Just below the Atlas Mountains in the south-western region of Morocco – is the exotic metropolis known as Marrakech. With its bustling central square, winding souk markets, mosques and madrasas, this lively city will definitely whet any traveller’s appetite.
Marrakech, also known as the -Red City- due to its red sandstone buildings, is a combination of cultures with influences from Arab, Berber and French civilisations.
Like many other Moroccan cities, Marrakech is made up of 3 main areas: the Central Medina known as the Djemaa-el-Fna, Old City and the New City.
The Djemaa-el-Fna is the heart of the city. Here you’ll find snake charmers, monkey acts, and an array of musicians and other talents, as well as an assortment of fresh-juice vendors.
However, night-time is when this central square really comes alive, with a huge gathering of food stalls ranging from dry fruit and tagines to freshly cooked snails (a local delicacy).
The central square is surrounded by various restaurants, shops and hotels providing local cuisine, including mouth-watering tagines and fresh mint tea. Towards the back of the central square is a gate-way leading to the winding maze-like souk markets, catering both for tourists and the daily needs of the locals.
If you keep following the narrowing streets off the Medina you will find yourself further into the walled Old City of Marrakech, with its pinkish-orange walls, narrowing streets and alleys, and beautiful traditional riads.
There are a number of historical sites within walking distance from the Djemaa-el-Fna. These include the fabulous architecture of the Koutoubia Mosque and its grand minaret, as well as the Ben Youssef Madrasa. Other highlights include the El Badi Palace, Saadian tombs and the Menara Gardens.
If the hustle and bustle of the central square gets too much for you, respite can be found in the tranquil surroundings of the Yves Saint Laurent Jardin Majorelle. With its quiet walkways, exotic vegetation and neon blue-painted sidewalks, it is easy to forget the chaos of the surrounding city.
As you come further out of the central area along Avenue Muhammad V, you will arrive at Guéliz in the New Town of Marrakech. Here you will find all the upmarket trendy shops, restaurants and roadside cafes including well-known western brands such as Zara, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. This is the modern part of Marrakech and is largely catered towards tourists with deep pockets.