A city guide to Marrakech

Morocco, and especially its capital Marrakech, has long been on many a must-see list of places to visit. Flamboyant fabrics, eclectic colours and the inevitable smell of spice hanging in the air are seductive and, though located in North Africa, it really isn’t as far as many would believe.

Marrakech

A forgettable 3.5 hour flight time will transport you from London’s rain to Morocco’s scorching sunshine and only travelling one hour ahead means the jetlag should be non-existent. With daily flights now available between most U.K. airports and Marrakech, you’ve really no excuse not to tick this off your own personal list.

Where to stay

Reopened in 2010, La Mamounia is as fabulous and flamboyant as its reputation would suggest. Since the 1700s when the Alaouite Sultan, Sidi Mohamed ben Abdellah, offered his sons a domain as a wedding present, the gardens of this historic hotel have been filled with festive music and exitiuc flora and fauna. Its décor is a stunning blend of Arabo-Andalusian with old-world charm, (think Bedouin chic). Gilded, gold and inexplicably ornate, every inch of the hotel is mosaiced, tiled, wallpapered, or sparkling in one precious metal or other. The spa offers the requisite, traditional Moroccan “Hammam,” a full-body treatment that should, by recommendation, be followed by a full-body massage. A type of steam bath and massage in one, spa lovers who sign up for the Hammam are scrubbed from top to toe. You’ll literally leave the spa sparkling inside and out.

Where to drink

To expereince an old favourite, the belly dancers and sweeping staircases of Le Comptoir Darna are sure to thrill. It’s been open for over a decade, but it still pulls the crowd; only minutes in this buzzing hub and you’ll see why. If you’re after something even bigger and racier, nearby Theatro in the Es Saadi hotel is a refurbished theatre that serves resplendent cocktails in a very fine setting indeed.

Where to eat

Al Fassia Aguedal is known for its Fez-inspired cuisine (think lots of tagine and couscous). With its female-only chefs and Pidgeon pastilla, it’s well worth a look-in for authentic food in the Rose City (as Marrakech is known, owing to the gorgeous light pink hue that envelopes the city, especially at dusk and dawn).

Where to hike

Marrakech is bordered by the spectacular Atlas Mountains and their resident Berber people. If the dust and continual bustle of Marrakech’s souk gets all too much, the fresh air and sensational calm of the surrounding mountains will make for a welcome respite. The Kasbah Timdaf in the High Atlas Mountains is a reasonable and very gorgeous eco-friendly Riad, perfect for a good night’s kip at the end of a day’s exploration. Immersed amidst almond and olive trees, you’ll be hard pushed to head back into the city.

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