Marrakech, known as the Red city because of the colour of the light reflecting off it’s pink shaded buildings, is the second largest city in Morocco with a population of just over one million. It is a city alive with vibrant culture and rich history, it has many peaceful gardens, lively souks and friendly people. But to me most of all this is a city of sight, sound and smell.
Exploring the old fortified city, the medina, on foot is ideal although the streets are noisy and chaotic and crossing the street is not for the fainthearted. You will contest for space with busses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, donkey cars, donkeys, wheelbarrows and a number of other unidentified objects with wheels.
In the medina you will find the main square Djemaa El-Fna, which is overlooked by the bell tower of the famous Koutoubia mosque. By day Djemaa El-Fna is bustling with people weaving around one another and past bright fruit and juice stalls scattered across the square. The enchanting sounds of snake charmers’ flutes rise up from all corners of the square and it is impossible to escape the wonderfully rich smell of oriental spices as it drifts past. By night the square is magically transformed into a large open air food fare with bright lights and colourful food stalls.
From one of the corners of the square a small street leads you into the labyrinth of alleys that is arguably the most popular souks of Morocco. The friendly shop owners will try to lure you closer in an attempt to sell you not only bright Moroccan lamps, local handmade carpets and kilims and exotic spices but also many things you would probably never consider buying. It is easy to see how, if you are not careful, you may walk away with something you have never heard of before wondering how you ever lived without it and starting to think of the best way to get it back home.
The city is littered with small squares set around sparkling water fountains and lined by bright little shops, cafes and bars overlooking the activity on the square. And it is from here that you should enjoy the breathtaking light as the sun sets over the red city, casting a silhouette of white ibises perched on top of the city walls while the call to prayer echoes through the early evening from a nearby mosque.