Crazy, hot, dusty, colourful – Marrakesh is a Berber town with a merchant’s heart. The Djemaa el-Fna, a square in the centre of the medina, is the irrepressable heart of the city and the scene of an astounding carnival each and every night. Located just outside the massive souk, or market, this is where the action happens all day long, although at dusk the Djemaa el-Fna literally comes alive in a riot of food stalls, orange juice vendors, snake charmers, henna artists, acrobats and apothecaries. It is not, under any circumstances, to be missed.
Morocco’s premier Arab city, Fes is home to a million people and more than a thousand alleyways, some not even wide enough for two people to walk shoulder-to-shoulder. Apart from being Morocco’s Muslim heart, Fes is also a shopper’s delight where you don’t just haggle with the stall holders you can get to meet the craftsman – from the workers slogging away in the legendary pungent tanneries, to the potters, carpet weavers and specialist mosaic makers.
Nothing quite prepares you for that first glance of true African sand dunes and the best place to see them in Morocco is at Erg Chebbi, near Merzouga. Stay at one of the 20 or so auberges on the edge of the dunes with Berber hosts who will organise for you to sleep under the incredible night sky before waking you up before the sun so you can ride a camel up the dunes and see the most unforgettable sunrise of your life.
Whether you’re looking for a one of a kind Moroccan carpet, some bejewelled babouches (leather slippers), colourful scarves or some special spices, Morocco is a shoppers paradise. You’ll pay a descent penny for the quality stuff, but the good news is it’s still a fraction of the cost of what it would cost you at home, and you can get the price down further by trying your hand at haggling.
No visit to Morocco is complete without paying a visit to the traditional bathhouse. They’re segregated and are a great place to mix with locals, especially for women. They’ll be plenty of hot water and some hammams will also offer staff who can help scrub you clean.