26th Aug 2012 8:37am | By Laura Chubb
Marrakech is pure chaos, so be brave and dive in.
10:00 Head straight for the centre of the action at Djemaa el-Fna – the city’s main square – and run the gauntlet of snake charmers and donkey carts, while doing your best to avoid the hawkers thrusting everything from orange juice and hash pipes to henna in your face.
The square is one of the busiest in Africa and even the world. Call it culture shock therapy; you’ll be ready to face anything in Marrakech after this.
11:30 Make a beeline for the backstreets of the medina, or fortified old town. This warren of winding lanes boasts row upon row of shops selling trinkets and lines of donkeys bumping dawdlers out of the way.
Wander the labyrinth of souks (markets) and do your best not to get dragged into a carpet shop.
12:30 Cool off by heading south of Djemaa el-Fna towards the Kasbah, a calmer part of the medina. It’s around here that you’ll find Badi Palace (near Place des Ferblantiers; entrance 71p), once a great 16th-century royal residence resplendent in gold, turquoise and crystal, and now a sandy-coloured ruin.
A must-visit here is Koutoubia Minbar (add another 71p), a beautifully crafted prayer pulpit with cedar wood steps and decorative designs created from gold, silver and ivory. Head high to enjoy great views over the medina.
13:30 Grab some lunch from one of the Kasbah’s food stalls, so that there’s a chance of eating in (relative) peace. Kebabs and cous-cous are perfect for filling up fast, and shouldn’t cost you more than a couple of quid.
14:30 Seek out the Kasbah’s Saadian Tombs (near Kasbah Mosque; entrance 71p). These restored resting places date back to the time of sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603).
The legendary ruler imported Italian marble and insisted on pure gold archways for the Chamber of the 12 Pillars.
15:30 For a major change of pace, wander the Jardin Majorelle (entrance about £2). A tropical garden filled with fountains, peaceful pools, bamboo forests and cacti, it’s a relaxing retreat from the mayhem outside. Rest and regroup.
16:30 An essential Marrakech experience is wandering the ramparts – the old city walls, made from mudbrick in the 12th century. There are ancient gates along the way, which look particularly pretty at sunset, when the fading light gives them a magical orange hue.
18:30 Head back to Djemaa el-Fna, which turns into a food market come nightfall. Indulge in sizzling barbecued meat and special tajines (a Berber stew cooked in a clay pot) for a few pounds. There’s dinnertime entertainment, with drummers, bellydancers and musicians vying for attention.
20:30 There aren’t many bars serving up alcohol in the medina as Marrakech is mostly Islamic, but if you’re pining for a pint, try the Chesterfield Pub in the Hotel Nassim (115 Avenue Mohammed V).
Though intended as an imitation Brit boozer, it’s a touch more exotic than your typical spit n’ sawdust drinking den, with a courtyard boasting underlit pool and palm trees. Serves up decent Moroccan lager.
22:00 If that’s whet your appetite for a big night, queue up for international superclub Pacha. Entry is about £15, but drinks are expensive.
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