Travel Destination MarrakeshPublished: 10/01/2013
Marrakesh is located to the north of the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. It is the fourth largest city in the country of Morocco and a major city in this northwest African nation. It was founded in 1062 by Abu Bakr ibn Umar. In the 12th century many mosques and madrasas (Koranic schools) were built by the Almoravids. The red walls of the city, built by Ali ibn Yusuf in 1122-1123 have given the city the nickname of the ‘Red City’ due to its ochre colour.
Marrakesh has an arid climate with summers that are blisteringly hot. Winters are warm to cool and springs and autumns, pleasantly hot. All year round rainfall is low and the sun is almost constantly shining. At night time there is always a huge decrease in temperatures.
The city has two distinct parts: the old city and the modern city which comprises the commercial quarter and leafy residential district. It is an Islamic city which is largely male-dominated but is also one of the most liberal and cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East. Taxis here are very cost effective, charging only 15 to 30 dirhams to the city centre from most hotel locations.
Djemma El Fna is the famous ancient square at the heart of the city and the focal point of Marrakesh. Dancers, musicians and snake charmers, among other entertainers attract locals and tourist to the square by day and especially by night. For shoppers and bargain hunters the city’s souk district adjoins the square and has different sections linked by a network of narrow lanes. Most traders speak more than one language and often will identify your nationality before you even open your mouth!
Some must-see attractions include the Majorelle Gardens, the Medersa Ben Youssef (school), the Dar si Said museum, the Koutoubia mosque and the El Bahia and El Badi palaces. For the avid golfer, Marrakesh is quickly becoming a leading destination with six courses, a couple of which offer 36 holes, and others in the pipelines.
Subject to Berber, Moorish and Arab influences, Moroccan cuisine is extremely refined. The most familiar Moroccan dishes include couscous, beef and lamb dishes and some poultry. Pastilla, Tajine, Tanjia and Harira. Salads include both raw and cooked foods and desserts are usually comprised of seasonal fruits rather than cooked desserts. Some common desserts are kaab el ghzal (a pastry stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar), halwa shebakia (pretzel-shaped dough deep fried with honey and sesame seeds) and coconut fudge cakes. The most popular drink is green tea with mint and the street snack and fast food trade is a long-standing tradition.
When invited to dine at the residence of locals, always leave your shoes at the door, do bring a token of thanks but don’t bring a hot dish or salad. Make sure you wear clean socks and don’t say ‘wow’. Do say ‘tbarkellah’. This is form of praise to the Creator who Moroccans prefer to give thanks to. Learn everyone’s name, don’t just talk about yourself, don’t wander and don’t hog the meat!
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