Lonely Planet Writer

Marrakesh named the first ever African Capital of Culture

Marrakesh, one of Morocco’s most iconic cities, has been crowned as the first African Capital of Culture 2020. The nomination was awarded to the red city because of its architectural, artistic and cultural legacy. Marrakesh is already home to two Unesco-listed World Heritage sites: the famous square of Djemaa El Fna and its labyrinthine medina, the walled old city.

Djemaa el Fna market square in Marrakesh’s Medina quarter. Image by ©Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

Marrakesh is increasingly on travellers’ radars, as the government has been doing more to improve infrastructure throughout the country, including revamping a number of medinas. The number of foreign tourists rose about 15% from 2017 to 2018, and Morocco is growing in popularity with travellers from the US.

The Majorelle Garden is a botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden in Marrakech, Morocco, which was owned by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. Image by ©saiko3p/Shutterstock

The 2017 opening of Yves Saint Laurent Museum, dedicated to the eponymous French fashion designer who called Marrakesh home for a number of years, solidified Marrakesh’s place as a hub for art and design.

The Yves Saint Laurent museum. Image by ©Chris Griffiths/Lonely Planet

French fashion house Dior also just announced that it will host its resort fashion show in Marrakesh in April, and it’s the company’s first huge event in Morocco.

Covered markets of Souk Zaghlel in the medina. Image by ©Geoff Stringer/Lonely Planet

The decision was made in Africities 2018 summit. Though it isn’t clear what this new title will mean for Marrakesh just yet, a number of other regions have similar awards, such as the annual European Capital of Culture, which is presented to a city in the European Union, and the Arab Capital of Culture, which goes to a member of the Arab League.