Being one of the closest and most accessible destinations for European visitors in search of a truly exotic experience, Morocco appeals through the allure of such places as Casablanca, Fes and Tangiers and the vastness of wilderness areas like the Rif and Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert.
However, the country’s star turn is, arguably, Marrakech, the country’s southerly tourism capital, at the foot of the Atlas mountains. This is for good reason as there is no shortage of things to see and do in Marrakech and the surrounding area.
Here are some examples:
Jemaa el Fna, the huge central square, is the pulsating heart of the city, its bursting energy epitomised by street entertainers and al fresco eateries.
The excitement of the place is infectious as the constant pounding of drums and tuneless dirges of snake charmers’ pipes compete with the cries of street vendors and storytellers all enveloped by the aroma of an amazing variety of sizzling street food. This has to be on everyone’s list of ‘what to see in Marrakech’.
After the main square head for the Souks. With miles of narrow lanes offering every kind of local craft and product one is sure to find a bargain among the apparently endless stalls of jewellery, pottery, leather goods, fabrics, spices, carpets, wrought ironware and so much more.
In addition to the souks, the other main shopping centre is the cosmopolitan commercial centre of Guéliz, the modern downtown area some ten minutes by taxi from Les Borjs de la Kasbah. This is the centre for fashion outlets, art galleries, high tech retailers and many of the best restaurants and bars in Marrakech.
The Jardin Majorelle is another sightseeing highlight. Formerly owned by Yves St Laurent and donated to the city long before his death, the garden boasts a huge number of Mediterranean and sub tropical plants, notably cactae, bamboo and specimen trees.
The Koutoubia Mosque, close to the Jemaa el Fna, is a 12th century building famed for its 77m high, stone minaret. It is the most prominent landmark of the city, visible for miles around.
Excursions. Adding to the attraction of Marrakech as a short break destination are the number of options available for trips into the Atlas mountains and beyond, to the Sahara, and, west, to the coast at Essaouira allowing one to take in city, mountains and sea all in a single trip.