Marrakesh, a magical city
Marrakesh has been an important political centre for centuries. Read more.
Marrakesh, a magical city
Marrakesh has been an important political centre for centuries. Lying at the foot of the snowy Atlas mountains, yet just a couple of hours away from the Sahara desert, the ‘Red City’ (so called for its construction out of red sandstone) draws visitors both for its unique location and rich history.
Souqs and oranges
The heart of Marrakesh is Jemaa el Fna, the main square and marketplace. During the day it is packed with fresh orange juice stalls, snake charmers, and water-sellers in traditional dress. As evening falls the square changes, becoming a theatre of sorts where magicians show tricks and story-tellers entertain enthralled locals. At night the square is packed with food stalls to cater to the throngs of people. The Jemaa el Fna is a great place to orient yourself and adjust to the pace and heat of Marrakesh, also to rest tired legs while you sip a sweet Moroccan mint tea at a rooftop cafe. Heading north from the square you’ll enter the souq, an open air bazaar of stalls stacked high with all manner of goods from spices, carpets, leather and perfumes, to modern electronics. Intense, colourful and at times overwhelming, you can get lost for hours in the souq’s labyrinthine alleyways.
Mosques and palaces
When you emerge, make your way to the Koutoubiya Mosque. Rising high above the city’s rooftops, it marks the district of Medina, Marrakesh’s walled old town. From here it’s a short walk to Palais de la Bahia (translating to ‘the beautiful’), an exquisitely decorated palace that was built in the mid-late 1800s. For a contrast visit the ruins of El Badi Palace (‘the incomparable’), built in the mid 1500s. A walk among the red walls of the palace complex gives visitors an idea of the scale behind the magnificent palace that once had over 300 rooms. For a glimpse of Morocco over the last 200 years, head to the Maison de la Photographie to view the incredible collections. If tired out by the heat, pamper yourself with a visit to a hammam (Turkish bath) - options range from basic to very luxurious. Once refreshed you’ll be ready to make your way to legendary Le Comptoir. Housed in an art deco villa, here you can eat Franco-Moroccan food, watch belly-dancers and party into the small hours.
Stay in a riad
Marrakesh has a huge array of places to stay, from simple authentic abodes to glamorous, palatial hotels. Undoubtedly the best place to base yourself to soak up the atmosphere and history of this city is in or close to Medina. Here it’s possible to find homely riads tucked away behind unassuming doors - these traditional villas are often centredaround a cool, leafy courtyard. You can escape the busy Medina too, in any number of hotels across the city, or to really leave it all behind, stay in a luxury tent hotel at the city’s edge, looking out to the Atlas Mountains.