Here’s a top tip for any of you money-conscious travellers: skip the summer rush to those overcrowded European beaches, hang-on for a few months and treat yourself to some intercontinental Autumnal sunshine.
Perched on Africa’s northern coastline, Morocco is just a stone’s throw away from Europe and has so many fascinating places that are waiting to be explored. I like to think that if the Egypt is the ‘Gift of the Nile’, Morocco is a gift from the Mediterranean Sea, where Europe and Africa collide with dramatic effect.
So, to my top five must-sees (and dos) in Marrakesh…
5. Jamaa el Fna and the Souks
Arguably the place to be when you start your journey into Marrakesh, this huge square is the dominant feature at the heart of the old city, with the alleyways and souks running from it like arteries deep into the suburbs.
By day, the heat from the city drives you to sample the delicious fresh orange juice abundant at every stall. By night, the market transforms into a thriving mass of light, smoke and energy. Smells and sounds are amplified as locals and tourist alike come to sample every food imaginable. If you have time, spend a couple of hours over sunset sitting in one of the many restaurants perched high above the square to observe the transformation taking place.
Not strictly something to do, I agree, but we all have to eat and luckily Marrakesh has some of the most visually stunning food on offer. Breakfasts consist of freshly pressed orange juice with fruits, yoghurt and honey cleansing the palate for the day ahead. The real star attraction, however, are the tagines. Hot miniature clay ovens presented to you at your table can contain any number of ingredients but be sure to sample the traditional recipe containing dates for a sweet, tasty treat.
3. Bahia Palace
In the more historic neighbourhood in the south of the city you can find Bahia Palace. It is a slight respite from the more hectic central district (we are talking Marrakesh standards here so I won’t use the word ‘tranquil’) and offers a glimpse into the life of royalty. The palace itself has plenty of Art Deco design if you are architecturally and artistically inclined, and this part of the city certainly has a different feel to it. I found myself constantly looking up at the storks that had made their home on the top of Marrakesh’s many minarets and towers.
2. Take it Easy
If it all gets a bit too much with the heat, dust and noise then Marrakesh has a perfect, affordable array of alternatives to the souks and square. Horse and cart is the perfect way to get from A to B without using your feet. If you’re staying in the old city then there are literally hundreds of hammams that will cater to weary tourists and locals alike. A personal favourite was ‘Hammam De La Rose‘ in the northern quarter. For those seeking a more modern experience, you’ll find this outside of the city walls. ‘Le Grande Cafe de la Poste‘ is a must-visit, with a European colonial interior and exciting French cuisine.
1. Atlas Mountains
Alternatively, you can choose to escape Marrakesh entirely. An hour or two driving from the city centre will get you deep into the Atlas Mountains. Hot dust and traffic is replaced by fresh air and goats. This is the land of the Berber and there is so much to see on the way up. The scenery is breathtaking and you
get a real sense of scale as you look out across the vast desert. Keep on
trekking up into the hills and you’ll encounter huts, waterfalls and bridges. The mountains are a world away from the red landscape of the Medina and you may be surprised by the amount of green and white on show.
Flights to Marrakesh from London with British Airways start at £135 return
Have you been to Morocco? What are your favourite memories?