed instrument is closely related to their vocal music and to their speech patterns, as is the case in much African music. This is the language of the blues. Gnawa have venerable stringed-instrument traditions involving both bowed lutes like the gogo and plucked lutes like the gimbri also called hajhuj. The Gnawa also use large drums called tbel and krakeb, large iron castanets, a familiar sight in tourist photographs since they are carried by the colourful water sellers in the Jema al Fna. The Gnawa hajhuj has strong historical and musical links to West African lutes like the Hausa halam, a direct ancestor of the banjo.

 Gnawa musiciansGnawa hajhuj players use a technique which 19th century American minstrel banjo instruction manuals identify as “brushless drop-thumb frailing”. The “brushless” part means the fingers do not brush several strings at once to make chords. Instead, the thumb drops repeatedly in a hypnotically rhythmic pattern against the freely-vibrating bass string producing a throbbing drone, while the first two or three fingers of the same (right) hand pick out, often percussive patterns in a drum-like, almost telegraphic manner.

Gnawa MusiciansDuring the last few decades, Gnawa music has been modernizing and thus becoming more profane. Within the framework of the Gnaoua World Music Festival of Essaouira (“Gnaoua and Musics of the World”), the Gnawa play in a profane context with few religious or therapeutic dimensions. Instead, in this musical expression of their cultural art, they share the stage with other musicians coming from the other cultures. 

As a result, Gnawa music has taken a new direction fusing its core spiritual music with similar genres like jazz, blues, reggae, and hip-hop. Every summer for four days in June, the Festival welcomes musicians that come to participate, exchange and mix their own music with Gnawa, creating one of the largest public festivals in Morocco as well as one of the best jam sessions on the planet.

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The Koutoubia mosque was built in the 12th century under the Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur to be the crowning glory of his North African based empire, it is indeed today still the largest mosque to be found in Marrakech today. The structure stands 69 metres tall towering over the surrounding city, which considering its placement in the Medina is not particularly difficult, it is however still an impressive structure by any account. However it was during the period of imperialism under the French that it was decreed that no structure in the rest of marrakech was permitted to be taller than the Koutoubia, thereby sealing the Mosques place in Marrakech’s architectural history. The name of the Koutoubia derives from the Arabic for library as the mosque used to be surrounded by sellers of religious manuscripts thereby gaining the mosque literary connotations that led to it being quasi designated a library. Although the actual mosque itself does not permit non-muslims to enter a non-muslim can still observe the majesty of the mosque from the outside of the Building.

The hall within the mosque is one of the largest of its kind and has the capacity to house up to 25,00 people at any one time. Adjacent to the mosque are archaeological remains of the original mosque which it is believed was rebuilt to correct its orientation to Mecca. These remains are accessible to visitors and can be seen through glazed protective cases. The fabulous Rose gardens adjacent to the Mosque are an oasis of calm in the city used by locals and tourists alike, a must for your Marrakech holiday. The Avenue Mohammed V runs adjacent to the mosque and can be used to take oneself directly to the Guelliz ditrict where one can find many a trendy bar and restaurant. All this a mere 15 minute walk from our wonderful Riads in the heart of Marrakechs historic Medina district. Reserve a room now to avoid disappointment.


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So good, they named them three times!

Written in Arabic as رياض and variously by Europeans as riad, ryad or riyad.
A riad is a traditional home built around an internal garden. Literally riad means garden, not house! This courtyard design with no external windows is very practical keeping the home cool and secure. It also has its roots in the Islamic culture of the country allowing privacy for the household and particularly its womenfolk.

Riad Marrakesh

Riad Papillon and Riad Cinnamon are excellent examples of the tasteful adaptation of centuries old dwellings as luxury boutique hotels retainingDipping pool Riad Papillon the proportions, charm, and elegance of the original, while integrating modern comforts like en suites, air conditiong and a luxurious dipping pool. A stay in a riad is an unforgettable experience of an extraordinary intimate space, quite unlike any other. It is also a great opportunity to enjoy fabulous Moroccan hospitality and food in a domestic setting. 

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So good they named it twice!

Written in Arabic as مراكش foreigners use the French ‘Marrakech’ and English ‘Marrakesh’ interchangeably.

Koutoubia, Marrakesh, MoroccoMarrakech sits at a strategic location on the trade route between sub Saharan Africa and the sea route to Europe. The early name was Marra Kouch, land of the Kouchmen a tribe that originated in Mauritania. The City came to prominence as the capital of the Almoravids an 11th century Berber dynasty. Importantly the Almoravids built an underground irrigation system bring water from the High Atlas to the City and surrounding farm land.

Marrakesh was again the Moroccan capital under the Saadians in the 17th century before falling into relative decline. The city was revived until the French protectorate when the new town district of Guiliez was constructed. During the period of French rule control of Marrakech was effectively delegated to the Pasha El Glaoui.

 After Morocco’s independence in 1956, and particularly in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Marrakech gradually came to prominence as the most important international tourist destination in North Africa.

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The Atlas Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to Marrakech. One of the great pleasures of the Red City is to relax on the roof terrace on a clear day enjoying views of the snow covered mountain tops. The mountains themselves are easily accessible for a day trip or excursion.

 A favourite route is the Ourika valley trail either to Setti Fatma a picturesque riverside village behind which there are seven waterfalls. Further up the same route is the winter (February to April) ski resort of Oukaimeden with its 3,273 metre ski lift, at one time the highest in the world. Hiking in the Atlas MountainsOutside the ski season Oukaimeden is the perfect base for trekking. In the summer the pastures below Oukaimeden are used for a gathering of Berber tribes who traditionally bring their whole household including livestock returning each year to their ancestral patch of grazing on the plains.

 An alternative route leads out to Ouarzazate at the confluence of the Draa and Dades valleys. Ourzazate is a base for quad and motor biking, and camel treks on into the Sahara dessert. It is also home to Atlas Studios one of the largest film studios in the world used for films from Lawrence of Arabia to The Man Who Would Be King, Cleopatra and Gladiator.

It is tempting then to follow the Draa river up through fertile palmeraies crammed with date palms, olive and almond groves. The Dades on the other hand passes between the mountains of the High Atlas to the north and the Jbel Saghro range to the south. For a very good reason this route is nicknamed the valley of a thousand Kasbahs and at the end of the valley is the stunning Todra Gorges.

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Spices in the Souk in MarrakechThe Marrakech Souks are great fun to explore whether on your own or with a guide. For centuries craftsmen and merchants have congregated in specialist souks including areas for metalworkers, leatherworkers, dyers, carpets, spices, traditional medicines and many others.

Metalwork in the Marrakech SouksThere was a time when the persistent attention of hustlers and self appointed guides made it difficult for the faint hearted to explore and enjoy the famous Marrakech Souks. Today the whole area is effectively policed by specialist Tourist Brigade Police and tour guides are licensed. Wander at leisure before returning to the comfort of your Marrakech Riad base.

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Our Marrakech Riad Hotels in the Medina are the perfect base for a Golfing holiday. There are three outstanding 18 hole within 30 minutes of your Ryad in Marrakech. We can help reserve tee times.

The Royal

The Royal was constructed by the famed and feared Pasha who resided at the Pasha Palace at the Dar el Bashah entrance to the medina. The course enjoys perhaps the most outstanding views of all the Marrakech courses benefitting from far sighted planting of trees when it was built in the 1920’s. The Royal course was played by Winston Churchill who was a huge lover of Marrakech.

The Amelkis

Located next to the Royal is The Amelkis. Designed by Cabbel Robinson and opened in 1995 the course is heavily bunkered with large greens and expansive fairways. It cleverly incorporates the irrigation works built by the Almoravide dynasty in the 11th century to support the growth of their capital city of Marrakech.

The Palmaraie

The Palmaraie is built in a private valley around its stunning Moorish style club house, the course covers 190 acres boasting seven lakes and innumerable palm trees. Originally an 18 hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones a new nine will be added in Autumn 2008 to be used for tournaments in conjunction with the more difficult back nine of the original course.

After a fantastic round of golf come back to your Riad, boutique hotel. The perfect base for exploring Marrakesh.

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The picturesque town of Essaouira is only two hours drive from Marrakech and offers an outstanding day excursion to the coast. Under Portuguese occupation the port was fortified and the town was known as Mogador, the ramparts were used in Orson Welles 1952 film Othello.

Seagull on the beach at EssouiraStill a fishing village Essaouira retains its authenticity and charm.Strong coastal winds known in Moroccan Arabic as the ‘alizee’ are a distinctive feature of the beach which is an outstanding venue for wind surfing and other water sports. 

Boats in the harbout at Essouria, MoroccoJimi Hendrix and other 1960’s rock stars frequented the town which retains a strong musical tradition. Each year at the end of June Essaouira is the venue for the Gnaoua and world music festival. Gnaoua music, a familiar sound in the Jema al Fnaa in Marrakech has its roots in sub Saharan Africa

Your Ryad staff will be pleased to help you to organise a visit to Essaouira. Our suggestion would be to take a taxi for the day and return to the ryad in Marrakech after a leisurely meal in the early evening.

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