Marrakesh is a beautiful maze full of intricate alleyways and paved streets, with local produce at every corner. Gorgeous handmade materials and delicious smelling food in the souks will tempt you in every direction and the merry music of the medina will draw you in at night. There’s no organisation in this place, so go with the flow and enjoy the jumble of wonderful distractions that make Marrakesh the lively city that it is.
The third largest city in Morroco, sits at the foot of the Atlas Mountains and contains the old city, also known as the medina, which is then surrounded by new, modern areas such as Gueliz. It’s a true mixture of old and new where weathered, palatial riads settle in between new restaurants and modern hotels on the outskirts.
Under a 4 hour flight from the UK, Marrakesh is a great place to come for a short, energetic break or as part of a longer holiday if you’re looking to explore Africa more in depth.
It might be the easy option to settle by the pool and relax in the Moroccan sunshine, however there’s really no other way to experience Moroccan culture than by throwing yourself in at the deep end. The best way to do this is to head straight to the souks, the hectic market place north of the Medina, is where your haggling skills will most definitely come in handy! Wander through the maze of stalls selling soft leather shoes and beautifully crafted jewellery, get lost around the organic soaps and handmade candles and eventually find your way out with some patterned material that you may, or may not, have wanted. It’s an experience many will enjoy but it can be an intense one, so be prepared!
If it is too hectic in the souks, try and find a little bit more order in Djeema el-Fna, Marrakesh’s main square. This might be easier said than done though. Weave your way through the snakes charmers, acrobats and horse-drawn traffic and you’ll find you’re part of a big daily show that takes place from 10am every day. The best time to come here though is in the evening when the square fills with simmering belly-dancers, musicians and chefs arrive with grills to cook some delightful Moroccan food!
To stay refreshed from the Moroccan heat and the Medina maze, why not take some time out and head to a traditional Hammam where you can de-stress and experience the relaxing side of Marrakesh. These traditional spas are where you can be pampered to your heart’s content. Be prepared to be scrubbed, buffed and smoothed in a room full of glowing candles and scented oils! There’s one thing, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed and maybe more ready to handle the souks!
One thing you’ll notice about Marrakesh is that it’s surrounded by some beautiful scenery. The Atlas Mountains provide an incredible back drop and make for a great day trip out of the city. Venture out on your own or with a guide up the twisty roads into the hills. Once up near the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of North Africa and its countryside. Discover traditional Berber villages before heading back home for the evening!
If you think the city is exciting and energetic then the food of Marrakesh will match that and more. Filled with flavour, Moroccan food is influenced by desert nomads and contains a lot of mutton, vegetables and dairy.
All over Marrakesh, you’ll find people cooking in traditional tagines. Locals place the conical clay pots over hot coals to cook the food inside slowly and gradually. This allows all the flavours and spices to infuse into the food. Usually meat or fish are cooked with vegetables and then served up with Moroccan staples of couscous or bread. Another popular main dish is meatballs marinated in coriander and cumin, a favourite in Marrakesh.
If you fancy a light lunch or a quick through the day, pick up a Brochette, which is chunks of meat served on a skewer. Blended with spices such as saffron, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper or paprika, this dish would make a great main meal if served up with couscous.
To keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, the preferred beverage in Marrakesh is mint tea. A highly refreshing drink served in ornate teapots and usually sweetened with a fair amount of sugar. If that doesn’t sound like your ideal drink, good coffee is easy to come by in Marrakesh. You’ll find café’s serving up fabulous cappuccinos and lattes, there’s no instant coffee here! If you’re after a nice cool beer at the end of the day, alcohol in Marrakesh is a fairly low key affair. Saying that though, you will find Moroccan branded beer and wine served in bars and hotels which cater well for tourists and visitors.