Now you may think it odd that I am posting about a Moroccan town when I am in Andalucia, but Ryanair now do very cheap flights from Seville airport to Marrakesh and a couple of days there in a riad(townhouse converted to a hotel) can’t be a bad idea! I was there with my two sisters last Spring and it is a shoppers paradise, set in the foothills of the Atlas mountains. So if you want to escape the madness of the city for the peace, coolness and tranquility of the countryside you have options. The souk (market) is so colourful and an amazing experience. Although you take your life in your hands with the young boys whizzing down tiny roads on motorbikes. You need eyes in the back of your head!
It is the fourth largest city in the country after Casablanca, Fez and Rabat. Inhabited by Berber farmers from Neolithic times, the city was founded in 1062. In the 12th century, the Almoravids built many Koranic schools and mosques in Marrakesh that bear Andalusian influences. So the Spanish ambience is there too. The red walls of the city were built in 1122-1123 and various buildings were constructed in red sandstone during this period. This has given the city the nickname of the “Red City” or “Ochre City”.
Tourism is strongly advocated by the reigning Moroccan monarch Mohammed VII, with the goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Morocco to 20 million by 2020. Despite the economic recession, real estate and hotel development in Marrakesh has grown dramatically in the 21st century. Marrakesh is particularly popular with the French and numerous French celebrities own property in the city. Obviously since the principal language is French. Marrakesh has the largest traditional Berber market (souk) in Morocco, with some 18 souks selling wares ranging from traditional Berber carpets to modern consumer electronics. Crafts employ a significant percentage of the population, who primarily sell their products to tourists. Be aware that if you accept coffee or tea negotiations are afoot for purchase, so get your bartering head on!
I must say, as a ‘foodie’ I love the food portion of the souk. Saffron is so cheap (but know your product or you could be sold coloured grass) and Ras al hanout (top of the shop) is a mix of anything up to 35 spices to add to tagines (stews). Every shop has it’s own recipe and are proud of their particular mix.
Morocco is not for everyone with beggars and touts everywhere but if you are OK with that you will love the experience of being such a short distance from Spain but feeling that you are in a VERY foreign land.