The four historical capital cities of Morocco are Fes, Meknes, Rabat and Marrakesh. Founded over one thousand years ago, the last city of this list – also spelt Marrakech, from French – is colloquially known as Marrakush al-Hamra (Marrakesh the Red), after the distinctive hue of its sandstone walls. And, the Berbers, whose culture is over 4,000 years old, are thought to have lived in the region since the Neolithic Era.
The most spoken language in Marrakesh is Moroccan Arabic. Berber, French and Classical Arabic are also spoken in the streets, as is, less commonly, English.
In the summer, June through August, the average daytime temperature in Marrakesh is around 36°C in the daytime and 20°C in the evening; through the winter, December through February, daytime highs hover around a very comfortable 19°C and will drop to around 7°C at night. Locals typically wear long sleeves and trousers, and you should too, both to shelter from the harsh sun and cold and also to show deference to a tolerant and hospitable and sometimes quite conservative people.
Popular foods in Marrakesh include: snails, oranges and a type of layered pastry stuffed with pigeon meat, eggs and almonds known as b’stilla; as well as harira soup (tomatoes, lentils, noodles and chickpeas), sheep heads(!) and chebakia, a devilishly sweet, flower-shaped, sesame cookie.
Gnawa is the music of Marrakesh, and Morocco as a whole. It is an amalgamam of repetitive percussion and chants, dance and spoken word. A few vocal lines are typically repeated over and over again, so that, like a techno music set to the uninitiated, a gnawa song is seemingly unchanging for sometimes hours on end. Click here for a thorough walkthrough of the history of the gnawa genre.
Video source: YouTube
With each episode of this, the first Scent From series, we aim to bring you a blog accompaniment to each month’s theme to give you a complimentary sense of each destination! Next, we look into Scent From Stockholm…
Marrakesh by Number
- Coordinates: 31.6295°N; 7.9811°W
- Currency: Dirhams (DH)
- Language: Moroccan Arabic
- Popular music: Gnawa/Gnaoua
- Religion: Islam
- Temperature: highs of 36°C in the summer; lows of 7°C in the winter