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Marrakech guide
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Last updated : Nov 2009
Marrakech Travel Guide
Marrakech Travel Guide and Marrackech Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
The very name Marrakech conjures up images of an exotic, distant city, of hot desert winds blowing in from the Sahara desert, of magic carpets and snake charmers and of spices and perfumes brought in by the camel trains. Marrakech, set within the rose-coloured walls of the medina lies a reality that is not that far removed – a labyrinth of many snaking streets that open onto lush tropical gardens and alleyways leading to lively souks.

The focal point of the city is the central square, the Jemaa-el-Fna, an amazing gathering place and the social centre of the city that at dusk offers a landscape little changed since the medieval times. And towering over all this is the Koutoubia mosque, the tallest building in Marrakech, and a reminder of the importance of Islam to the lives of the city's residents.

Along with Méknes, Fez and Rabat, Marrakech is 1 of Morocco’s 4 Imperial Cities. Founded around 1062 by the Berber Almoravids and soon became the capital of the Islamic empire that reached from central Spain to West Africa. The Almoravid conquest of southern Spain led to an exchange of culture investing this isolated desert enclave of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Andalucia and something that it has retained a feel for today.

There followed a succession of ruling dynasties - the Almohads left an architectural legacy of a variety of Marrakech’s best-known landmarks, which include el Mansour mosques and the Koutoubia. Next, the Merinids who turned their attentions to the city of Fez, leading Marrakech into an era of provincial dejection, but the coming of the Sa’adians spelled a turnaround in the city's fortunes. Trade was enlivened and the legacy of the magnificent Sa’adian tombs was left for tourists to enjoy today. However, the long period of Alaouite governance turned the tables against the city again. Early 17th-century ruler Moulay Ismail went as far as stripping the gold and marble from Marrakech’s beautiful Badi Palace in order to lavish his new capital, Méknes, with yet more glamour.

The early 20th-century French influence can be seen in the Art Deco commercial area of Guéliz to the northwest. But the most meaningful legacy of this colonial rule is the French language, which is still spoken by all of the educated Moroccans. Finally, a wide range of pleasure-seekers, from the glamorous to the distinctly insalubrious, left their mark on the city after World War II. Winston Churchill, Yves Saint Laurent and the Rolling Stones rubbed shoulders with hippies, American beat writers and the new breed of visitors keen to see what all the fuss was about.

Today, the major focus of Marrakech continues to be the Jemaa-el-Fna, which comes to life after dark and is a riot of enticing colour, noise and smells, with the fire-eaters, dancers, snake charmers, acrobats and fortune-tellers. Rows of trestle tables are set up in the evening to serve up boiled snails, barbecued kebabs, mouthwatering tajines and a host of more or less appetising other foodstuffs. Around this vast open space stretch the shadowy alleyways of the souks - a vast marketplace selling carpets and candles, herbs and potions, spices, jewellery, meat and metalwork.

This Islamic city, Marrakech is in a male-dominated society, however, Morocco is one of the more liberal Muslim countries and the government is quite anxious to show itself as a progressive state. King Mohammed VI is energetically promoting women education and disadvantaged groups such as the Berbers, the indigenous population of the Atlas Mountains.

Marrakech is attractively located at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, snow-capped through much of the year in contrast to the desert heat of the city. Summers can be sweltering hot, but winter is bright and crisp, while autumn brings delicious fresh produce into the markets and spring sees the Atlas Mountains covered with beautiful flowering gardens.