Marrakech – Morocco

A fascinating video of the colourful culture of this city in  Morocco, an inside look at all the best that Marrakech has to offer.

After my first experience of Morocco in Tangier in the 1990s, I was somewhat concerned about what to expect in Marrakech. What I found and experienced changed my view of Morocco completely.

Staying in a traditional riad helps get the best experience and with good planning really can make travelling to Marrakech something of an uplifting and stylish destination.  I was picked up at the airport and on arrival, an attendant came out to get me from the car and led inside behind a black door, riad Dar Anika with a covered heated indoor pool and lounge area.

I was led to the lounge area where I was greeted by two staff members who offered a rose-water scented towel to wash my hands and face, along with a snack of dates and milky drink for a welcome, before being shown my room with rose petals on the bed and bathroom areas, I can’t help but say Dar Anika really made me feel like a king during my stay.

The rooftop terrace offers views of the world below and the medina outside its doors. The Atlas Mountains covered with snow, this being February, but the weather was very warm during the day, with cool evenings.

A short walk through the alleyways takes you directly to the lively Jamel El Fna, an outdoor theatre of curiosities and oddities that are sure to entertain and shock any visitor, and the vibrant and colourful souks of the medina. You can choose to spend your days lost in the medina in the leather area, or metal works, often themed into sections, but showing any interest in price could start a battle of negotiations to complete a sale.

Many unnamed narrow walkways to get easily lost in and lost sense of direction. Finding the best sites can easily be missed as often there are no posts or signs indicating something to be seen. I opted for a private guide for a half-day ensures you don’t miss anything, an efficient way to get the most in. Otherwise losing oneself in the medina labyrinth can be fun and scary, self-discovery is always more rewarding.

Away from the medina are upmarket shops and entertainment such as Palais Jad Mahal with its fusion of food and entertainment with belly dancers and fire eaters.

The Koutoubia Mosque is the centre of life, it faces the square of Jamel El Fna where by day street performers, animal handlers and juice stands occupy most of the day, but as the sun sets it transforms as food stands spring up and scented smoke fills the air. Watch the world go by from any of the rooftop cafes.

Within the ornamental City Walls and Gates is the Marrakech medina and old city, wrapped around several miles of reddish dried mud malls which once protected it against attackers. Behind blank facades are palaces such as the cities finest building of Medersa Ben Youssef, an ancient religious school. The Marrakech Museum is also worth a look with it is now covered courtyard and restored and preserved decorations and details.

Outside its walls and through a narrow passage the sheltered Saadian Tombs, royal tombs, only discovered in the 1920s, of one of Morocco’s ruling dynasties. Nearby the ruins of Badii Palace can be visited, now a resting place for nesting storks.

Venturing further away leads to the Majorelle Gardens, created by French artist Jacques Majorelle, and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent. Cactus, palms, ponds and pathways painted in a lively blue hue make this a tranquil spot.

Marrakech is easy to navigate outside its walls, and walking gets you everywhere. I found my time here surpassed my expectations, there was no harassment by souk sellers, the streets and alleyways had life. Entertainment of Jamel Elna, historic palaces and buildings, and all the pleasures of Marrakech.

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