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EXPLORING MARRAKESH - take a short break holiday in Marrakesh and discover yesterday today

Mysterious and vibrant is how the majority of visitors regard the intriguing city of Marrakesh. And it most certainly is. Yet somehow this colourful city manages to retain its unique character and charm even though today it is considered a 'playground' for foreign visitors. But to step back into the past, just mosey into the hidden depths of Marrakesh's lively Medina (the old city within the walls) to discover what life was like centuries ago.

Shopping in Marrakesh Medina and visiting the famous main square of Marrakesh - the Jemaa el Fna
In the Medina's confusing labyrinth of alleyways you'll discover craftsmen, often young boys, huddled in a jumble of tiny, open-fronted shops working with their hands as their forefathers did before them.

Here, umpteen soles of babooshes (soft leather slippers) are spread along the edge of an alleyway waiting to be fitted with their leather tops; there, a young boy hammers an intricate design on a brass tray.

Smoke drifts down the cobbled alleys from ironmongers' braziers; donkeys and carts fully laden with Berber rugs, daily needs, and rubble from restoration sites squeeze through the narrow winding souks; womenfolk sit and chat in the midst of piles of woven baskets and woolly hats they are buying or selling.

In Jemaa el-Fna, the lively main square of the old city and Marrakesh's biggest attraction, merchants sell everything from piping hot mint tea, freshly squeezed orange juice, traditional couscous (steamed semolina) with meat and vegetables stew, boubbouches (snail soup) and tête d'agneau (sheep's head), to strange potions, Berber jewellery, snake charming skills... and even themselves for any photo-shoot opportunities.

Don't miss:

  • people-watching and mint tea at its best from the Café des Epices on the lively square of Rakhba Kedima
  • experiencing the entertainers and street food at the stalls in the main square, Jemaa el-Fna; it comes alive and oozes extra ambiance at dusk
  • visiting Majorelle, the private gardens owned by the French house of fashion Yves St Laurent
  • savouring an aperitif or dinner on the rooftop terrace of Café Arabe, rue Mouassine, in the Medina - it's a Moroccan/Italian restaurant on three floors

Getting around in Marrakesh - tours and excursions around Marrakesh
It's easy to explore Marrakesh by foot, but for longer distances get a petit taxi, and hire a car or take a tour to explore even farther afield. Tours and excursions can be researched and organised before you get to Morocco through who will book them on your behalf.

Marrakesh souvenirs - what to buy in Marrakesh - best Marrakesh Medina buys
Haggling is de rigueur in the souks, which are full of unusual souvenirs. Some of the best buys are babooshes, Berber jewellery, leather pouffes, hand-engraved trays and lampshades, inlaid wooden boxes, silver trinkets, spices, tagine dishes (Moroccan stew pots), and rugs.

Riads in Marrakesh - boutique accommodation with character
Opt to stay in one of many of the old restored courtyard houses (riads) located in the Medina itself.

There are now more than 500 small riads available to rent either by the room or in their entirety.

Many riads are owned and run by Europeans, the majority offering a handful of rooms, and just a few offer up to around twenty.

Riad AnaYela is a particularly stylish 'boutique' gem of a hotel located deep in the old Medina, hidden behind an aged, solid wooden door. This 300-year-old stately house has five spacious suites, each guarded by large silver doors on which a love story has been inscribed by an Arabic calligrapher about a young girl who once lived there.

Marrakesh boutique hotel with views of the Atlas Mountains
The riad is stylishly decorated throughout in white, cream and silver; there's a small swimming pool in the open courtyard, and the occasional subtle sound of a Tibetan gong can be heard - a mystical addition to the relaxing ambiance.

Moroccan cushion seating makes dinner a relaxed affair on the first floor lounge, and a large roof terrace, complete with Berber tent, opens up views over the rooftops of Marrakesh to the Atlas Mountains beyond.

Special Moroccan evenings with traditional music, storytellers and snake charmers can be arranged in-house. In fact, the management will organise as much or as little as their guests desire - from simply booking restaurants and arranging taxis or car hire, to preparing the dinner of your choice, or organising excursions farther afield.

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Dried fruits

Medersa Ben Youssef

Water seller

Market stall


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