One of the world's most exotic and romantic locations is no further away than many parts of Europe - and therefore you have no excuse not to try to make it happen, as Giles Kime explains.
Three hours doesn’t get you very far from British soil: Gibraltar, Seville or Helsinki with a following wind. However, fly three hours to Marrakech and you’re a world away from your everyday existence, lost in a dusty world of mules, mosques and muezzins.
It’s a consuming experience – the earthiness and intimacy of the narrow streets and shaded gardens combine to form an exotic backdrop for a memorable few days. It’s this exotic otherness that is the city’s most beguiling charm and the reason it offers such a convenient opportunity for a proper escape from life in the Northern Hemisphere.
Accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes, from cosy riads that offer a calm, scented refuge from their frenetic surroundings to palatial hotels 10 minutes from the city centre, which offer more sybaritic pleasures away from the madding crowd of the Medina. In recent years, time-honoured favourites have been joined by a host of others crying out to be explored.
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Where to stay
Ten minutes from the freneticism and colour of the main square (Jemaa el Fna) is the Selman Marrakech, an equestrian paradise with views of the Atlas Mountains and just about every indulgence you could possibly desire – from sumptuous interiors by Jacques Garcia to a world-class spa and two unforgettable restaurants.
Madonna recently celebrated her 60th birthday with a dinner in the stables and these aren’t just any old stables – equine ballet is among the spectacles on offer.
Where to eat
The exoticism of the city extends to the food. La Mamounia offers a visual and unforgettable dining experience and lunch by the pool is a delight.
As well as a wide range of atmospheric restaurants, the food stalls that magically appear at dusk on the Jemaa el Fna offer a chance to experience the chaos of the city while you eat simple fare such as couscous, pastilla and spicy merguez sausages.
What to see
One garden not to be missed is the scented Eden at La Mamounia, enjoyed by everyone from Sir Winston Churchill to Omar Sharif. But even if you barely want to leave your poolside lounger, it’s still essential that you drag yourself to Le Jardin Majorelle, the verdant testament to the genius of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who lavished this magical oasis with love and brilliance.
Do not adjust your monitor – or phone, or tablet: it really is that colour. Le Jardin Majorelle, and Marrakech in general, are officially now on the Bucket List.
The latest addition to the Raa Atoll, Joali is the perfect spot for those looking to sit back and recharge