Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vibrant Marrakesh; Morocco’s most colourful visitor destination


How would you love to be entertained by the oral expertise of a seasoned professional story-teller in a bright calm afternoon? Well, that would be part of your memorable reward for choosing the vibrant city of Marrakesh as your destination. But the oral art of story-telling is only a tip of the iceberg, of the multiple great activities that would grace your stay in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The Jemaa el-Fnaa or Djemaa el Fna located in the city of Marrakesh, Morocco, is one of the most popular and interesting squares in Africa, situated in the very heart of the city and famous for city activities and trade. The square is so significant that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In this famous square, be prepared to meet a great diversity of people with a vast array of activities; including snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, mystics, musicians, monkey trainers, herb sellers, story-tellers, dentists, and entertainers in medieval garb. Doubtless, hundreds of thousands of visitors across the globe, converge on this lively square every year, to sample the exquisite aura of this unique square.
Historically, inhabitants of the surrounding deserts and mountain areas were attracted to this square for trade; and soon, the square was flourishing with stalls. Today, footprints of the past can still be observed on the square, but modernity has also claimed a fair share of the square’s personality, rendering it a meeting ground for the ancient and the modern.

But the excitement of the city of Marrakesh is not confined to its vibrant and colourful square, as the city is endowed with the largest traditional Berber market in Morocco. The Berbers are a species of the Caucasian Arabs. The market comprises a variety of units called Souks, each of which is specialised in selling specific products. The Souks are principally located in the old Marrakesh in Medina, comprising a wobbly number of stalls. Souks sell a variety of items, including carpets and rugs, traditional Muslim attire, lanterns, metal work, pottery, to mention just a few. The largest of all souks in this area is Souk Semmarine, selling a variety of products, including coloured bejewelled sandals and slippers, kaftans, jewellery etc. Souk Ableuh contains stores which retail olives of all colours, including green, red and black olives; but also lemons, chillies, capers, pickle and mint, a popular ingredient of Moroccan cusine and tea. Then you would find Souk Kchacha, which is the wonderland of the dry fruits’ lover, selling a vast range of dry fruits and nuts; including dates and figs, walnuts, cashews and apricots. There are Souks which specialise in the sale of knitted hats, scarves, t-shirts, Ramadan tea, ginseng, hand-woven baskets, natural perfumes and more.

The Majorelle botanical gardens are a veritable oasis of peace, with their enticing bright colours and abundance of rare species of plants. These charming gardens are located North West of Medina in Marrakech. A thirty minute refreshing walk from the old Marrakech would normally take you to these beautiful botanical gardens. On your way to view the mountains of dates, nuts and grains, you can explore the colourful wholesale market.

One very interesting character of trading at the Medina of Marrakesh is that you can have a very attractive bargain. Always remain friendly at all times, while soaking up memorable Moroccan hospitality.
You can enjoy a steam bath in the hammams, which is a public venue for baths and scrub. Historically, these types of public baths were common in Morocco, though they are now experiencing a steady decline, due to the advent of more exclusive baths and spars in luxurious hotels.
One of the most spectacular and mind blowing event in Marrakesh is the renowned Marrakesh arts festivals, usually held in July of each year; and attended amongst others, by a wide variety of entertainers, comprising, folk singers, dancers, fortune-tellers, acting troupes, snake charmers, fire-swallowers. The principal event takes places in the 16 century Badi Palace and Djemma el Fna. The most spectacular moments of this event is the Fantasia, which is a horse riding spectacle, involving hundreds of horsemen and women in colourful traditional attire. You can also pay a visit to the numerous mosques, art galleries and museums that grace the city.
The charm of Marrakesh is bound to remain in your memory even long after you must have left.

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