If you're itching to visit a truly unique and sense-stimulating city, then Marrakech it is. Although just an hour's ride on the ferry from Spain, it seems very far from Europe with a deeply traditional, Islamic way of life. The city is also Morocco's capital of chic, attracting the rich and famous from Europe and beyond. Like all Moroccan cities, it's a town of two-halves. Visit the north Medina for a thriving network of souks and hagglers and the south Medina for the Jewish quarter and the glittering remains of the sultan's palaces and gardens.
1. Shop for souvenirs at the fantastic central square, Jemaa El Fna, for a nightly carnival of local life. It is the highlight of nightlife in Marrakech packed with storytellers, musicians, dancers, and even snake charmers. The souks here are markets where you can find almost anything you need from shoes, to kaftans, to spices, to tea, among many other items.
2. When in Japan, visit the hot springs, when in Turkey, you visit the Turkish baths, and when in Morocco, you visit the hammam. Visit a private or hotel spa like Les Bains de Marrakech for a more upscale and costlier version; or visit a public hammam where you'll find locals. A visit to the hammam is a bathing experience that includes a scrub which you can opt to do yourself or have the help of an assistant. Inside the hammam, it's hot and steamy--all the better to open up your pores. You get doused with warm-hot water, followed by a lathering of black Moroccan soap, and a scrubbing-down so intense and exhilarating, you'll leave with new skin. For more information visit lesbainsdemarrakech.com.
3. Add a camel ride to your list of things to do while in Marrakech and discover the way of life, as it once was in a city so rich in culture and tales of the past. Being one of the top activities in Marrakech it is actually found on the outskirts in the desert dunes of La Palmeraie. Once you are accustomed at some level to sitting between two humps, it really begins to feel like the most natural way to view the calm, red, dusty landscapes that border the extremes of the inner city.
4. Enjoy a magic stroll near, yet so far from the bustling city in the Majorelle Gardens (pictured), one of the most visited sites in Morocco. They were first designed by French painter, Jacques Majorelle who settled in Marrakech in 1919. In 1980, Yves Saint Laurent and business partner Pierre Berge purchased and restored the gardens. Today, the lush green trees and exotic plants pop against the bright blue Berber museum found at the gardens, which upholds its Moorish charm with a hint of Art Deco. For more information visit jardinmajorelle.com.
5. There are two cooking schools that run classes out of hotels, neither of which is cheap, but both offer a complete experience of food culture in Morocco. The Maison Arabe Cooking Workshops begin in the market where you'll learn about Moroccan spices and foods. The lesson continues in the kitchen where you'll learn how to prepare traditional Moroccan dishes like tajines, couscous, pastilles, crepes, and more. For more information visit lamaisonarabe.com.