For decades, if not centuries, Marrakech and its extraordinarily vibrant atmosphere have attracted people from far flung corners of the world. Even today the age old charms of the place tend to be as mesmerising as the snake charmers found on the busy and bustling expanse of one of the cities most visited squares, Jemaa el Fna.
Nomad snake charmers, normally more at home in the desert come to Marrakech and perform for tourists and fascinated onlookers alike, just as they did in centuries past.
Around the square you still find groups of men listening to storytellers while traditional water-sellers in colourful robes, wander the streets selling their wares. It’s all part of the tremendous charm of Marrakech.
Gorgeous Moroccan lanterns for sales in souk
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The Colourful, Bustling, Aromatic Souks
Modern day Marrakech, if one can call it that, boasts hundreds of souks with locals milling around them at all hours of the day and night. The souks are designed to tempt modern foreigners into the myriad of convoluted mazes that today form the hundreds that exist. Artisans hammer at their wares or sit sculpting wood. Others sit sewing colourful fabrics whilst at the same time calling to passers-by – it’s a vibrantly noisy, yet fun experience.
The number of items for sale in the souks will take your breath away, from the copper trays to the glistening silk babouche slippers and everything else in between that’s intricately stacked on shelves, there is just so much to take in. And then there are the aromas, the bottles of exotic oils and spices that envelop you as you wander through these vibrant Marrakech narrow street market places.
Celebrities brave the souks to buy softer than soft footwear – Sarah Jessica Parker and the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow being just two of them. Many visitors realise that when visiting the souks it would have been better to bring a few empty suitcases on holiday with them – but then it’s just as easy to buy the cases in the souks.
Colourful Slippers on sale in the myriad of souks
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Best Places to Stay in Marrakech
Right in the heart of the city is one of the most delightful places to stay during a visit to Marrakech. The Riad El Cadi has an interesting past. It was originally the home of the German ambassador but now it’s run as a hotel by his daughter. The riad is actually made up of six houses with lots of shady courtyards and of course there’s the obligatory plunge pool. Three of the houses are offered as individual rents which makes an ideal choice of family holiday accommodation.
Other wonderful choices to stay at in Marrakech are the Riad Kaiss or the Dar Les Cigognes, but be advised book early as these are extremely sought after hotels with many visitors to Marrakech having them as their preferential places to stay at when they plan to stay in the city.
Best Food in Marrakech
When it comes to dining out in Marrakech, it is hard to know where to begin. The choice is a fabulous one but Le Marocain restaurant has to be at the top of anyone’s list. The restaurant is in La Mamounia Hotel, and the vista from the restaurant is supreme. It overlooks a 200 year old garden that stretches across 17 acres of lush land. Dining is accompanied by traditional musicians who add to the perfect ambiance of the place.
Another wonderful place to eat is in the souk, at the relaxed Terrasse des Epices. The food is out of this world and the ambiance enhanced by fine mists that gently waft from the rooftop as a means to cool the diners below as they enjoy their food.
One of the oldest charms of this ancient city is the art of bargaining. A fun experience that stallholders expect from all customers. You need to know how much you want to pay for anything when visiting the souks of Marrakech – it is what makes the whole experience so much fun.
Whether you are in Mustapha Blaoui’s warehouse that’s packed full of gorgeous brass lanterns, leather-clad furniture and everything else in between, or you’re in Akbar Delights where you’ll discover finely embroidered clothing and bags, knowing how to barter means getting yourself a beautiful bargain.
A trip to Marrakech is an unforgettable experience which leaves a superb impression on anyone who passes through this eternally interesting city – it’s easy to see why so many people keep going back there for more.
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Image credits: a little azorean and a little azorean