There’s a monkey tugging at my shoulder and someone’s trying to drape a snake around my neck. Morocco’s Desert City
The desert city of Marrakech has been wowing travellers for decades – and its allure remains undimmed. It is the ideal bridge for those hoping for a touch of luxury and those who demand the earthier, more exotic Morocco which takes over even before you’ve breached the city walls.
This year’s fourth Marrakech Biennale starts on 29 February. It comprises five days of performances, talks, debates and film screenings (the latter co-curated by the BBC’s Alan Yentob). The three-month long “Higher Atlas” visual arts exhibition will be based in the ruined El Badi Palace with satellite events around the city, and there’s a week-long installation involving nine African video artists called Medin-O-RAMA.
Djemaa el Fna
The name may mean “Place of the Dead” but this remains the heart and soul of the city. Bounded by souks, cafés and juice stalls, it plays host to entertainers, eateries, storytellers and acrobats. The square’s Café Restaurant Argana was the location, last April, of a bomb blast that killed 16 people. The café is due to reopen within the next few months. An enhanced security presence here is set to remain for the forseeable future. Morocco’s Desert City
The Medina and Souks
The old quarter’s maze of lanes and alleys is home to a compelling mix of boutiques, shops, workshops and bazaars. Shopping and wandering go hand in hand. Morocco’s Desert City
A 19th-century palace built by a former slave-turned-prime minister of the ruling sultan. A series of beautiful courtyards and halls is embellished with every trick and nuance in the Moroccan style-book.
Sometimes known as the Bert Flint Museum. Flint was a Dutch traveller and collector who assembled an impressive array of artefacts and collectables originating not just from Morocco but also the Saharan regions to its south.
Majorelle Garden (jardinmajorelle.com)
This 12-acre botanical garden with surreal cobalt-blue walls was created in the 1920s by French painter Jacques Majorelle. However it was Yves Saint Laurent – who owned it for nearly three decades until his death in 2008 – who lent it prominence.
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How to get to Marrakech from England –Morocco’s Desert City
Daily flights to Marrakech from Heathrow with BMI (0844 848 4888; flybmi.com). Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies from Luton and Stansted. While BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyJet.com) compete from Gatwick.