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More About Marrakech

More About Marrakech

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Travel

Air: There are daily direct flights from Heathrow or Gatwick airports by EasyJet, British Airways, and RAM Royal Air Maroc to Marakkech. Also Ryanair are planning regular flights shortly. Casablanca is the international hub for Morocco and there are flights all over the world from there.

Train: For travel around Morocco there is a reliable, clean, and inexpensive rail network to all the major cities. First class compartments are very comfortable and economically priced.

Trains leave for Casablanca every two hours and the first class fare is 110 dh (about £7). Train times are Casablanca 3 hours, Fez 7 hours and 40 minutes, Meknes 6 hours and 45 minutes, and Tangiers 9 hours and 30 minutes.

Taxis: This is the favoured method of transport around Marrakech. There are small taxis (petits taxis) which can take up to three passengers. And most journeys seem to cost between 5 and 10 dh (less than £1). For destinations further afield there are large taxis (grands taxis). Prices are reasonable but should be agreed in advance.

Sport

Golf: Marrakech is scheduled to become a major golf destination for both Europeans and indeed golfers from around the globe. The climate is conducive for golf throughout the year. There are currently three first class golf courses and a further seven scheduled by 2010. The Marrakech Royal Golf Club is the oldest golf club in Morocco, it is constantly being renovated and improved and it also happens to be one of His Majesty King Hassan ll's favourite courses. It is situated at the feet of the snow-covered Atlas Mountains and is embellished by a profusion of cypress, eucalyptus, palm, and olive, orange and apricot trees. Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George and Ike Eisenhower have enjoyed playing here.

Winter Sports: Oukaimeden is located only 74 km from Marrakech. This winter sport area is North Africa's largest ski resort and has the continent's highest lift. At 3268 meters winter sports lovers can follow their passion and enjoy the unique panorama of the High Atlas. The highest peak of the Atlas Mountain range, Jbel Toubkal, rises to an imperious 4,165m, rivalling some of the great Alpine peaks.

The country's leading ski resort, Oukaïmeden, sits at 2,400m (100m higher than Val Thorens) and its main mountain tops out at 3,257m, a princely 60m above the highest point in the Three Valleys. That, however, is where comparisons must end. You can ski from mid-January to mid-March. In 2006 the locals were skiing on powder every weekend from the beginning of January to mid-March. Artificial snow is nowhere to be seen, although all that could be about to change. A group of Saudi investors have stumped up to transform Oukaïmeden from a ramshackle collection of huts and small hotels into a state-of-the-art, all-year-round adventure destination, with a clutch of four and five-star hotels, golf courses in the summer and radically improved skiing in the winter. There is also talk of introducing artificial snow.

Other sports for which there are excellent services include Karting, Quad-Biking, Hunting, Hot Air Ballooning, Horse Riding, Football, and Tennis.

Places of Interest

The square Djemaa El Fna is the heart of the city. Even after midnight, the square is still busy with food stalls selling traditional Moroccan fare, musicians, poets and snake charmers performing for locals and tourists alike. The warm night air carries the smells and sounds of the souks and performers across the square. The atmosphere is incrideble.

Marrakech originated during the Almoravid rule between 1062-70 as a centre for tribesmen and local Berbers to meet and trade goods. And even today there is still a strong market feel about the place. Despite the maze of streets and souks that spread out like a web around Marrakech, most places of interest lead off from and are within easy walking distance of Djemaa El Fna. And it's here where most people first head to get their bearings before setting off to explore the labyrinths of streets and souks.

The main square itself is made up of numerous stalls selling everything from freshly squeezed fruit juices to herbs and spices commonly used to treat various ailments. Probably of more interest are the street entertainers - although some people may find acts involving snakes and other animals a little cruel. The evenings are when the square really comes to life, with raucous acts and an even greater number of food stalls; but night or day, there's always something of interest going on in the square.

Because of its labyrinthine feel and the general bustle of Marrakech, it's quite easy to miss things of interest along the way. A decent map is essential, or, even better, hire the services of a local guide, who will invariably know far more about the local history and culture than you could read in any guidebook. Guides can be easily arranged either from your accommodation or from the tourist office (OMNT).

Climate

The weather in Marrakech is sunny nearly all year round, with pleasantly warm summers and mild winters. The hottest months of the year are July, August and September, but there is no humidity so temperatures are generally bearable. Winter nights can be cooler.

Recommended Restaurants

Up to €15 - Nid' Cigogne

60 Place des Tombeaux Saadiennes, Medina. Tel 024 382 092

An unprepossessing place from the outside, Nid' Cigogne is a godsend, offering shaded respite and a good menu when the going gets hot down in the Kasbah. It's handily located opposite the Saadian tombs and set over several terraces and levels. The menu is surprisingly extensive and inexpensive.

Up to €30 - Grand Café De La Poste

127 Avenue Mohammed V. Tel 024 433 038

By far the trendiest place to lunch in Marrakech, the Grand Café De La Poste is a direct emulation of a classic Twenties French bistro, complete with rattan chairs, charming outdoor terrace and an elegant, spacious interior. The terrace is the most popular place to hang out - it's here where many of the city's well-to-do converge to take advantage of the sophisticated menu, impeccable service and congenial atmosphere.

Up to €50 - Dar Moha

81 Rue Dar El Bacha, Medina. Tel 024 386 400

This former royal riad is now an ultra-romantic establishment that is considered by many to be the premier dining spot in town. The cuisine here - traditional Moroccan with a Moha twist-is flawlessly fantastic and healthy. If it's warm try to dine outside, where tables surround a gorgeously luminescent pool and create a beautifully romantic ambience.

Medical Services

  • Polyclinique du Sud, 2 Rue due Yougoslavie, Gueliz - 24 hour emergency service. A popular private clinic used extensively by resident expats.
  • Night Pharmacy, Rue Khalid ben el-Oualid - north of Place de la Liberte (doctor usually present).
  • Red Cross Clinic, Djemaa el-Fna - 24 hour service - Basic care at a central location.

Social Conventions

Although Marrakech is still Morocco there is a great deal of western influence. Unlike in smaller more rural parts of Morocco, most women, especially the younger ones, wear western clothes during the day and in the evening.

Many of the manners and social customs emulate French manners, particularly amongst the middle class. Handshaking is the customary form of greeting. The visitor may find, in some social situations, that patience and firmness will pay dividends. Normal social courtesies should be observed in someone's home. Casual wear is widely acceptable, although swimsuits and shorts should be confined to the beach or poolside.

Tipping: Service charges are usually included in hotel bills; it is customary to tip hairdressers, cinema usherettes and waiters Dh1-2 (about 10p).

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