If you’re visiting Marrakech for the first time, I bet you have a long list of top sights you can’t miss in the medina.
However, if you’ve already ticked off the major tourist hotspots or simply want to escape the crowds of Jardin Majorelle and Djemaa El Fna square, here are four unique things to do in Marrakech far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Explore the secrets of Marrakech on an adventurous sidecar ride
Put on your helmet and fancy sunglasses, cover your face with a cowboy-style bandana, hop into a funky vintage sidecar and ride at full throttle through the secret streets of the city.
Let your guide take you on a one-of-a-kind, personalised tour of Marrakech. Explore lesser-known sections of the city or venture to the remote Agafay desert or the Atlas Mountains.
During my ‘Secrets of Marrakech’ tour with Marrakech Insiders, my guide Safouane took me to the city’s most authentic and non-touristy corners while sharing plenty of stories and anecdotes about Marrakech.
We explored parts of the medina that I would not have discovered on my own: the former French quarter, known as Guéliz, with its gorgeous art deco architecture, the historic Jewish district, and the palm grove (palmeraie), a sprawling oasis with exotic plants and over 100,000 palm trees.
We visited secret markets of the medina, walked inside a famous Italian restaurant decorated by well-known American architect Bill Willis, saw luxurious mansions and villas owned by world-famous celebrities, came across baby camels, and snapped many photos along the way.
The tour lasts from one to ten hours, depending on the itinerary. Each ride has a maximum capacity of two passengers.
Fun fact: In Morocco, the police of the medina of Marrakech used sidecars in the 1950s.
Why go: What’s more exciting than a ride in a sidecar through one of the most fascinating African cities?
How to book:
Bond with fluffy donkeys and mules at the Jarjeer Donkey and Mule Sanctuary
Visit a peaceful donkey and mule refuge, where a British couple, Susan Machin and her husband Charles Hantom, take in and care for abandoned, injured, abused, and severely malnourished working equines.
The refuge, located only 24 kilometres south of Marrakech, plays a crucial role in raising awareness about animal welfare amongst the public and equine owners so that more animals will be treated ethically and with care in the future. It welcomes visitors from all over the world.
During my visit, Charles showed me around and introduced me to the animals, telling me their names and sharing their stories. He explained how the sanctuary provides veterinary treatment for the animals and what a typical day at the refuge entails.
I really enjoyed petting the animals who came close to me, trying to get my attention.
Charles told me that donkeys and mules are hardworking animals in Morocco and are frequently abandoned or mistreated when they become too old to assist people with heavy labour.
Fun fact: The first donkey Susan adopted was named Tommy and came from Marrakech.
Why go: What can be more heart-warming than being surrounded by so many loving creatures?
Getting there: The sanctuary is located in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, close to Oumnass village, and you can reach it by taxi. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Sidi Mamoun in Marrakech to Oumnass, and if you have made a prior arrangement with the refuge, they will pick you up.
So Morocco offers Marrakech day trips that include a visit to the refuge.
Visit the tannery to witness a traditional leather tanning process
Visit the tannery early in the morning and stand on the terrace of a local shop for a better view. Watch the tradespeople at work as they transform the skins into wearable leather by soaking them in a range of vats filled with liquids before leaving them to dry.
Remember that tradespeople use various products, including ammonia, to treat the skins, so the scent in the tannery can be overpowering.
The tanning process takes several days, and you can only see part of the process during one visit. Every tannery has its own method of treating leather, so the experience will be unique to this tannery.
I paid a quick visit to the tannery during my sidecar ride with Insiders Marrakech.
Fun fact: The world’s oldest tannery is the Chouara Tannery in Fez. The main tanneries in Marrakech are located in the Bab Debbagh area in the north of the medina.
Why go: To learn about the leather-making tradition that is part of Morocco’s cultural identity. The city has been home to tanneries for thousands of years.
Getting there: To avoid fake guides who are not licenced and may try to swindle you, I would recommend asking your host to book a local official guide to accompany you there as part of a medina tour.
Go on a photo walk to capture the unique sights of the medina
Get some stunning photos of Marrakech on a photo tour with a local photographer.
If you are passionate about photography, you will love this experience – especially if you’re visiting Marrakech for the first time and don’t know the most photo-worthy locations in the city.
I booked a ‘Private Early Morning Marrakech Photography Tour’ with Omar through Airbnb.
During our four-hour trip, he showed me authentic and hidden photo spots in the medina that I would never have discovered otherwise, introduced me to locals who didn’t mind having their photos taken (which can be a challenge in Morocco) and shared the secrets of his craft.
We went to shoot in hidden non-touristy alleyways and secret corners of the souks but also found time to photograph inside the former Islamic college Ben Youssef Madrasa.
The images I captured during my photo tour are featured in my article In Photos: One Day in Marrakech.
If you are not a photographer but would like someone to take photos of you and document your trip to Marrakech, you can also book a private photoshoot with Omar.
Fun Fact: A photography museum in Marrakech, Maison de la Photographie, may spark your photography inspiration. It features over 8,000 historic photographs from all over Morocco.
Why go: It’s easier and more fun to shoot with a local photographer who knows the hidden photo-worthy spots of the medina.