Destination of the Week: Marrakech
Famous for the action-packed Djemaa el-Fna square, Marrakech’s maze of souks, traditional arts and crafts, snake charmers and colourful spice wagons cajoles even the most seasoned travellers. The ageless city of pink stone is rich in history, culture and an intoxicating nightlife scene of acrobats, fortune tellers, belly dancers and storytellers.
The Medina, with its dark, narrow alleyways, hides lavish riads, artisan workshops and restaurants smelling of mint tea and brewing tagines. As the gateway to the Atlas Mountains and the vast Sahara in Morocco, Marrakech is best visited in winter for brisk, bright weather, or autumn when markets are abundant with fresh local produce.
What to do
Getting lost in the Medina is the best way to traverse this magical city on foot. Surprises wait at every turn, from the ancient Jewish quarter with silver goods to the city’s orange-red ramparts and enchanting palaces with sparkling fountains and lush gardens.
Visit El Badi Palace, Koutoubia Mosque, The Saadian Tombs and Menara Gardens before tackling the famous souks for carpets, scarves, lanterns, lotions and potions and a spot of enthusiastic haggling. The New Town offers exclusive boutiques, a break from the hustle and bustle of the Medina and upscale restaurants with views of the surrounding mountains.
At the end of the day, you can’t beat sitting on a rooftop terrace, sipping mint tea or cocktails as the sun goes down over Djemaa el-Fna square. Jump into the middle of the action and watch the food vendors set up stalls with food fit for a king, before sampling the delicious cuisine.
Where to stay
In Marrakech, you can stay in a Riad reminiscent of a genie bottle, a 5 star hotel with pools, activities and spas or homely guesthouses where you’ll dine with the owners. Most options have restaurants onsite and cater to the needs of tourists, such as providing bottled water and transport services.
La Sultana Marrakech (£££)
The regal La Sutana Marrakech is steps from Djemaa el-Fna square, yet a luxury haven from the chaos outside. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, rooftop terrace and spa centre for rest and relaxation. All suites are decorated with lavish Moroccan furnishings, complete with marble bathrooms and private balconies.
Riad Bahia (££)
Smack bang in the middle of the Square and the Old Jewish Quarter, Riad Bahia is an oasis of calm and tradition. With a rooftop restaurant serving delicious traditional cuisine, a bar next to a charming pool area and tinkling water fountains in the courtyard, coming home after a long day trekking is a delight.
Hotel Du Tresor (£)
With whitewashed walls and a retro vibe, the Hotel Du Tresor is a centrally located hotel with character, that’s also friendly on the wallet. All rooms offer private bathrooms, air-conditioning, TV’s and terraces. Breakfast is served for guests in the hotel.
Where to eat
If you can drag yourself away from the scrumptious food stalls in Djemaa el-Fna square, you’ll find an array of restaurants serving food from around the world, as well as traditional tagines, deserts and salads. Check beforehand if you’d like a cocktail or 2, as many restaurants don’t have liquor licenses.
La Maison Arabe (£££)
This luxurious riad houses a fine dining restaurant with Andalusian musicians to keep you company on the flower-filled patio. Exquisite Moroccan cuisine is served under twinkling lights and you can even return for their world-famous cooking classes.
Café Arabe (££)
Among the mazes of the souks, Café Arabe waits with inviting white couches under colourful lanterns and cooling fans. A mix of Italian and Moroccan cuisine, the café serves meals such as swordfish with capers and tomato sauce and lamb, apricot and nut tagines. Or, you can simply pop in for an afternoon mojito on the terrace, with views of the city’s jumbled roofs.
Henna Café (£)
For lunch with a difference, enjoy a coffee and a falafel sandwich while a henna artist draws intricate patterns on your hands and feet, or receive a language class. All proceeds from the cultural activities goes to giving free education and assistance to Moroccan people.
Image source: (c) istock/thinkstock
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