THE CITY SQUARE THAT'S MORE LIKE A CIRCUS
MARRAKESH is magical. For many people, it’s the Moroccan city of their imaginations: an atmospheric, tightly packed Medina of twisting lanes and dead-end alleyways where stallholders in noisy souks sell metal lanterns and argan oil and everything in between.
Settle into your riad, then head straight for the JEMAA EL FNA. The beating heart of Marrakesh, this vast square is the perfect place to spend your first afternoon in the city. You’ll probably return here often – it feels like all lanes in the Medina lead to the Jemaa, and there’s always something different to see – but visiting in daylight the first time will help you get your bearings whilst the square is still fairly quiet. You’ll see extravagantly dressed water sellers and headscarved snake charmers coaxing their cobras into a swaying dance. Show your children the square’s tooth-pullers, with their enormous pliers and battered trays of little white trophies triumphantly laid out before them, and you’ll never hear another complaint about brushing teeth before bedtime again.
For a break from the action, grab a drink from one of the carts that dole out freshly squeezed orange juice and take a wander over to the KOUTOUBIA, in the southwest corner of the square. The mosque itself is closed to non-Muslims, but its minaret, a symbol of the city that’s visible throughout Marrakesh, is the main draw – it’s one of the most beautiful buildings of its kind in Morocco.
Return in the early evening, when the Jemaa fills as crowds gather around the acrobats, musicians, dancers and storytellers that have moved into the square. Keep your kids close and watch out for pickpockets, but don’t be put off – this is when the Jemaa is at its vibrant best. Come nightfall, dozens of FOOD STALLS set up shop, and you can tuck into a dinner of fried fish (or steaming snails or boiled sheep’s head, if you dare) under canvas awnings and pungent clouds of cooking smoke.
TOP TIP It’s great fun exploring the Medina on your own – and getting a little bit lost is all part of the experience – but if you wanted a helping hand to begin with, your riad or hotel will be able to organize a guide for you (around 450dh for a 3-hour tour).
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From ancient kasbahs to stylish riads in the Marrakesh medina – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Morocco
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Morocco’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around
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