10 things you need to know about Marrakech

The wonderfully exotic Moroccan city of Marrakech offers so much as a short holiday destination, from reliable year-round temperatures (ideal from mid February to end April) and mouth-watering local cuisine to fascinating historic sites and other landmarks, from golf on six courses to treks in the Atlas.

Not least, Marrakech is also renowned for the limitless varieties of locally hand-crafted products and souvenirs on sale in its vast network of souks.

Here is a short list of important facts you should know about Marrakech.

1. Widely referred to as the ‘Red City’, Marrakech lies in Morocco’s south western region, within sight of the High Atlas.

2. As with most North African cities, Marrakech has two distinct parts: the old city, or medina, and the modern city which, here, comprises the commercial quarter, Guéliz, and leafy residential district of boulevards known as l’Hivernage.

3. Marrakech, as every other city, remains an Islamic and largely male-dominated society but it is also one of the most liberal and cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East.

4. Marrakech is closer than you might have imagined – just two to three hours flying time from most European countries. Marrakech-Menara airport is less than four miles southwest of the city, a transfer of barely 10 minutes.

5. Taxis are cheap – 15 to 30 dirhams will take you to the city centre from most hotel locations.

6. The famous Djemma El Fna, the ancient square at the heart of the city, is the focal point of Marrakech and has been for centuries. By day and, especially, by night it attracts locals and tourists alike to be entertained by dancers, musicians and snake charmers, among others, and by purveyors of a huge variety of inexpensive street food.

7. The city’s souk district, adjoining the square and extending over a wide area, its different sections linked by a confusing network of narrow lanes, is a haven for shoppers and bargain hunters. Here, you can find almost anything from traditional pottery to decorative metalwork, shoes and leather goods, fabrics, spices and much much more. The majority of the souk traders are multi lingual and, sometimes disconcertingly, they will often identify your nationality before you open your mouth!

8. Must-see attractions in Marrakech include the Majorelle Gardens, the Dar si Said museum, the El Bahia and El Badi palaces, the Medersa Ben Youssef (koranic school) and the Koutoubia mosque, the main landmark of the city with its lofty minaret.

9. Marrakech is rapidly becoming one of the leading golfing destinations. There are currently six courses, a couple of them offering 36 holes, and others are on the drawing board, all designed by some of the biggest names in golf course design.

10. Weather in Morocco is generally warm and sunny throughout the year and very hot from June to September when temperatures well above 30 are the norm. Even in winter protective headgear is advisable, as is plenty of sun block.

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