Still haven’t decided where to head this season on holiday? Our friends at Thompsons suggest a trip to Africa’s Western shores…
Marrakesh is a city steeped in magic, mystery and history and is as enchanting in real life as the mythology that surrounds it. The third largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat, the name Marrakesh originates from the Berber words mur and akush, which together mean land of god. Nestled within the foothills of the snow-capped Altas Mountain range and also not far from the vast and romantic Sahara desert, Marrakesh is a city of vibrant contrasts between ancient and modern architecture and ways of living, which make it an ideal destination for 2012 holidays.
The two central parts of the city are the old district known as the Medina, and the new district that is known as Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle. Gueliz has the requisite enormous shopping centres with food courts, modern well-known brands that sell western products and luxurious hotels. Well-appointed with all of the modern conveniences that one expects from a modern Arabic nation, Gueliz can be an excellent respite from the sometimes chaotic older parts of the city. It is also home to well-planned streets, wide boulevards and beautiful parks that offer a lush respite from the warmth of the sun.
In contrast, the medina is a labyrinthine array of little passageways and alleys that harbour tiny shops selling everything from leather goods and jewellery to persian lamps, rugs and vivid clothing.
An interesting way to see Marrakesh is via a caleche, a small horse drawn carriage that can be hired at the Square de Foucauld near the Djemaa El-Fna. This is a very quaint and romantic way to see the old part of the city – expect to pay around 80 Durham per hour per carriage.
Djemaa El-Fna is the thundering passionate heart of Marrakesh with plenty of dancers, story-tellers and interesting entertainers who pack into the central square of the medina to entertain crowds with a cacophony of drumming and singing in Arabic. Whilst in the medina, pick up a djellaba, kaftan, kiff pipe, tagine pot or some soft leather babouche sandals as an affordable souvenir or gift for someone back home. Get covered in henna tattoos by enthusiastic henna artists and bargain for goods in amongst the chaos. Marrakesh offers something for everyone of any age. There is no way to escape the passion and intensity of Marrakesh, a vibrant place that will generate long-lasting and deep memories.