Not long ago, Marrakech was a poor, bustling caravan town. It’s still bustling, but the poverty has long since drained away, replaced with moneyed European tourists and plenty of air conditioning. Fortunately, though, most visitors agree Marrakech’s soul lives on, in the marketplaces, mosques, and surviving whitewashed, crumbling architecture.
The ‘souks’ are particularly astonishing, small, covered areas that sit amongst sheltered lanes and often lead to tiny squares specializing in particular enticing crafts of products. They can seem vast and confusing, but drifting around lost if half the fun, and you’ll stumble across some astonishing souvenirs. End up in the famous Djemaa El Fna, for example, and you’ll find snake charmers, acrobats and storytellers entertaining the masses in amongst the rusty fairground rides, and Moroccan market cuisine.
The Marrakech Museum is an exotic taste of North African art and sculpture, while The Tanneries offer a truly bizarre experience, where you can watch skin being tanned and dried amongst pigeon dung. The Koutoubia, a seventy-meter tower visible from miles around, is perhaps Marrakech’s most distinctive tourist attraction, peaking up amongst the low-rise buildings north of the city, and surprisingly ornate close up.
In fact, there’s plenty here in the way of flamboyant styles, beautiful locations and tropical, leafy, Oasis-like botanical gardens. Check out the Jardin Majorelle, for example, where cobalt blue roofs poke their way through the canopies in amongst date palms, bamboo thickets and vivid flowers. The selection of extravagant tombs and impressive city gates are well worth peering over, too.
To top it all off, Marrakech’s new selection of hotels - invariably featuring pools, roof terraces and plenty of shapely local architectural traits of their own - make the city a far more appetizing attraction for travelers who like a bit of luxury than it used to be.
Spend your days drifting around the backstreets, slurping mint tea and snacking on perfectly-spiced couscous and you won’t bore of this newly modern yet still traditional city in a hurry; the harrowing sounds of the mosques early in the morning stays with you long after you leave.
Marrakech also offers a new town that offers lots of modern coffee bars and a girls paradise for shopping with lots of big name brands.