When visiting Marrakech you will experience a city which is chaotic and calm. I’ve put together a quick blog post setting out what to expect…

Visiting Marrakech: a city of contrast

Bustling, busy, chaotic. Charming, colourful, alive. After the relative calm of the Atlas Mountains I descended into the madness of Marrakech.
 
Before visiting Marrakech I had asked friends how they had found it. I found their opinions polarised. Some had loved it, whilst others had been less than complementary. I had mixed views myself and, as I write this some six months later, I still haven’t quite managed to reconcile my feelings.
 
Visiting Marrakech was an interesting experience to say the least. I would recommend giving it a go, if only so you can decide whether you like it for yourself! If you are interested in paying Marrakech a visit, check out this travel guide with a list of things to do.
Visiting Marrakech - Hustle and Bustle of the Souks

Hustle and bustle in Marrakech

At street level the densely populated souks are almost suffocating, however there are small oases of calm which exist around the city. When you find one you will come up for air (literally in some cases). The moped fumes at ground level can become suffocating. Finding the calm and tranquility of a roof top terrace, museum or garden is pure bliss.
It is a real shame that the Medina isn’t pedestrianised. Locals zoom past on their mopeds as you explore the narrow alleyways and souks inside the Medina. Aside from the obvious dangers that this poses, the exhaust fumes are suffocating. I dread to think how bad it is for people working at the market stalls, exposed to the fumes day after day. 
 
The other annoyance are the minority of locals who will lie about directions. They’ll approach uninvited and insist that you can’t go down a particular passageway because there is a Mosque down there. Ignore them, it’s a scam. Likely they will then take you an alternative route to wherever you are going and expect payment. It became a real bugbear after a while! It is something to be aware of and look out for, especially for the less savvy or solo travellers.
Visiting Marrakech - the souks

Exploring the souks on foot

I’m conscious that I may not have painted a particularly positive picture. But don’t let the first half of this article put you off. Read on for the happy ending (no, not like that… You filthy people!).
 
Marrakech is unique and there is an awful lot to keep visitors busy. Explore the dense, thriving souks in search of traditional Moroccan pottery, leather goods and trinkeys. Sample some of the delightful culinary dishes. Gaze at the architecture, the pinnacle being the spectacular Koutoubia Mosque. Check out the art work or relax with a traditional Hammam. 
Visiting Marrakech - Majorelle Garden

The Majorelle Garden

Marrakech is very much a city of contrasts: the chaos at street level versus the calm above. I loved finding a quiet terrace, a few levels above the street, to enjoy a pot of mint tea and people watch from. In those moments, it is hard to believe that you are in the same place that is home to the chaotic souks.
 
I also found a similar contrast in the people. The majority of the cafe and restaurant owners were very jovial, welcoming and friendly. At other times there was aggression, to a point which spilled over into hostility.
Visiting Marrakech - Ben Youssef Madrasa

Calm and colour in the Ben Youssef Madrasa

My favourite time to experience Marrakech was in the early evening, around sunset. We would grab a spot on one of the terraces overlooking the main square and soak in the atmosphere. It is a special experience. Music drifts up from below: arabic chants, harmonica riffs, the steady unrelenting beat of the drums keeping time. Steam and smoke rise from the open grills into the night sky. The aromas of kebabs and spices greeting my nose. This is the Marrakech I had imagined. Story tellers tell, hustlers hustle, entertainers entertain. 

Every so often a stillness would fall across the city as the calls for prayer begin. The call migrates from one mosque to another and a variety of chants fill the night air. Then, as quickly as they had begun the calls fade. Once again the hustle and bustle takes over.

Visiting Marrakech - sunset

The Koutoubia Mosque, backdropped by a vibrant sunset.

If you’ve been to Marrakech, let me know your thoughts: did you like it? Would you go back? What were your highlights?

By CHRIS BURCHILL

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