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Language: Arabic, Berber | Currency: Moroccan Dirham (MAD) | Local time: GMT | Avg. Flight time: 3.5 hrs
If you like to be in the centre of the action, then stay within the mud-brick walls of the old medina. Circling Djemaa el-Fna are the neighbourhoods of Bab Doukkala, Kaat Benahid, Riad Zitoun, Derb Debachi and Mouassine, each with its own distinct character. Mouassine is the Mayfair of Marrakech – an upmarket corner of town crammed with grand hotels, ancient mosques and historic architecture.
Kaat Benahid and Derb Debachi are an extension of the souks surrounding Djemaa el-Fna, with the same befuddling, maze-like character. Base yourself in quieter Bab Doukkala if you want to combine peace and quiet with a central location, or make like a Moroccan courtier in the mansion hotels of ancient royal suburb Riad Zitoun.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the conquering French decided to build their own ‘New City’ on the outskirts of the medina. The Ville Nouvelle has a completely different character to the rest of Marrakech, thanks to its wide boulevards and Art Deco villas. The streets here are lined with delectable bistros, where chic coffee drinkers spill out onto the pavements.
Hidden away behind high gates are peaceful gardens and endless art galleries – mini sanctuaries in the heart of the city. Luxury hotels swathed in huge gardens are the norm here, but you’ll also find some mid-range chains and plenty of cheap accommodation.
Just a short drive north of Marrakech’s crowded and chaotic medina is a haven of complete peace. The 54-square mile Palmarie is the city’s celebrity hangout – a lush suburban oasis of velvet-green golf courses and endless swimming pools in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains. If you prefer countryside pursuits like golf, cycling and horse-riding to urban adventuring then this is the place to stay.
Accommodation is mostly exotic country retreats set in landscaped gardens and big-name five-star hotels. Bear in mind that the medina is three miles away by taxi and car, so stay more centrally if seeing the souks is a priority.
Travelling on a budget? Don’t be put off by the glitzy hotels that dominate Marrakech’s accommodation scene. Outside the city centre there are plenty of reliable international chains and cosy little guesthouses offering rooms at wallet-friendly prices.
Many of the large chains are based in Le quartier de l’Agdal, a modern commercial hub with a mall, multiplex cinema and a swinging nightlife scene. It doesn’t have quite the same character as the medina, but if you’re after a central spot that won’t break the bank then this is the place to look. Alternatively, the roads heading out of Marrakech into the Atlas foothills are dotted with welcoming little villas where you can enjoy comfortable accommodation at a fraction of city prices.
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