MATADOR contributor Paul Sullivan has written and photographed two editions of the Hedonist’s Guide to Marrakech (Filmer). Here, he leads us through the medina and souks of the fabled Pink City, then into the nearby Atlas Mountains, over to the Atlantic coast, and finally to the edge of the Sahara.
This article was originally published on October 16th, 2009
Marrakech is one of Morocco's oldest and most alluring cities. Despite the constant influx of tourists, the city has maintained an exotic Old World atmosphere - particularly within the ancient Medina, where map-toting tourists attempt to navigate the labyrinthine streets and locals go about their daily business as they've been doing for centuries. Image by Datmater.
Traditional artisan skills such as weaving, metalwork, pottery, bread baking, and carpentry are all very much alive in Marrakech. In fact the Medina has its own "artisan quarter" where you can watch these craftsmen at work. Image by tuXnOwaR.
A large part of Marrakech's exoticism are the abundance of old traditions and customs that are kept alive. Here a vendor sells groceries direct from his bicycle. Image by Aitor Garcia Viñas.
Morocco is a Muslim country. Several times a day the familiar sound of the muezzin (call to prayer) sails through the air and devotees swarm to the many mosques (sitting outside if they're full), or simply kneel and bow their heads towards Mecca wherever they happen to be. Image by David Graus.
During the day, Marrakech's main square, the Djemaa El Fna, is a busy and fairly modern hub for shoppers, traders, and tourist touts (snake charmers, water bearers, acrobatic dancers). Come nighttime the place transforms into the largest open-air barbecue in the world, as the air fills with smoke and locals and visitors sit next to each other to chow down on everything from harira soup to seafood. Image by Rosino.
Sometimes the heat and hassle of the Pink City can get too much. Fortunately, there are a number of easy and accessible escape routes. One of the most popular trips is up to the Atlas Mountains, just an hour or two's drive from Marrakech. The cool peaks provide beautiful respite from the chaos of the medina, and are full of Berber villages and superb walking routes.
Another possible day trip from the city is to Essaouira, a small, charming fishing town on the coast. It has good tourist infrastructure, and its distinctive white and blue medina is today a UNESCO heritage site. The seafood here, as you'd expect, is especially tasty. Image by Tiberio Frascari.
We also came across these Berber children, who were happy to receive our gifts of jewellery and biscuits in exchange for a photograph. They didn't pause too long given the encroaching rainstorm.