Marrakech, a former imperial city in western Morocco, is a major economic center and home to mosques, palaces and gardens. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city dating to the Berber Empire, with mazelike alleys where thriving souks (marketplaces) sell traditional textiles, pottery and jewelry. A symbol of the city and visible for miles, is the Moorish minaret of 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque.
Red baked-mud medina palaces beneath the snow-capped High Atlas and a powder-pink ring of ramparts around 19 kilometers of seething souqs, Marrakech is Morocco’s most memorable experience. Founded almost 1000 years ago on the edge of the Sahara, this southern market town grew to become one of the great cities of the Maghreb and a Unesco Heritage site to boot. But Marrakech isn’t some petrified piece of history that tourists come to gawk at, it’s bursting at the seems with an intense density of life and a modern entrepreneurialism that puts Manhattanites to shame. This isn’t a place where you can gracefully glide through. Instead you’ll find yourself telling jokes with snake charmers, dining outdoors in the Djemaa el-Fna, hankering after the latest henna tattoos and getting a hands-on scrub down in the local hammam. Pause for unexpected beauty and banter often with multi-lingual locals, because what are the chances you’ll come this way again?
There is nowhere in Morocco like the Jemaa el Fna Square – no place that so easily involves you and allows you to stay coming back for more. By day, most of the place is just a large open space, where a handful of snakes charming bewitched their cobras with flutes, medical men (especially in the north-east of the square) display cures and Panaceous and tooth-pullers, wielding fearsome claws, offering to wrest pain from the heads of people suffering from toothache, trays of extracts attesting molars their skills.
It's only in the afternoon that the square really happens. At dusk, as in France and Spain, people go out for a walk early evening (especially in the street Bab Agnaou) and the place fills up little by little until it becomes a carnival all of storytellers, Acrobats, musicians and artists. Go down and you will soon be immersed in the ritual: wandering around, crouching in the midst of spectator circles, giving a dirham or two as your contribution. If you want a break, you can walk to the rooftop terraces, such as the Grand Balcon Café, for a view of the square, its storytellers and musicians and the crowds that come to see them.
The airport code TNG is closest For Marrakech, Morocco.
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