By Jenna Wittenberg
Getting lost in the maze that is Marrakech is less of a possibility and more like a common occurrence. The crowded streets of Medina, the old town, are a labyrinth of secret passages and alleyways, lines with snake charmers, palaces and the sounds of castanets as women dance around selling water. The mystery of the old town and the charm of the new town make for a city that will send you back in time and never wanting to return to the 21st century.
Djemaa el-fna is the highlight of any Marrakech adventure. During the day the square is filled with snake charmers and monkeys all dressed up in little outfits. But the real show stopper is the food. The food carts that take over the square are commonly misconstrued as tourist gimmicks but the stalls have actually been around far before Marrakech became the tourist destination it is today. They have been enjoyed by locals for many years. At night Djemaa el-fna becomes even more alive with story tellers, musicians and dancers who add to the already euphoric atmosphere.
Next to Djemaa El-fna the souks, or markets, are home to some of the greatest treasure you could ever spend twenty minutes bargaining for. Rugs to spices and leather goods to tea kettles, just about anything you can thank of, you can buy here. As a foreigner be ready to have to bargain harder than the locals but because the sellers here are less aggressive that other countries it’s more like a competitive game than an annoying hassle.
When you’re done eating and shopping there is still plenty of sightseeing to do in the medina as well. The Saadian Tombs, discovered only 100 years ago, are filled with beautiful Moroccan tiles and decorations that appear to have gone practically untouched for centuries. The Koutoubia Mosque is sometimes called the Eiffel Tower of Marrakech and at night it is obvious why. The mosque is lit perfectly to show off its architecture and beauty. If a little break is needed from the craziness and excitement of the street, check out the Majorelle Gardens where plants from all over the world are gathered and arranged to make this 12 acre piece of art. The many palaces that are often filled with tour groups and stray cats are always a must see during any trip to Marrakech.
When staying in Marrakech bypass any hotels and head straight for one of many riads that offer authentic and affordable rooms all throughout Morocco. The riads generally house about 4-6 rooms and accommodate about 15 guests. The friendly, family-run atmosphere of most riads make for a more personalized and enjoyable experience. The bright colors, Moroccan tiles, and jumbo floor cushions are the perfect backdrop for a an early morning breakfast or a night or relaxation.