The name Marrakech is a Berber name, meaning ‘Land of God’. Marrakech is known as a great trading centre. The old city or medina, of Marrakech is encircled by red ramparts (walls) 2 metres thick and 8 – 9 metres high, which date back to the 12th century. This medina is home to some of the best souks in Morocco, which produce beautiful leatherwork, woodwork and carpets. We walked through the maze of alleyways, past a myriad of stalls selling beautiful lamps for the ceiling and tables in copper, brass and silver. We visited workshops where craftsmen were cutting, shaping and stitching the leather slippers known as Babouches and we saw many stalls selling these gorgeous slippers. Quality varies depending on the type of leather used and we were tempted by babouches in the softest leather in every colour of the rainbow. Some were decorated with pom poms, with tassels and even bejewelled and we each selected several pairs to bring home for the family.
For beautiful tailored clothes and leather goods, linen kaftans, jackets and dresses which are hand made and hand embroidered, we recommend you visit Nawal at her lovely boutique AYA’S in the Mellah in Marrakech. Nawal proudly showed us photos of celebrities who had shopped with her, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Jackman and British Royal, Princess Michael of Kent. I couldn’t resist buying several jackets from Nawal, which have already been worn in Sydney.
We took time out from the bustling Marrakech streets and visited the gorgeous Majorelle Gardens. With walls painted in dazzling cobalt blue paint and bright daffodil yellow, which contrast with the green oasis, the Majorelle Gardens are a botanical garden and museum in the centre of Marrakech. The former home of Yves Sant-Laurent and where his ashes are scattered, the gardens were gifted to the city of Marrakech on his death. We had never seen cacti quite like the collection in this garden! It really is well worth spending an hour or so there.
As the sun begins to set, the place to be in Marrakech is Djemaa el-Fna Square. The mood changes as the square changes from a bustling market square during the day, to open air food stalls, entertainers and musicians and snake charmers which dot every corner. The people of Marrakech congregate in the square after dark to shop and meet friends and the tourists mingle in the crowds to watch the procession go by. The smells of the flaming grills, roasting snails and the sounds of local bands mesmorised us and we returned to the square each night we were in Marrakech to enjoy our dinner at the food stalls, sip glasses of mint tea and wander amongst the wonderful chaos that is Marrakech after dark.
After walking back to our traditional Moroccan hotel, or Riad, along the narrow alleyways, we were happy to fall into bed after an exhausting but exhilarating day exploring and shopping!