For the labyrinthine medina
Wandering through a north African walled medina for the first time – and, inevitably, getting lost in it - can be exciting and scary in equal measure, and Marrakech will not disappoint. The souks seem to go on forever, and before you know it, you’ve lost your bearings completely. You’ll find your way out again – whether alone or with the assistance of a self-appointed guide – and next time you’ll find your way that little bit more easily. It’s all part of the Marrakech experience.
For the assault on the senses
If you’ve never travelled beyond Europe and other developed western countries – and even if you have - Marrakech's medina might just knock you for six. You'll find new sights, tastes, smells and sounds on every corner…donkey-drawn carts, brightly coloured hand-woven carpets and pointy leather slippers…hot, sweet mint tea, freshly steamed couscous and sweet, sticky pastries… pyramids of exotic spices, wafts of incense billowing into the street and the welcoming aroma of home-cooked tagines… shouts of market traders, the tinkling of children’s laughter and the muezzins’ call to prayer. All in all, this is without doubt the most exotic city you can get to in less than four hours from the UK…
For the shopping
It’s no coincidence that when The Apprentice TV show was looking for somewhere to stage a task where teams needed to out-shop each other, they chose Marrakech. The souks really are a shopper’s paradise, where you can buy all manner of stuff to make your life more beautiful, from carpets, cushions, lanterns, ceramics, bric-a-brac, tiles and mosaics to throws, scarves, kaftans, slippers, spices, oils and skincare products. Plus within the medina and in the ever-more trendy Gueliz, you’ll find a growing army of chic boutiques run by trendy ex-pats and hip young Moroccans alike.
For the food
The culinary joys of Marrakech range from ultra-smart Moroccan restaurants where you can sample ‘high-end’ versions of local dishes such as tagines, tanjias, cous-cous and pastillas, through to Franco- and Italo-Moroccan fusion restaurants, and a new generation of ultra-cool European-style bistros. And then there’s the authentic street food, like hot salted chick peas and fava beans, falafel, brochettes, kefta, snails and spicy harira soup….yum!
For the people
No matter where you’re staying or where you go in Marrakech, somewhere along the way you’ll be made to feel as welcome as if you’d walked into your own home. Many Moroccans genuinely love to spend time chatting and sharing what they have with you. Yes, you’ll encounter bad apples who want to get you ‘on side’ and then rip you off – but try not to let that colour your view too much (remember this is a developing country and that in many ways you ARE a walking wallet!).
To learn about different cultures
At a time when anti-Islamic feeling runs so high, there’s a lot to learn from spending time in a historic city like Marrakech – where you can witness the realities of Islamic culture past and present. Plus you can see how Arab and Berber people have rubbed along for so many centuries, and explore how these disparate cultures have expressed themselves through architecture, design, art, music and language.
For year-round sunshine
Unlike anywhere in mainland Europe or the Mediterranean, Marrakech offers genuine year-round sunshine. You really can lie on a roof terrace and soak up some serious rays on a January afternoon…although it might be nippy in the shade and you’ll certainly want a coat at night. In the spring and autumn you’ll get temperatures a UK heatwave can only dream of, and in summer – well, only serious sun-worshippers need apply.
For the interplay of old and new
The old medina of Marrakech is higgledy piggledy and medieval, but part of what makes the city buzz is its two-centredness. Marrakech’s epic outskirts, where wide boulevards, lush gardens and the ultimate in five-star hotels merge with palm groves and head off towards the ever-present Atlas Mountains, add an exciting and forward-looking dimension to this wonderfully varied city.
For great spa treatments
If you’re into ‘me’ time, you’re going to love the bodily experiences on offer in Marrakech – ranging from the rough and ready local hammam to all manner of massages, mud and oil-based skin treatments, delivered in hotels, salons and treatment rooms as smart (and in many cases, as expensive) as in any European capital.
For the architecture
Islamic architecture has a beauty that can truly take the breath away, and Marrakech is a great place to explore its many glories. The city has some of the most beautifully restored riads in the whole of Morocco, where you’ll see amazing carved plasterwork, carved and painted wooden ceilings, brightly coloured glass and the most intricate tiling imaginable. That’s not to mention the fantastically preserved Koutoubia mosque and other historic buildings, stunning public spaces, and of course the UNESCO-listed walled medina itself.