A buyers guide to the Marrakech Medina

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Grant Rawlings

New Member
The Marrakech Medina is often initially a confusing maze of alleyways and making sense of where you might like to buy a riad is very difficult as you never have enough time on holidays, or buying trips to really get to know areas properly.

I have therefore tried to offer a little introduction to the main areas in the Medina. I hope this might help you identify where you would like to start looking for a riad;

Bab Dhoukala
The Bab Dhoukala area around the grand mosque is one of the most popular areas for private and commercial riads. It is well located, smart, provides good parking, is safe and more importantly, also straightforward to find your way around. Furthermore, it is one of the easiest areas from which to leave the Medina and cross over into Gueliz and the new city. Prices here aren’t cheap.

Ben Youssef
Ben Youssef is buried deep in the Medina and used to be its cultural centre until La Place Jemaa El Fna was created. It is popular, despite not having good access and is littered with many of the main tourist attractions of the Medina such as the Spice Market and the Museum of Marrakech.

Dar Bacha
Dar Bacha boasts one of the city’s finest royal palaces and was where the nefarious last Pacha of Marrakech resided. The area is noticeably smarter than most of the Medina and along its main alleyway, for instance, are a string of plush antique shops.

The Bulgari family are about to finish a palace here that will rival their neighbours’, Silvio Berlusconi's. It is a little known fact that Marrakech’s first art museum will open on Dar Bacha, based on an art collection left to the city by an American philanthropist, Patti Birch.

Derb Debachi
Deb Debachi used to be one of the Medina's main drags with a string of commercial riads off its busy thoroughfare that leads off from the central square, Jemaa El Fna. It probably used to be more desirable, but now it’s crowded and claustrophobic, and although full of bustle and life, it is not the most attractive of areas.

The Kasbah
The Kasbah is one of the Medina’s up and coming areas and since the arrival of the Light Gallery, which runs successful contemporary art exhibitions and restaurants like the cool Tatchibana Japanese joint, the Kasbah is now firmly on the map.

The area is slightly separate and at the very bottom of the Medina, but it still offers riads at affordable prices.

The Mellah
The old Jewish quarter of the Mellah is an area to watch. Its location is fantastic, and it will soon be home to the first chill-out pool in the Medina, which the owner of Riad Dar One is opening next to his riad.

Many of its riads boast ornate features particular to the area, like intricate wooden balconies and windows on alleyway facades. (Riads in the rest of the Medina don’t have them, as traditionally Moroccan Jews were more open and not so up tight about privacy as the Arabs or Berbers, who wouldn't want windows that allowed passers-by a glimpse into their home).

The Mellah is still a little dodgy at night and being approached by a prostitute is not uncommon, but there is so much on the doorstep!

Mouassine and Laksour
Moussaine and Laksour boast some fine boutiques and restaurants like Café Arabe and Terrace des Espices, and also the eccentric Minstero del Gusto. These two neighbouring areas lead directly onto La Place Jemaa El Fna and are right at the top end of the market. Needless to say, this is where the Branson’s El Fenn palace is!

Riad Laarouss
Riad Larouss represents the mid range of the property market. You can find reasonable priced riads here and there are several very nice commercial riads in the area such as the uber cool Riad Due, but the main souk is a bit scruffy and the open butcher shops aren’t altogether attractive.

There are lots of pretty alleys in Riad Larouss though and it is on the way to all the main tourist attractions. One definite plus about the area, is its accessibility and parking.

Riad Zitoun
Is one of the top areas and its riads are priced accordingly. It is sandwiched between La Place Jemaa El Fna and the Bahia Palace.

Sidi Ben Slimane
Sidi Ben Slimane does boast some of the Medina’s finer riads. But it is not the safest area, particularly at night with its notorious drug dealers. Investment wise, it is not the safest bet although it does still offer riads at interesting and competitive prices.

Sidi Bouamaar
Sidi Bouamaar is a little gem. It is not widely touted by estate agents, yet quietly it has become the most bought up area. It is away from the souks and is a quiet residential area with a nice relaxed friendly feel. It provides excellent access and parking, uniquely offers its own public park, and is a stone’s throw from the tourist spots.

Zaouia is right out on the ramparts and dominated by the imposing Zaouia mosque. It is quite a way from the centre of the Medina, requiring a hike to the main tourist spots. It is not altogether that chic, although there are some large established commercial riads there, but it does offer you more for your money and large riads can still be bought for a song.
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