The sun dipped low on the horizon, and a cacophony of sounds filled the square—percussion beats, singing and chanting, the calls of touts, the hiss of burning charcoal, and the flutes of snake charmers. This sensory overload mixed with the smells of freshly-squeezed orange juice, meat on the grill, exotic spices, and a mass of diverse humanity. Taking in the scene of the medina’s main square and forming an imprint on my brain, despite being nothing more than a tourist, I felt for a brief moment as if I had found the pulse, heart and soul of Marrakech.
In some destinations in North Africa and the Middle East, travelers can experience unique cultural or historical landmarks. In others, they can sample unique food, shop local markets, or stay in boutique hotel properties. In yet others, they can get active and off the beaten path, or experience several climates in the course of a weekend. Rarely however can a visitor do all of the above and more in the course of a long weekend. That, along with its surprising accessibility, is what makes Marrakech so special.
In Europe for a variety of reasons this winter, I took advantage of easy and affordable flights to make a break for a different culture and more sunshine in early March. After an easy airport pickup in a black BMW, I arrived at the Amanjena, a stunning property about 15 minutes outside of the old city, I was greeted with a cool towel and some local snacks and sweets while I relaxed a bit and my bags were whisked to my villa. I noted a distinct difference from where I had just flown in—the light was bright and the air smelled fresh and aromatic.