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Marrakech, situated in south west, is Morocco’s second largest city and lies in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Most people, when they think of Marrakech, conjure up a picture of narrow streets, busy markets in bustling squares and mosques with their minarets calling the faithful to prayer and this is indeed the reality. The city is full of activity with local craftsmen making and selling their wares, stalls selling a huge variety of goods which must be haggled over and entertainers singing and dancing.
Marrakech is a city like no other and displays a very different way of life. The magnificent backdrop of the Atlas Mountains frames the city. The walled city is a maze of narrow alleyways lined with medieval buildings crowded with shops. The large square, said to be the busiest in North Africa, is a hive of activity with traders and entertainers during the day and food sellers at night. Although many thousands of foreign visitors come to the city every year, the way of life remains the same and holiday makers in Marrakech enjoy a traditional Moroccan experience.
Marrakech appeals to those who like the experience of a completely different culture. Although the hotels generally have good swimming facilities the nearest beaches are a two hour drive away. Golfers have a choice of three golf courses. Those who like to meander through the twisting alleyways of old towns seeking their holiday bargains and sampling the local food will find that Marrakech is the perfect destination.
Morocco is a year round holiday destination with hot summers and mild winters. Marrakech is cooler in the winter with snow on the mountain peaks. The summer temperatures are in the high eighties.
Marrakech is a large city with a population of one million. The small area of the old town with its narrow, traffic-free cobbled streets is the tourist centre of Marrakech. In the labyrinth of alleys are the ‘suuqs’ where the craftsmen make and sell their wares. The Djemaa el Fna is a huge square with the largest and busiest market in Morocco. It is a place of frenzied activity with stall holders vying for the customer’s attention and money. In addition there are entertainers such as acrobats, storytellers and snake charmers. Traditional music fills the air to accompany the folk dancers in their brightly coloured costumes. In the evening the food sellers come out and the square becomes a huge outdoor café.
The Koutoubia Mosque, built in 1199, is visible all over Marrakech with its 77 metre minaret. Away from the centre of the city are the Menara Gardens where you can relax among the trees and by the lakeside away from the noise and bustle of the town. Spa treatments are available in the ‘hammams’ where you can avail yourself of soothing body wraps and massages.
An international film festival is now held in Marrakech and attracts many famous names.
The Moroccans are a hospitable and friendly people, welcoming visitors to their country and going out of their way to be helpful. Nothing ever seems to be too much trouble.
The nightlife in Marrakech is lively and the square becomes the main focus for evening entertainment. Lined with bars and restaurants it is the perfect place to view the entertainment. Bars are usually open until midnight while nightclubs, often with open air dance floors, are open until dawn. Many hotels have their own clubs which are open to the public.
Marrakech is a great place to shop with a huge variety of gift and craft shops, bazaars and markets. The art of bartering is at its best in Morocco where most of the pleasure in shopping is the negotiation process. If you show an interest in an expensive item you may be offered a cup of green tea while the haggling takes place. There is a wide range of goods including carpets, leather goods, jewellery, spices, pottery and ceramics. Remember that you have a limited baggage allowance on your return flight. It could be expensive if you forget.
Food in Morocco is generally spicy with sweet and sour combinations. Chicken is by far the most popular meat. Pastilla is a favourite dish made filo pastry filled with egg and meat or vegetables. Harari. the lentil and chick pea soup is another popular food. Mint tea is a favourite drink.
Hotels and restaurants in Morocco serve a wide variety of international cuisine to cater for the less adventurous diner.
Drink only bottled water.
All people working in the tourist and leisure industries are heavily reliant on tips that are usually much deserved. The kindness and helpfulness of the people is renowned. Children are always made especially welcome.
Remember that Morocco is an Islamic country and overt displays of affection can cause offence.
The best time to pick up a bargain holiday to Marrakech in South-Western Morocco is in April or May. You may also be able to find a good deal all year round providing you book early enough and steer clear of any major holidays or festivals. Morocco is so cheap that you may consider booking bed and breakfast or half board accommodation and use the extra money you’ll save to eat out in the nearby restaurants.
Marrakech, with it’s narrow streets, busy markets and bustling squares, is full of local craftsmen making and selling their wares. You’ll also see stalls selling huge amounts of good which you can have some fun haggling over, while entertainers can be found singing and dancing.
With a magnificent backdrop of the Atlas mountains, Marrakech is a beautiful place to visit. With a number of golf courses in the area, good hotel swimming facilities and the nearest beach a few hours drive away, there’s something to be found for everyone.
If it’s a cheap holiday to Marrakech that you’re looking for, keep a look out for deals in April or May time.