1. Jemaa el-Fnaa, October 2008. When most people think of Marrakech, the first image that comes to mind is the city’s incredible market square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. Buzzing with activity morning, day and night; there are smoky food stalls, flashy restaurants, cosy cafes, colorful fabric shops and persistent hawkers flogging all manner of souvenirs. Amid the bustling crowds, you’ll need to battle your way through the many tourists… fend off the annoying henna girls… sympathise with the monkeys chained to their trainers… admire the local musicians… keep an eye open for pickpockets… and perhaps, like me, stop for a look at one of the circles of flute-playing snake charmers.
2. Rue Souk Smarine, October 2008. Marrakech’s largest network of souks lies just north of Jemaa el-Fnaa. It’s a shopper’s paradise, with everything from traditional Moroccan lamps and fabrics to perfumes, spices, bags, shoes, snacks, ceramics, sheesha pipes and everything else in between. Uncompromising and overwhelming, be prepared to negotiate hard, make sure you’re armed with an arsenal of polite but firm no thank yous and treat yourself to at least one glass of hot mint tea. Just take a deep breath and dive in!
3. Museum De Marrakech, October 2008. There are lots of fascinating museums in Marrakech, but this one, housed in an old nineteenth century palace, has got to be the pick of the bunch. The architecture is simply breathtaking, with intricate tile work, detailed woodcarvings and ornate courtyard fountains all in a classical Andalusian design. This photo is of the main courtyard, with its amazing metal-plate chandelier decorated with epigraphic cuttings.
4. Museum De Marrakech, October 2008. Wandering through the museum’s balcony tunnels is great fun, offering new perspectives of the courtyard below. Along the way you can duck into various chambers for Moroccan art, both traditional and modern, as well as pottery and jewellery displays. It’s a serene and beautiful refuge from the bustle of the city, though those seeking more information will be frustrated by the French-only info throughout.
5. With Local Artist, October 2008. I’ve been collecting travel art for years now. It all began with a framed sketch of Bratislava Castle from my Slovak days. It was only a few years later that I realized I had a collection, a bunch of photographs, paintings and canvasses that served as a nostalgic timeline of my global wanderings. And I knew I had to have this gorgeous painting of Jemaa el-Fnaa the moment I saw it hanging on the wall of a small studio near La Koutoubia Mosque. The artist was a cheerful, softly spoken old man who nevertheless proved to be a hard negotiator. After plenty of back and forth we finally agreed on a price and I felt pretty pleased with myself. I’d managed to take a chunk out of his original quote and secure a perfect memento of my time in Marrakech!
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