The sun baked walls, gardens, covered markets and magical main square have become worldwide icons of exotic elegance for the grand Moroccan city of . Fringed with palm trees, olive and orange groves, it is sheltered from the fierce Saharan winds by the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains. It’s a vast storehouse of architecture, culture, history, cuisine and craftsmanship built from mud, stone, wood and tile. It wears its Muslim heart on its sleeve with pride and shouts about its colourful influences including; Berber, Roman, Arab, French and even Andalusian.
Marrakech is well connected to its surroundings. Team up your stay with other Moroccan cities for a multi-centre holiday with a difference. Travel first class inexpensively by train to Casablanca, Rabat & Fez in the North or have a few days relaxing on the east coast beaches at Agadir. Trek up in to the High Atlas Mountains for the experience of a life-time visiting the Berber tribes or lay low in a Gite in the foothills or even try out the ski slopes if you’re there between November & March.
The old medina is the vibrant heart of the city of Marrakech. It is contained by the 12 mile long & red in colour wall and is a labyrinth of narrow alley-ways which are home to over a million people and reportedly over 60,000 individual market stalls. You can spend hours bartering over the eclectic collection of local hand-crafted wares and the further in to the Aladdin’s Cave you venture the more interesting the Souks become. Every section has its own speciality: carpets and textiles; ceramics and woodwork; spices and magic creams; slippers and kaftans; jewellery and lanterns; and most importantly raffia bags and baskets which you’ll need to carry all of your purchases in.
For those who aren’t confident at haggling visit the Ensemble Artisanal where you can see all of the products being made and then sold with visible & fixed prices. The prices are similar to those you’ll eventually haggle to in the souk but without hassle. For those looking for more luxurious and designer items head outside of the walls and across to the Ville Nouvelle, (New Town) known as Gueliz, where you’ll find up-market boutiques including Louis Vuitton.
Dine in one of the many roof-top cafés & restaurants overlooking the main square, Jemaa el Fna, whilst soaking up the atmosphere of the entertainment below; drummers, snake charmers playing their pipes, monkeys jumping around and even acrobats cart-wheeling, spinning and somersaulting in the midst of it all. As dusk draws closer lots of tented eateries pop up from nowhere and fill with locals cooking and serving their delicacies of lambs brains and cooked snails; smoke and steam rising into the warm night air from the bubbling pots and barbecues.
Walk through the luscious gardens around the Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech’s most famous symbol. The minaret, built in a traditional Almohad style and topped with four copper globes is visible from near and far as local ordinance forbids any other building in the Medina to be higher than a palm tree, it towers majestically over its surroundings. Listen out for the regular call to prayer, which can be heard for miles around and use the tower as a ‘compass’ and focal point when scurrying through the mystical Medina maze.
Stay for a night or two in a traditional Riad within the Medina walls; with their open courtyards rising through the centre, mosaic walls, carved archways, plunge pools and roof-top restaurants; a truly special and authentic experience not to be missed. For more of a luxury holiday why not stay at La Mamounia with its art-deco splendour; the choice hotel of the rich and famous or just outside of the city wall in the trendy garden suburb, Hivernage, is the Es Saadi Gardens & Resort for a quieter, sanctuary spa.
The sun is always shining in Marrakech and from March to October it’s pretty difficult to avoid. There are lots of fabulous places to relax & unwind and watch the world go by. There’s so much to see & do with the famous gardens, tombs & palaces, so many more places to explore and so much more to write about…you’ll wonder why you didn’t stay for longer.