Marrakech is known as the “Pearl of the South”. Mythic city, cultural, inspiration for artists, Marrakech is a very dynamic city for which I think there is not a middle ground, you either love and come back again and again, because the city is never the same, there are always new places to discover, or you hate it.
As occurred with Fez, there are two well differentiated Marrakech, the modern Marrakech, with wide avenues, new hotels surrounded by gardens and new high standing residential areas, and the traditional Marraketch, which is generally the one that most attracts the travelers, where we´ll be witness of all the hustle and lifestyle of the ancient medina, a scenery full of great colors, textures and smells with the background of snowy Atlas mountains in the background.
Before going into the souk, I must say, that almost all the inescapable places we will visit, except the charming Majorelle Garden and Menara , are located within the old city. The Koutubia is beside the famous Djemaa el Fna square, where even in the morning there is activity. Stop for taking an orange juice is almost tradition in the dozens of stalls in the Square.
The Koutoubia is considered one of the most beautiful monuments of the Maghreb, its balance and sobriety became the model for the Giralda in Seville and the Hassan Tower in Rabat, and is sure to you will pass many times in front of her during your stay. Djemaa el Fna is the heart of the city, and is part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the multitude of atmospheres, events, and stalls that are located at nightfall in the square. It is the meeting place for locals and foreigners, themselves can enjoy storytellers, astrologer and acrobats, and foreigners will be hypnotized by the extras, water sellers, snake charmers, the Gnaouas, or the hundreds of food and drink stalls around the lively square. My advice is that if you do not like the tumult, you better have dinner while contemplating the sunset from the terrace of the restaurants around the square or simple while enjoying a delicious leisurely mint tea. Or to do both trying out one thing each day.
Crossing the square we are already in the souks. Finding your way here is something complicated, during the day, one can simply let go and traverse through their various guilds, taking some reference point, (i.e the Koutubia can be seen from almost anywhere). Another tip is to try to follow a map knowing that the “Spice Square” is pretty much the heart of the Medina.
Here is a great place to break from the vendors, bustle and shopping … and to relax and regain strength. In one of the sides of the square you will find the entrance to the souk of the carpets. A peculiar place in the souk is the area of traditional medicine and magic, where as in Chinese medicine are sold many unguents, and botanical and dissected animal components to prepare spells, or the babouche souk.
In the grounds of La Medina, you also have the Madrasa Ben Youssef, a Koranic school, the Bahia Palace, which reminds so much to the Alhambra, and the Museum of Marrakech if you want to deepen in the art and Moroccan culture.
In the outside of the medina are the Menara Gardens, a place full of magic, serenity and located at the foot of the snowy Atlas peaks. The pavilion was built by the Almohads, and it is reflected on a pond at the front of it which aims to collect the water coming from the mountain and used for watering the olive trees surrounding the area. Depending on the time of the day we will see it in a color or another, but undoubtedly the best time is the end of the day…
Another perfect place to escape the bustle of the Medina is the Majorelle Gardens, an oasis in the middle of the new town, delightful place created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle and later restored and acquired by Yves Saint Laurent. It is a place full of light, colors, birds, flowers and exotic vegetation. All decorated with simple and natural elements and painted with the intense luminous blue known as “Majorelle blue”, very Mediterranean.
Anyway, Marrakech, as I said gives to return several times, and everyone will find its favorite corner in this charismatic city.
By Ana Morales © Copyright 2012- All rights reserved
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