A land of contrasting and complementing sights, Marrakesh in Morocco sits on the foothills of the snowcapped Altas Mountains, just a few hours from the edge of the grand Sahara Desert. Once an important resting and trading place for ancient caravans en route to Timbuktu, the city today presents a barrage of vibrant sensory delights that leave its visitors in a jubilant stupor, equally confused and beguiled.
Marrakesh offers so much to see that it typically takes several days just to get a glimpse of its top destinations. For bargain hunters, the labyrinthine Medina is easily Marrakech’s main attraction. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, this historical section of the city features souk stalls for shoppers of all kinds. In addition to being a market for shoes, perfume, spice, leather, and carpentry tools, the old city also boasts an old-fashioned tannery.
For a people-viewing experience like no other, head to Djemma El Fna. A former venue for public executions, the square is now filled with exuberant energy and inhabited by musicians, storytellers, snake charmers, fortune tellers, and performers.
Marrakesh architecture is nothing short of astounding. Koutoubia Mosque, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, is a sight to behold. Here you will find a 77-meter (253-foot) tall minaret, while the oldest mosque in the city, Medersa Ben Youssef, dazzles with its stalactite ceilings, fine zellige tiling, and graceful arches. Untouched for hundreds of years, the Saadian Tombs showcase intricately arranged Moroccan tiles and exudes an atmosphere of solemnity. For a more thorough viewing of the local architectural style, you can visit the lovely Marrakesh Museum and the Dar Si Said Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts.
The search for the sublime does not end with the city’s mosques and palaces. If you’re willing to leave the comforts of Marrakesh for a while, Toubkal National Park and the mountain village of Imlil some 57 kilometers south of the city will prove to be a worthwhile conquest.
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