Visit the Marrakech Museum
Visit the Marrakech Museum: Visiting the splendid Moroccan city of Marrakech? If you’d like to learn more about the local culture, head for the fascinating Musée de Marrakech!
Housed in a splendid building that was once a palace and a girls’ college, the Musée de Marrakech was opened in 1995, and is one of the most interesting places to visit when strolling the narrow streets of Marrakech! In fact, the museum boasts some splendid collections, including ceramics, weapons, typical Moroccan tapestries and traditional Moroccan objects. But there are many other exciting surprises in store for visitors eager to discover the Musée de Marrakech, including a traditional hammam!
If you’d like to visit the Musée de Marrakech during your Morocco tours, we’ve put together a concise and practical travel guide with all the practical information you’ll need: a brief history of the site, the major attractions and collections to be discovered in this unique cultural space, as well as the best access points, opening times and prices for a well-deserved stopover.
What are we waiting for, let’s go!
History of the Marrakech Museum:
The palace that now houses the Musée de Marrakech was built by Mehdi Mnebhi in the late 19th century. He was Sultan Moulay Abdelaziz’s Minister of Defense, and was even promoted to the position of Ambassador to Germany and England. Shortly before his death, this dignitary ceded his riyad (a term meaning a Moroccan house with an interior courtyard) to his son-in-law Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech.
Then, when Morocco became independent in 1956, the palace became state property and housed Marrakesh’s first girls’ school, while its state of preservation gradually deteriorated and it was finally closed for several years.
It was subsequently restored and transformed into a museum by Omar Benjelloun, a great Moroccan art collector and patron of the arts, who gave his name to the foundation that now governs the Musée de Marrakech. Since 1995, this foundation has organized temporary exhibitions focusing on contemporary art and Moroccan artistic heritage, and offers a range of highly interesting collections, which we present below.
What to see and do at the Musée de Marrakech?
In fact, the establishment of the Musée de Marrakech within the riyad profoundly affected the layout of the place: of the two main entrances, the first was condemned to let the second serve as the main entrance for the many tourists wishing to visit the Musée de Marrakech. The patio, which was used as a stable in the early days of the museum, is now home to the ticket office, the cafeteria where you can immerse yourself in one of the many books sold in the adjoining bookshop over a delicious mint tea, as well as the administrative offices and the various information points. The central patio is also designed to host numerous artistic events, such as conferences, shows and concerts.
The lounges, directly accessible from the patio, are used to present exhibitions and collections, both temporary and permanent. These include many archaeological treasures, such as the splendid Islamic coins found in Morocco between the 8th and 20th centuries.
Visit the Marrakech Museum
The most surprising and historically interesting part of the Musée de Marrakech is the ethnographic collection: ceramics – including the famous ceramics from Fez, which make up the bulk of the collection with over two hundred pieces, and those from Safi, revealing the skills of the city’s great master ceramists -, then pottery – a superb collection of terracotta objects, mainly from the Rif mountains to those of the Anti-Atlas -, splendid jewelry – an integral part of local folklore and an essential element of traditional finery, mostly made of silver and set with precious and/or semi-precious stones, and whose differences can be admired depending on their region of origin-, the magnificent costumes -citadins, or rural, whose collection is divided respectively into Fez caftans and burnous-, the traditional weapons -creepy daggers with curved blades, the kumiya, and straight blades called sboula ; followed by sabres with slightly curved blades and silver scabbards, and rifles from the north of the country, as evidenced by their thick butts.
A highly interesting collection features incredible historical documents, including splendid calligraphy and original engravings, not necessarily by local artists, attesting to the exchanges between artists from all over the world and some of the best local engravers.
Last but not least, you’ll be amazed to discover numerous objects from Jewish worship: pairs of ornaments used for Torah scrolls, vases and dishes typical of the Judeo-Moroccan community, sprinklers… That’s right! Morocco remains an example of the successful blending of diverse communities, so different yet so close to one another. All this fits in perfectly with typically Moroccan architectural furnishings, whose culture shines through in the wooden doors and beams from various regions of the Atlas Mountains.
Visit the Marrakech Museum
The palace’s former kitchens, the douiria, are of more modest dimensions and offer a more minimalist style: here, when you come to visit the Musée de Marrakech, you’ll find exhibitions dedicated to contemporary Moroccan art, bringing together numerous Orientalist works demonstrating the skill of local artists -Benallal, Bennani, Belkahia, Chaibia, Lakhdar… and so many others- in appropriating European modernism and adapting it to North African culture!
The hammam was also converted into an exhibition space, often oriented towards this type of space and revealing the certain attachment of Moroccans to these picturesque gathering places of gaiety and good humor. Access to the latter, with its superb cupolas elevating it to the status of an architectural work of art, is via the main salon, as women, when the palace was designed, rarely left their apartments, so nobody minded!
Last but not least, a salon on the second floor, in pure Hispano-Moorish style with its superb raw cedar furniture, also features various temporary collections that travellers will be delighted to admire when they visit the Marrakech Museum!
How to get to the Musée de Marrakech
Visiting the Musée de Marrakech is easy: located right in the heart of the city, all you have to do is go to the Médersa Ben Youssef, just a hundred meters away and easily accessible by cab. We recommend you choose this means of transport, as it’s more affordable and easier to use than buses, especially in summer, and especially practical if you want to avoid driving in this city with its, shall we say, chaotic traffic! What’s more, you won’t have to search for a parking space in this city, where parking is in short supply.
If you’re already here, and you’re within walking distance, the Musée de Marrakech is less than 500 metres from the Marrakech souk and close to all practical amenities.
Marrakech Museum opening hours & rates:
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., except Tuesdays when it closes.
Adults: 50 dirhams (€5)
Tip: Beware, during the summer season, which is also the peak tourist season, many visitors may be tempted to follow in your footsteps and admire the collections themselves! Choose a visit in the morning, during opening hours, for a quieter visit.