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In the 11th century, ruler Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar set out to build a brand new capital on the floodplains of the Transift River. This city would become Marrakech. With the former political centre, Aghmat, becoming overcrowded, Abu-Bakr chose a neutral location between warring tribes for the new settlement.
The Almohads later took over Marrakech and under their sultan, Yusuf bin Tashfin. In the 12th century, work was begun on a mosque suitable for the capital of en empire, resulting in the Koutoubia Mosque, whose minaret is still standing at almost 70 metres tall and was the inspiration for countless other religious towers in Europe.
In the following centuries, Fez was preferred to Marrakech as the capital, and the latter fell into disrepair. In the 16th century, the Saadians took Morocco and set about reviving the city, building a large number of ornate buildings including the magnificent Al Bedi Palace. Under the Saadians it again became capital and the country's most important city. Sadly that did not last long and the administrative centre of Morocco reverted to Fez. A new phase of development began n the early 20th Century after the French’s arrival, who ruled Morocco as a protectorate until independence in 1956. A new city with a definite European flavour was constructed outside the walls of the old medina, called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle. Today it offers the more modern trappings of chain restaurants and department stores as an alternative to the medina's historic charm.
Overflowing with exotic colours, sights, and smells, a holiday in Marrakech is nothing less than a full-frontal assault on the senses. Snake charmers, storytellers, and ubiquitous street merchants all fight for your attention in the old city or medina.
This Moroccan city has been a bustling hive of commerce for centuries, nestled in the shade of the majestic Atlas Mountains. Rich in its own traditions along with those added more recently by the French, Marrakech remains a vibrant destination quite unlike any other.
Book your flight to Marrakech today for a once in a lifetime experience.
The best time to visit Marrakech is from November to February, when most days average 20Â°C. Nights can be cool during December and January, so prepare by bringing warmer clothes for evening outings. If you visit Marrakech from June through September, be prepared for temperatures that range from 30 to 40Â°C. Avoid visiting during major holidays like Christmas and Easter, when the crowds can be overwhelming. To experience authentic Moroccan culture, visit Marrakech during the feasting at the end of Ramadan, or come for the Prophet Mohammed's birthday and a festival called AÃ¯d el Mouloud.
If you don't have much time to explore the city, you can hire a guide to lead you through the maze of covered market streets and provide cultural insights.
Check out a private collection of artefacts from Morocco and around Africa, which are owned by Bert Flint.
Next to the world-famous Kasbah Mosque, you can spend an afternoon wandering among the ancient and ornate Saadian Tombs.
If you don't mind the smell, you can watch tanners at work in this small district, where artisans have been practicing for centuries.
Buy beautiful leather bags for bargain prices at Chez Said, which offers a range of handcrafted styles.
Set within easy reach of the medina is the Hivernage Boutique Hotel And Spa, a luxury retreat from the enjoyable chaos of old Marrakech. This modern 85-room hotel sits on a pleasant palm tree-lined street in the affluent Hivernage neighbourhood, near the medina and the airport. Well-decorated rooms offer air conditioning, balcony, satellite television, and Internet access, the hotel also boasts the Well Being Philosophy Spa and Fitness Centre. It offers traditional Turkish baths, massages, a swimming pool, a sports hall, and a gym. Two restaurants up the finest in Moroccan and international cuisine.
Within the grounds of Riad Ajmal it is easy to forget that you are in the centre of one of the world's liveliest cities. Formerly a house for nobility, this tranquil retreat features a pool, a solarium, and a hammam for traditional bathing. Located in the medina, it is just a few minutes walk from the Djemaa el-Fna.
Set outside the city, Eden Andalou has the feel of an oasis stumbled upon in the desert. Its luxurious suites are set in octagonal villas arranged around the site and come equipped with all the modern conveniences that today's traveller could wish for. With a spa on site and Marrakech just a short drive away, this hotel offers the best of both worlds.
Facing the ancient ramparts and luxuriant royal gardens of Agdal, Kenzi Menara Palace offers an enviable situation in Marrakech. being just ten minutes from all principal tourist attractions of Marrakech and its environs, the hotel in equidistant from the atmospheric place Jamaa El Fna.
Marrakech is served by Menara Airport, a 20-minute drive to the southwest of the city. There are plenty of taxis (known as petit taxis) available to transport you into town. There is no airport bus. A public bus that runs from close to the airport into the city is an option, but service is infrequent. Many hotels or riads will organise transfers to pick you up at the airport, a safer bet for first-time visitors.
As well as petit taxis, which are just like individual cabs, grand taxis are also available to take you to your hotel in Marrakech. These hold up to six people and run on specified routes in the city, sticking to fixed fares. The petit taxis do have metres, so make sure your cab’s is running or partake in some traditional Marrakech haggling before you set off in order to secure an off-meter price. While petit taxis can be hailed down on the street, your best bet for picking up a grand taxi is from a popular destination like the bus station, Gueliz post office, or Djemaa el-Fna.
The Caleche – a quaint horse-drawn carriage – can seem a little out of place in Marrakech, but they are a popular and slightly eccentric way to visit the city’s main sights. You can find them outside of the big hotels and main tourists sites, the hour-and-a-half tour of the ramparts is particularly popular. Be prepared to haggle if there is no fixed price.
Within the medina, your own two feet are the only method of transportation you will need, but if you want to explore other parts of the city or head for the mountains or the coast, consider Marrakech car hire.
Run by the Chab family, Al Fassia (55 bd. Mohammed Zerktouni) is as known for its food as for its hiring policy; the restaurant's staff is comprised solely of women. Chef Halima Chab offers fresh and exciting dishes without steering too far away from stalwarts of Moroccan cuisine like the ubiquitous and delicious tagine. The restaurant even serves pigeon, in the form of chaara medfouna; finely chopped and served in pastry with nuts and cinnamon. It is easy to forget that you are eating the same bird you see across the UK.
A great place for lunch or an early evening snack is Café des Epices (Rahba Qedima Derb Debachi). If you have had a tough day haggling at the souks, take a break here and make your way to the terrace where you can view all of the hustle and bustle in peace with a refreshing cup of mint tea. As locals shop for herbs, spices, and strange potions down below, enjoy one of the café’s fresh salads or sandwiches.
Head to El Bab (Rue Mohamed el Beqqual) for an alternative Marrakech’s exquisite street food. The restaurant of the boutique hotel of the same name, the man behind this place is French chef Hadrien Villedieu, who previously plied his trade at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. With a white minimalist feel, the dining room owes more to modern Parisian style than anything North Africa has to offer. The food, however, does take Morocco as its inspiration and the seafood dishes are the highlight.
There are no obligatory vaccinations for a trip to Marrakech. Recommended vaccinations include boosters in the vaccination schedule, including polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, rabies (for out of the way locations), hepatitis A for all visits, and hepatitis B just for frequent or longer-term trips. For health issues, visit private clinics, which are equipped to handle all but very specialised problems.
Water is drinkable in urban areas, but should be filtered before drinking in rural areas. A number of brands of bottled water are available. Road accidents and snakebites are other potential health concerns.
For the police dial 19 and for the fire department 15 For an ambulance call SAMU (ERS): (24) 43 30 30, Trari: (24) 30 12 97/ (24) 42 69 81. Pharmacies include: Central Pharmacy: (166 bd Mohammed V): (24) 43 01 58. Paris Pharmacy (120 bd Mohammed V): (24) 44 76 63. Clinics: South Polyclinic (2 Yougoslavia Street): (24) 44 79 99/ (24) 44 83 72. Ibn Tofail Hospital: (24) 43 63 53/ 43 87 18. Koutoubia Clinic (Paris Street): (24) 43 85 85. Chifa clinic (officially agreed by CFE), 4 Ibn Toumert Street, (24) 43 30 06.