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A mixture of luxury and simplicity, the historic Moroccan city of Marrakech attracts a fashionable crowd of sun and adventure seekers. The dusky, pink-walled Medina, the old city. boasts a greater density of chic lodgings than possibly anywhere else in the world and the many souks will keep shopaholics busy for days. Even non-shoppers will be amazed by the colour, diversity and vibrancy surrounding the souks. Fabulous nightclubs, new and old comfortable riads and radical new Moroccan food makes this the coolest place to be.

What to See in Marrakech

Djemma el Fna

The Djemma el Fna is really the heart of Marrakech. It is a large central square in the old city (Medina) and during the day it is a perfect place to grab a snack, freshly-squeezed orange juice and many exotic fruits, etc i.e. dates. In the evening the Djemma el Fna transforms into an entertainers paradise -- such as snake charming, juggling, acrobatics. music and many other things, it is said there is even tooth pulling. Stalls offering very much more substantial fare than snacks when the square comes alive with entertainment that hasn't changed much since medieval times. The Djemma el Fna is surrounded by cafes overlooking the square, you can just relax and watch the world go by from your comfortable seat if you're tired and want to get away from the jostling crowds below. . You will probably be asked for money when you take photos of the performers

Jemaa el-Fna, the main open space in Marrakech, is as old as the city itself. It is thronged day and night with local life, including snake-charmers (a few dirhams for a photograph with a snake draped over your shoulders, and a few more to have it removed); dentists (teeth pulled on the spot); scribes (letters written to order); herbalists (cures for everything and nothing); and beggars (to whom Moroccans give generously). In the evenings, the square becomes a venue for alfresco eating and entertainment with troupes of acrobats, storytellers, magicians, dancers and semi-mystical musicians attended by people getting giddy on the repetitive rhythms. Tourists can watch but nothing here is done for their benefit.

KOUTOUBIA MOSQUE

The centrepiece of Marrakech is the square tower of the Koutoubia minaret, attached to the Koutoubia Mosque, built in the early 1100s. It's not particularly high but it towers over the Medina thanks to a long-standing planning ordinance that forbids any other building in the old city to rise above the height of a palm tree.

Souks

The souks are like undercover markets that sell everything from chickens to high-quality crafts. The souks of Marrakech are considered to be among the best in Morocco, and it is very enjoyable wondering around them, even if you do not like shopping, the souks are a cultural experience you would not want to miss. Sections of souks are divided into small alleys that specialise in certain goods or trades. The different craftsman all have their little shops clustered together, as well as the tailors, butchers, jewellers, dyers, wool dyers, spice merchants, carpet salesmen and many more. There are beautiful materials, cloths etc. to be found.

The souks are situated north of the Djemma el Fna and it can be difficult finding your way around the narrow alleyways . Guides are plentiful in Marrakech and now have to be officially approved , and you can always find these services, but getting lost in the chaos is also part of the fun. It is very interesting to look into souks where local wares are being produced, than to be taken to the many carpet shops by your guide. If you get lost, or lose your companions,ask for directions back to the Djemma el Fna as most alleyways lead off from there..

Majorelle Gardens and the Museum of Islamic Art

In the 1920's, French artists Jacques and Louis Majorelle created a beautiful and stunning garden in the middle of Marrakech's new town. The Majorelle gardens are filled with colour, shrubs, plants of all shapes and sizes, flowers, fish ponds and tranquility. The designer Yves Saint Laurent now owns the gardens and has also built himself a house on the property. The most impressive building that gets most of the attention is the bright blue and yellow building the that the Marjorelles used as their studio and which now houses the Museum of Islamic Art. The small museum includes some lovely examples of Moroccan tribal art, carpets, jewellery, and pottery and other artworks.

The gardens and museum are open daily with a two hour lunch break from 12noon-2pm.

Saadian Tombs

The Saadian dynasty ruled much of southern Morocco during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour created these tombs for himself and his family in the late 16th century, sixty-six members of the family are buried here. The tombs were sealed up rather than destroyed in the 17th century and were only rediscovered in 1917. Therefore they are beautifully preserved and the intricate mosaic is spectacular. Even though the tombs are situated in the heart of the hectic old town (medina) the tombs are surrounded by a nice peaceful garden.

The tombs are open daily except Tuesday. It is advisable to get there early and avoid the tour groups.

The Ramparts of Marrakech

The walls of the medina have been standing since the 13th century and make for a wonderful early morning stroll. Each gate is a work of art in themselves and the walls run for twelve miles. The Bab ed-Debbagh gate is the entry point for the tanneries and excellent photos, full of vivid colours from the dyes used can be taken here, although little smelly Storks can be seen nesting on the walls.

Palais Dar Si Said (Museum of Moroccan Arts)

The combined palace and museum is well worth a visit. The palace is opulent and beautiful in itself with a lovely courtyard where you can relax and take some pictures. The museum's displays are well laid out and include jewelery, costumes, ceramics, daggers and other artifacts. The museum is open daily with a couple of hours break for lunch.

Ali ben Youssef Medersa and Mosque

The Medersa was built in the 16th century by the Saadians and could house up to nine hundred religious students. The architecture is beautifully preserved and can be explored seeing the tiny rooms where the students used to live. The mosque is adjacent to the Medersa.

El Bahia Palace

The palace is a wonderful example of of Moroccan architecture. There being lots of detail in the arches, light, engravings and it was built as a harem's residence, which makes it interesting. The palace is open daily with a break for lunch although it is closed when the royal family visits. Suggested Reading

Images of Marrakech Morocco Travel Tips

HOW TO GET THERE

AIRPORT

Marrakech International Airport is 5km from the town centre.

AIRLINES FROM THE UK

Royal Air Maroc (020 7439 4361; www.royalmaroc.com) flies daily from Gatwick to Marrakech. BA (0870 850 9850;

www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow and Gatwick to Marrakech.

Air France (0845 0845 111; www.airfrance.co.uk) flies from Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Aberdeen to Marrakech via Paris.

Transport:

Driving in the city of Marrakech is difficult unless you know your way around; the narrow alleyways of the central urban medina area are a confusing warren of one-way streets. Public buses are a bit of a free-for-all, but they are cheap, frequent and cover the entire city. Beige-coloured 'petites taxis' are cheap with metered fares and can be hailed on the streets; Mercedes Benz sedans are called 'grand taxis' and also cover routes between cities and towns.

Marrakech Excursions

A ski resort in the desert! Indeed, thick snow envelops the Jebal Oukaimeden mountain peak during the winter months (usually January and February), just a 46-mile (74km) drive from Marrakech. The town of Oukaimeden, which can be reached by taxi or self-drive car, is well equipped for the skiers that seek restaurants, ski equipment to rent, and comfortable hotels, set in lush greenery backed by blue mountains. Skiers can ascend the mountain by donkey or camel, but there are also modern ski lifts.

Ouirgane

The village of Ouirgane, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains about 90 minutes drive from Marrakech, stands at the centre of a popular resort area, where summers are cooler and winters less harsh than those experienced in the city. The surrounding Berber countryside offers picturesque villages and hamlets to explore, set in forests full of wildlife and groves of fruit trees, alongside streams cascading down from the High Atlas Mountains and fields of wild flowers. The area is also known for its extraordinarily beautiful rose gardens.

Marrakech Events

Sand Marathon

The week-long Sand Marathon takes place in the gruelling conditions of the Moroccan desert with sandstorms and frying heat as the major obstacles to achieving such an intense feat. The race is over 150 miles of craggy, sandswept terrain and competitors from around the world take part in the charity-driven event that benefits the infrastructure of the region. Only the fittest and most prepared are advised to partake!

Venue: Ouarzazate; Date: 23 March to 2 April 2007;

Marrakech Popular Arts Festival

There is never a dull moment in this teeming city designed to inflict sensory overload, but during the summer Popular Arts Festival, Marrakech is more frenzied and alive than ever, the already-packed streets even more crowded with an abundance of tourists and Moroccans avid for fun. Artists, craftsmen, vendors, musicians, acrobats, fire-swallowers and dancers hold performances in every corner of the city, with the centre of the action at the ruined 16th-century Badi Palace, once the heart of the powerful Saadian Dynasty. One of the most popular features is the 'fantasia', a choreographed trick horse-riding spectacle held each evening in a field near the Bab Jdid just outside the city walls. For more information contact the Morocco Tourist Office on +212 (0)37 681 531/532/533 or admin@tourism-in-morocco.com

Venue: Various, but mainly Badi Palace and Djemma el Fna; Date: June/July 2007, TBC

Time:

Local time is GMT.

Electricity:

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round plugs are in use.

Money:

The unit of currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes. ATMs are available in the larger towns, but can be unreliable; currency can be exchanged at banks or official bureaux de change. Dirham cannot be obtained or exchanged outside Morocco and receipts must be retained as proof of legal currency exchange, as well as in order to re-exchange money when departing. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger shops, hotels and restaurants. Travellers cheques can be used in tourist areas.

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