Morocco · Marrakesh
“Marrakesh doesn’t give itself up to visitors easily, but I recommend getting a little lost in the souqs – soon you’ll realise that the medina is all about the small things: the pyramids of vibrant spices, the scent of Moroccan leather and the perfume of orange blossom.” — Morocco specialist June
Marrakesh – “Morocco City”, with its lattice of souqs, intricate Andalusian architecture and ancient streets humming with people, donkeys, mopeds and mules, is a city with many layers to explore. It has always been something of a marketplace where tribesmen and Berber villagers bring their goods, spend their money and find entertainment. At its heart is the Jemaa el Fna, an open space in the centre of the city, and the stage for a long-established ritual in which shifting circles of onlookers gather round groups of acrobats, drummers, pipe musicians, dancers, storytellers, comedians and fairground acts.
The city’s architectural attractions are no less compelling: Mosques and palaces that have stood for centuries focus your attention on the city’s changeable past. The carnival atmosphere of the main public square Djemaa El Fna fizzes with life as snake charmers and dancers perform for the crowds.
A trip to Marrakesh can present many different experiences, from cookery classes and tasting trails to peaceful the Majorelle Garden strolls or a rejuvenating bathe in a hammam. All combine to leave you with a tantalising taste of North African culture.
Marrakesh is called the Red City due to the natural red ochre pigment that bedecks its walls and buildings. It can at times seem dominant, but there’s no shortage of other colours. Like all Moroccan cities, it’s a town of two halves: the ancient walled Medina, founded by Sultan Youssef Ben Tachfine in the Middle Ages, and the colonial Ville Nouvelle, built by the French in the mid-twentieth century. Each has its own delights – the Medina with its ancient palaces and mansions, labyrinthine souks and deeply traditional way of life, and the Ville Nouvelle with its pavement cafés, trendy boutiques, gardens and boulevards.