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Marrakesh, an oasis in the desert below snow-capped mountains

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Marla Martin |
Marrakesh
The Kingdom of Morocco   A city shimmering under the hot African sun

Some 20 miles from the foot of the Atlas mountains there is one of the imperial cities of Morocco, a place where 130,000 hectares of plants and 180,000 palm trees create a contrast with mountains under snow. Welcome to Marrakesh, the place where the desert meets great beauty.


AlesundThere are places for which they say "Visit it once and you will come back again" but there are just a few of them that live to the promise. Marrakesh is one of them. Founded on the edge of the Sahara desert some 1000 years ago, Marrakesh is one of the greatest cities of the western Africa, living its life of a Berber-founded city mixed with intense modern life. Indeed, a local hammam is a must, but you'll have no problem finding the five-star hotel with all modern amenities. And Starbucks, like you're in New York.

Medina alleyHere, there is something for everyone. For those who love to discover local culture, the Medina is the place to see, no doubt about it. If you love nature, this is the city to start your adventure to High Atlas region. If you are into history, there are museums and monuments that show a range of pieces, from ancient history to modern art. And if you are into shopping, have no fear: you'll find plenty of places and range of things you can bring home with you.

A day in the souksAs it is the case with many cities of similar culture, Marrakesh has an endless labyrinth of souks where you can find million of things. Those souks comprise alley upon alley of small cubicles where merchants display their goods. And while you wander around trying to soak up that kaleidoscope of colors and activity, the sound of prayers coming from the mosque minarets, bicycle bells and sellers voices, you'll realise you have already blended into its unique Moroccan atmosphere.

GuelizWhen you hear "Balak!" - "Watch out!" - step aside. The rickshaw and cart drivers have no intention to change their direction so it's better to let them pass than to insist that's your part of the street. Gueliz district, with its Paris-like boulevards, Royal theatre, famed Majorelle Gardens and modern shops full of international brands, feels like you have stepped into another world far away from musicians, story tellers, snake charmers, and the hot food stalls lit in the evening to attract a hungry walker.

La Mamounia hotelAfter hours of walking on the hot sun, the Arset El-Mamoun gardens with orange and olive trees, and all kinds of plants people love to see living so close to the desert offer welcome shade. Rest your soul and feed your senses in La Mamounia hotel best known for its celebrity guests. Sip excellent tea, taste moreish delicacies, have a great lunch at a poolside restaurant and enjoy the life. Oh yes, Putin’s daughter had her wedding there. Just an info for a chit chat while enjoying fantastic ice-cream and strowberies.

Bahia PalaceThen head to Koutoubia Mosque, the most famous landmark in Marrakesh. It has 70 meters tall minaret which makes it visible from kilometers away. In the old times the muezzin had to be blind because the minaret was taller then the ruler's harem. So the legend goes. When you feel ready to go and explore further your next stop could be the Bahia Palace. With rooms opening onto courtyards and gardens filled with the fragrance of jasmin and orange flower, this palace acquired a reputation as one of the finest in Morocco.

An interior courtyardThe architecture of Marrakesh landmarks is impressive, indeed. Its traditional courtyarded homes based on the Roman villa, with a large interior garden surrounded by high walls, and the surviving gates to the medina built more than 800 years ago, still impress the visitors. Learn a piece of history and visit The Maison de la Photographie. The museum hosts rotating exhibitions of more than 6,000 photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century and the salon on its roof offers great views.

Cyber ParkAfter that, the Mohammed V avenue that stretches from the Koutoubia Mosque through the new city of Marrakesh, is the place to walk around if you can't live without modern amenities. Here you can find modern shops, see familiar brands, and visit the 18th century Cyber Park with free Wi-Fi and an air-conditioned cybercafe. An evening cup of tea in one the city's luxury hotels will make the day complete while distant mountains under snow are already calling for a new adventure.


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