Marrakech is an intoxicating city known for its souks, spices, snake charmers and hidden palaces, though these days it’s prized as much for its trendy art galleries, hip hotels and elegant hammams. Offering a tantalising taste of Africa within easy reach of Europe, it certainly lives up to the hype, and not only thanks to its fabled ancient medina.
It is to the medina, however, that most visitors will gravitate. The ageless city of blushing pink stone has waylaid desert caravans since the 11th century, with travellers succumbing to the charms of its bluesy Gnaoua music, calls to prayer and elaborate feasts. Its dark, narrow alleyways are full of artisan workshops, shrines and sprawling markets, and riads. These traditional courtyard guesthouses range from palatial oases to smaller, more intimate affairs.
Once you’ve had your fill of getting lost (not to mention the relentless street sellers and reckless mopeds), head to the open space of Jemaa el Fna. Thronging with locals each evening, the legendary central square hosts dozens of stalls serving up sheep’s head soup from vast cauldrons, as well as grilled aubergines, ubiquitous mint tea and spicy cakes. Meanwhile, a mix of musicians, fortune-tellers, dancing cobras, storytellers and acrobats keep the crowds entertained until late. Towering over the scene is the stately minaret of Koutoubia Mosque, built in 12th century.
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