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Marrakech, or Marrakesh is known as the Pearl of the South. It is a city in southwestern Morocco in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Marrakech is a Berber word; it could mean the country of god (murt 'n akush), but this is unproven as there are many other interpretations. Marrakech has the largest berber market (souk) in Morocco and also hosts the busiest square in the entire continent of Africa, called Djemaa el Fna. Like many Middle Eastern cities, Marrakech has two main divisions: the médina and the modern city. Marrakech is served by Ménara International Airport.

Planning a trip to Marrakech, Morocco? Rather than traipsing from one historic building to the next; leave your guidebook in the hotel and explore the city under your own steam. but make sure that you don't miss the following:

Climbing out of a battered petit taxi into Marrakech's Djemaa el Fna you get a sharp sense of how Alice felt as she fell down the rabbit hole. The imperial city's central square is a tangle of humanity; Berber musicians hammer out the soundtrack on goat skin drums accompanied by wailing snake charmers. Tourists are garlanded with toothless cobras and leapt on by sorrowful monkeys; and if they don't manage to coax a few dirham form your pocket, the grinning water-seller always gets his photographic fee.

Come sunset, as Djemma El Fna is transformed into the continent's largest open-air eatery, why not escape the mayhem on a horse drawn calèche. The quintessential Marrakech short break ingredient might be a little cheesy for some, but touring the medina walls by carriage is a truly memorable way to see the city. Calèches queue up on the south side of the square in the shadow of Koutoubia Mosque and cost 80 Dirham per person for an hour (£5.00). Check your watch before you set off and let the driver know what time you should be back, otherwise you may well end up short changed.

Just because you've booked into a slick out-of-town Marrakech hotel in Morrocco, doesn't mean that you can't experience a traditional riad. Originally built by wealthy merchants as private dwellings; riads provide shady seclusion in the heart of the medina. Today many have been transformed into plush boutique hotels, although Riad Tamsna is open to all (if you can find it). One of the imperial city's best restaurants, the building itself looks good enough to eat. The perfect ending to a sort break in Marrakech. Bookings are essential: Tel: 044 38 52 72.

While Marrakech's hammams might not match the Byzantine splendour of those in Istanbul ; the city's collection of modern-day spas is second to none. After a dusty day traipsing through the souks there's no better way to unwind than with a steam and a massage. The pick of the traditional-style crop is Hamman Menara the Quartier Essaada, while for a contemporary soak try the spas in the Sofitel or Riad Medhi.

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