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Marrakech

Koutobia Mosque

Marrakech is a city in the grip of a delirious imagination. A feverish dreamscape of honeycombed alleys and minarets quivering in the moonlight and haunted by the restless creatures of a visionary carnival that has lasted for a thousand years and shows no sign of stopping now. Marrakech is one of the worlds enchanted places where time becomes suspended and, through its open door, you catch a glimpse of the past so rich and so remote and yet so palpable.

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You can sense the atavism propelling every trick and turn in the Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech's pulsating main square and one of the worlds great theatres. The Djemaa is a spectacular pageant of singers, tumblers, sorcerers, herbalists, raconteurs, impostors, preachers and snake charmers, all competing for your eye. There is nowhere else in Africa which so effortlessly involves you, blows aside travel cynicism and keeps you returning. If you get tired, observe the spectacle from one of the overlooking rooftop cafes.

There is also a modern Marrakech of luxury hotels, streets with restless mopeds and guides, but they all seem to co-exist with the past. It is a Berber rather than Arab city; the traditional metropolis of Atlas tribes, Mahgrebis from the plains, Saharan nomads and slaves from beyond the desert. It was founded around 1062 by Youssef bin Tachfine of the Almoravide dynasty, but it was his son Ali Ben Youssef who brought architects and craftsmen from Cordoba to build palaces, baths and Mosques, a subterranean water system and in 1126 the first circuit of walls were raised from "tabia" - the red mud of the plains.

Marrakech's setting is truly magical. A patchwork of ravishing green against the bare, brown plain of Haouz with the snowy High Atlas rearing up behind like an apocalyptic tidal wave towering through the haze. Focus of every approach to the city is the Koutoubia Mosques minaret, Marrakech's crowning centrepiece, the 203 feet high tower, the very synthesis of Moslem architecture. Other sights to visit are the Saadian tombs dating from 1557, over-lavish maybe, but sensational nevertheless.

The Mellah, once the largest Jewish quarter in Morocco; the Agdal, Majorelle (Yves St.Laurent Gardens) and Menara Gardens, located near the edge of the Medina where it is both cool and very still and in perfect contrast to the bustling city streets; the Bahia and dar Si-Said, the latter housing a museum of Moroccan arts.

Client recommends

Le Touareg shop in souk for silver berber crosses/jewellery and pots. Really good quality, hidden away.

By far the best way to visit these sights is to engage one of the horse-drawn carriages (caleches). They will take you riding in comfort and style. But to see the marvels of Marrakech's Medina - all two square miles of it - you must go on foot. It is in the hurlyburly of the Medina where you will find the masterpieces of Marrakechi art. Each craft in the Medina has its own special quarter in one of the interminable passages that sprawls like some vast living organism, teeming with activity. There are two or three main thoroughfares in the Medina, off which branch most of the individual markets with alleys and squares devoted to specific crafts where one can watch part of the production process in dyeing, brass and copper beating, apothecary stalls, cosmetics, herbs, jewellers, leather workers, carpenters, sieve-makers, perfumes, spices and slipper makers.

The Marrakech riads (About riads) are situated in the bustle of the medina, the inward looking riad design ensures that they are a place to relax - keeping both the heat and the noise out. Alternatively, instead of a riad, stay at a hotel in the Palmeraie or Hivernage.

The High Atlas, a mere 30 km south of Marrakech and the greatest mountain range in North Africa, is undoubtedly the most beautiful and compelling part of this diverse land. It has perpetuated a remoteness which until recent decades was virtually complete. Staying a few days in Marrakech you are bound to hear about the Ourika, a long and beautiful valley where "locals" breeze out on their mopeds in the summer to escape the city heat to lie beside the streams and waterfalls, just an hours drive from your hotel. Oukaimeden, the main ski resort in the Atlas (3,272m high) has good piste and off-piste skiing between the months of December and March. Marrakech holds the same fascination as the sea (2 hours drive to the coast), constantly changing and eternally the same, and once you have witnessed it, you're sure to be back for more.

Marrakech! Don't miss it. You owe it to yourself.

See below for the riads and hotels we offer in Marrakech.

We offer a range of excursions from Marrakech to guide you round the city and the surrounding area. more details.

Excess Baggage on BBC Radio 4: David Stafford explores the town of Marrakesh and discovers that while the medina still has the exotic heritage, the new quarters of the city are being developed to attract a new kind of visitor. David discovers how Moroccan culture and art have more to do with sub-Saharan Africa than the Arabic Middle East. - More details and audio link.

Accommodation in Marrakech

Tigmi

Tigmi

in Marrakech

Delightful, unusual rural setting outside the city. Spectacular views. 21 rooms. 2 Pools, gardens, spa

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Villa Des Orangers

Villa Des Orangers

(Relais et Chateau) in Marrakech

Relais et Chateaux riad in old city. Very high standards. 27 rooms/suites. 3 pools, hammam

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Riad Al Moussika

Riad Al Moussika

in Marrakech

Superbly managed riad in old city. 5 rooms. Pool. Hammam.

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Les Deux Tours

Les Deux Tours

in Marrakech

Well established Palmeraie setting. 35 rooms/suites. Gardens, hammam, pool

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Riad Dar Justo

Riad Dar Justo

in Marrakech

A 15th century traditional guest house.

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Riad Les Yeux Bleues

Riad Les Yeux Bleues

in Marrakech

Delightful riad in old city. 8 Rooms. Pool, hammam

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Riad Souika

Riad Souika

in Marrakech

A 3-room cosy riad in old city with housekeeper, availabile as an entire property or by the room

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La Maison Arabe

La Maison Arabe

in Marrakech

Chic riad in old city. High quality. 26 rooms/suites. Pool, hammam, cookery school

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Jardins De La Koutoubia

Jardins De La Koutoubia

in Marrakech

Centrally located riad style. 75 rooms/suites. Pool, hammam

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La Sultana Marrakech

La Sultana Marrakech

in Marrakech

A sophisticated establishment where no detail has been overlooked

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Les Jardins De La Medina

Les Jardins De La Medina

in Marrakech

36 Room riad combining comfort and tradition with restaurant

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Riad Laora

Riad Laora

in Marrakech

Lovely riad in old city. 7 rooms. small pool

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Les Borjs De La Kasbah

Les Borjs De La Kasbah

in Marrakech

A boutique hotel of six houses and a riad near the royal palace

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Riyad Edward

Riyad Edward

in Marrakech

Traditionally decorated 9 room riad

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Tichka Hotel

Tichka Hotel

in Marrakech

Probably the best 4-star hotel in Marrakech.

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La Mamounia

La Mamounia

in Marrakech

La Mamounia is a way of life - one could get used to it...

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Es Saadi

Es Saadi

in Marrakech

A genteel hotel with spectacular views of the High Atlas peaks

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Sofitel Marrakech

Sofitel Marrakech

in Marrakech

A 5 Star luxury hotel withing walking distance of the Jemaa El Fna

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Palmeraie Palace

Palmeraie Palace

in Marrakech

Uniquely set in the palmeraie with landscaped gardens and it's own championship 18 hole golf course.

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Caravanserai

Caravanserai

in Marrakech

Very special boutique hotel just outside the city. 17 rooms/suites. Pool, spa, gardens.

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Dar Darma

Dar Darma

in Marrakech

A six suite 18th century riad with hammam and pool

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Dar Liqama

Dar Liqama

in Marrakech

2 well equipped houses set in 4 acres of gardens offering a cookery course

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Riad Charai

Riad Charai

in Marrakech

A spacious and airy nine-roomed riad with pool and spa

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Riad El Zohar

Riad El Zohar

in Marrakech

A lovely riad with pool and spa

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Riad Shama

Riad Shama

in Marrakech

A seven room 18th century house with pool

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Selman

Selman

in Marrakech

New luxurious hotel just 5 mins from the centre of Marrakech

More about Selman