On the northwestern coast of Africa is the country of Morocco, described by some as the strangest and most beautiful city in the country. Sitting a handful of miles from the foot of the Atlas Mountains, it is deeply connected culturally to the Saharan landscape, but its’ climate remains semi-arid, with blazing, dry summers and warm, rainy winters. The climate is comparable to that of the southwest United States, desert in appearance but quite seasonal and variable, with rain occurring in most seasons except at the very peak of summer.
Summer in Marrakesh. Don’t let the searing temperatures of summer in Morocco keep you from visiting the city in these months, as the activities and energy of the city is often at its’ peak. Bring a water bottle, pack your sunscreen, and get ready for a trip you’ll never forget. You can break up your time outside with a visit to the Badii Palace, a 400-year old home of the sultan from the Saadian Era in Marrakesh. Although it has been stripped of its’ treasures, it still gives the feel of what royal living used to mean. For a few steps even further back in time, make a point of stopping at the Koubba El-Badiyin, the only structure that still survives from the era of Marrakesh’s founders. The building is more than 900 years old, and was probably a part of the original Ben Youssef Mosque, a famous place of teaching in the city. For more modern activities, take to the streets with locals during the National Festival of Popular Arts, which is a celebration of Morocco’s rich artistic traditions of yesterday and today, taking place in July. Leave the dust and rock of the city behind and visit the Menara and Agdal Gardens. These sacred groves within the city are full of exotic flowers and flora species, bamboo trees, yucca plants, banana trees and so many more.
If visitors are looking for the Morocco of film and television, spend an evening at Comptoir, where fine dining, belly dancing, hookah smoking, and raucous partying come together on the weekends. If a quieter evening is what you’re looking for, watch the sun go down from the roof of Kechmara, a cozy cocktail bar/daytime café that is not too packed with tourists.
There is a break in the heat of summer in Marrakesh once September and October roll around, which makes autumn a very popular time to visit this Moroccan jewel. The dry months of summer end as well, and precipitation rises to about 5 days per month. The days are still warm to hot, but without the blistering highs that define Moroccan summer.
The average mean temperature of Marrakesh in autumn is an overnight low of 14.5C, climbing to the daytime high of 27.5C.
The beautiful weather of an autumn in Morocco, only rivaled by the similar nights in the spring, draw crowds out during the day and keep them out long into the night. For lovers, take an evening stroll near The Ramparts of the city, among the Gardens that still butt up against the ancient fortress walls of the city. While you are soaking up the history of the city, go to the heart of Moroccan culture and gaze at the wonder of the Koutoubia Minaret, the focal mosque of the city, built in the 12th Century. The entire city centers on Koutoubia (which means “booksellers”) and since no building in the city is allowed to be taller than a palm tree, the stunning mosque is visible from almost everywhere in the city. Still an active mosque, you cannot enter unless you are of the Muslim faith, but the outside is well worth the trip.
Another popular and world-famous spot in the city is the Djemaa el Fna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest public squares in all of Africa. It used to be the spot of public executions, but is now used for any and every activity you can imagine. Snake charmers, artists, belly dancers, hawkers, food vendors, silk merchants, spice traders, and everything in between vie for the attention of tourists in this exciting window to Moroccan history. In a similar vein to the Djemaa el Fna, visit the souks of Marrakech, the traditional Berber Market in the city. It is an interconnected and twisted maze of alleyway shops and tucked away vendors where the majority of commerce in the city takes place. This vital part of the “old city” contains every item you could ever dream of, from elaborate Persian rugs and priceless antiques to stands selling lemons, peppers, alligator skins, and ginseng.
If you want to get out of the city for a day, take a short trip over the Atlas Mountains on the Berber Trails. These ancient paths are a lot more fun than they used to be, now that tourists use 4WD to get over the rocky mountain passes and discover the history and rural traditions of Marrakech.
The weather continues to cool into the warm or mild winters of Marrakesh, and while the precipitation remains at an approximate average of seven days per month, it is still a comfortable and thrilling time to visit the city.
The average mean temperature for Marrakchian winters is an overnight low of 6.5C and a daytime high of 19C.
The winter, apart from being a mild respite from the rest of year’s heat, is also a popular time for festivals and cultural celebrations in Marrakech, and therefore, an exciting time to visit for tourists. Marrakech holds and International Film Festival every December, which brings energy and excitement to the city, along with some celebrities from the east and west. The Marrakesh Marathon is an annual draw for crowds and tourists every January, so if you want to test your endurance in a foreign place, this is about as unusual as you can get. In the final month of winter, step out among the music lovers and dancers of Marrakech during the Dakka Marrakchia Festival, celebrating all of Morroco’s various art forms. If you want to tuck in during the chilly Marrakchian nights, don’t expect to find many concerts, but the modern art scene is growing in this area of the world. Gallery hop for an evening between Galerie 127, only the third photography gallery in Africa, as well as Galerie Re, an elaborately designed gallery which mostly features Mediterranean or Morrocan artists. If modern art isn’t your idea of a vacation well spent, soak up some more history in the Dar Si Said Museum, which houses many artifacts from Marrakchian history, including weapons, musical instruments, and household items from the past millennium.
With the return of spring, the city sees a return of tourists and perfect weather for sightseeing. The rain begins to taper off as spring wears on, but the temperature remains at a warm, comfortable level throughout much of the spring.
The average mean temperature of Marrakchian spring is an overnight low of 11.5C, topping out at a daytime high of 24.5C.
If you are visiting Marrakech in springtime, prepare yourself for outstanding weather and a city ripe for enjoyment. The gardens are in full bloom, including the Koutoubia Gardens, near the mosque of the same name, and the gardens are full of orange and palm trees, while the royal Mamounia Gardens are a more formal choice for walking and lounging among the olive trees. The Majorelle Garden is not only an exquisite place to wander, it also contains the Museum of Islamic Art, painted a bright blue which stands out even among the colorful greenery of the garden. If nature isn’t your bag, then get lost in the city and brave the pungent aromas of the tannery district. Although the leather products that can be purchased here are of high quality, and freshly made, the smell of the area is too much for many visitors to bear. Flee to the ancient Saadian Tombs, located next to the Kasbah Mosque. This historic burial ground dates back to the city’s origin, and also contains three elaborate pavilions to honor certain nobles after their passing. One of the other neat aspects of the city are the riads and the hammams. These mansions and Turkish baths, spread throughout the city, are often converted into tourist spots for photo ops of ornate Marrakchian design, or for hotels/spas where tourists can relax and enjoy the luxury of Morrocan lifestyle. Do yourself a favor, soak up some history and do as the Marrakchians do in at least one Turkish bath before leaving the city. Finally, finish off your tour of the city’s wealth and glamour at the Bahia Palace, and then while away the rest of the evening with a French or Arabic opera at The Theatre Royal, one of the few formal performance art venues in the city.
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