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Travel Guide: Morocco's best cities

8th Nov 2011 1:54am | By Editor

So you’ve spent a few days escaping the crowds of the big cities but these seething masses of human traffic are popular for a reason. They offer the quintessential Moroccan experience of medinas, souks, mosques and stunning architecture.

WORDS: Justin Walley

Marrakesh

Certainly the most famous and notorious of the bunch, Marrakesh some say has sold its soul to tourism. But who can’t help but be enthralled by  a magical night spent in the huge square Djemaa  el-Fna where snake charmers, storytellers, locals  and tourists gather? Fill your stomach with some of the wonderful delights on offer from the open-air food stalls, and soak up the insane atmosphere of this bizarre spectacle.

Fes

Aside from the Djemaa el-Fna, the medinas in Marrakesh come a poor second in comparison to Fes, the largest medieval city in the Islamic world. This city of one million people is ready to attack your senses like no other place in Morocco. If you arrive here fresh from Europe, you might feel inclined to run to your hotel room after an hour or two to take a breather. A visit to its incredible medina, Fes el-Bali, will likely stay with you for many years. Here donkeys laden with goods vie for space in the congested narrow, winding alleyways. Turn one corner and you might find yourself in sight of one of the city’s many tanneries and dye pits. Take another turn and you will be dizzied by the noise and scents all around you while standing outside a medersa, mosque or traditional family workshop.

Meknes

Alternatively, if Marrakesh is too touristy for you  and Fes a little bit too ninth-century, then consider  a trip to Meknes, just an hour away from Fes. This attractive imperial city packs in all the best features of urban Morocco and yet remains blissfully more laid-back and friendlier than Marrakesh and Fes. You’re far less likely to get pressured to ‘buy, I give you special price’ within the narrow alleyways of its attractive medina, meaning you’ll feel more inclined to wander the city’s colourful streets without wanting to run and hide in the sanctuary of your  air-conditioned hotel room.