Image by J Ben Rais

Marrakech is Morocco's 'red city', so named after the red mud walls that surround the old medina and lace it's interior Min a maze-like tunnel. Nestled in the Atlas Mountains, the city dates back to the 11th century, when the native Berber tribes used it as a thoroughfare en route to other destinations as a place to come together, trade, and tell stories. Today, it is used as not only a real Moroccan resort destination in itself, but as a departure hub for tourists looking to see the Atlas Mountains, the deserts of Ouazazate or the Morocco beach resorts of Essaouira or Agadir.

Marrakech has the largest souk (market) in Morocco and the main square, the Djemma el Fna, is still to this day, awash with entertainers, storytellers, snake charmers, musicians and food stalls. In fact, the Djemma el Fna is undoubtedly Marrakech's main tourist attraction in the city, offering visitors a step into the past of a life that has changed little over previous centuries, and a taste of real Morocco. The square itself is looked over by the Koutoubia mosque, one of Morocco's finest and another main tourist attraction, richly decorated in Moroccan mosaic tile and beautiful Moorish designs. Visitors often find themselves getting lost in the endless, winding covered markets, where pretty much anything can be found and purchased, from Moroccan tile tables to Moroccan lighting - in fact, everything needed for Moroccan home design. The souk (market) is formed of many different zones, so inside you will find an area that sells spices, leading in to an area selling leather, and then Moroccan tiles, then wooden carvings, etc. Moroccan villas, known as riads, skirt the outside of the medina. Handicrafts are a great buy in the city, and you can frequently see works of art such as Moorish tiles being made for sale before your eyes.

Outside of the medina is Gueliz, the new city, built by the French during the occupation. Its wide boulevards, modern shops and spacious Moroccan villas are a distinct contrast to the traditional old town style of Moroccan property. A little further out of town is the exclusive Palmerie area, with golf courses and luxury riads suitable for retiring millionaires.

Population:

Berbers (native North Africans) still form the majority in Marrakech, closely followed by Arabs and the many western ex-pats, who choose to make the city their home, attracted by the culture, almost endless sunshine and exotic sensory pleasures the city offers. Marrakech is a city with a young population and this is reflected in the endless buzz and bustle of the city.

Crime:

Because of the crowding and the relative poverty that some residents suffer, crime is a feature of the city – however, this tends to be mostly scamming and petty theft, rather than anything more serious. Still, it's a part of the real Morocco you don't want to experience. Beware of your belongings in the main square and markets - so long as you are street-wise, little harm should come of you. If anything does occur, be sure to make a big drama and you will find any desire to attract the police usually sends any undesirables scattering in the opposite direction.

Climate/When to visit:

The climate in Marrakech is usually hot, hot, hot – in winter it's said that the city sees four seasons in one day and you can expect a freezing cold night, followed by a warm, spring-like morning, a hot afternoon, before an evening chill descends. Bear in mind that most Moroccan properties, (even the luxury Moroccan riads) do NOT have central heating - In the summer, temperatures can sit between 40-50º Celcius, and hardly drop in the evening. As such, best times to visit are from early April – late May and mid-September – end October.

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