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A visit to Marrakech lets you see one of oldest and grandest cities in Morocco. An oasis of color in the arid plains of North Africa, the famous red sandstone walls stand over grand imperial palaces, royal tombs, and brilliant markets that have been a fixture of North African life for more than a thousand years, while the peaks of the Atlas Mountains loom over the city wherever you go. If you’ve already found the perfect Berber carpet and you’re looking for a few more things to do in Marrakech, don’t worry: Whether you’re in the mood for great food, lively dance, outstanding views, or a ride on camelback, you’re in the right place.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason, Marrakech’s old city is still bounded by the ramparts that went up during the Almoravid dynasty 900 years ago. Inside the gates, you’ll find a collection of the city’s oldest, stateliest, and livelist sights. There’s a royal palace inspired by the Alhambra, vast plazas filled with market stalls, upscale developments with grassy parks, and plenty of old sandstone-walled buildings that illustrate how the Red City got its nickname.
To the east of the city walls, the landscape is dominated by little neighborhoods, big estates, and wide open spaces. Plenty of hotels take advantage of the unobstructed views with locations along the roadways that lead to Palmeraie, an oasis with hundreds of thousands of palm trees that waits in the north.
Home to some of Marrakech’s newer developments, Menara stretches along the city’s western side, from the chic, relaxed shops of Sidi Ghanem to the golf courses, water parks, and country clubs of Chrifia. A lush botanical garden stands in southern Menara, complete with an elegant royal pavilion and artificial lake.
As a capital city for four Moroccan dynasties, Marrakech has is of sights that show how the city became a national icon. Check out the El Badi Palace, decorated with gold and onyx with a design inspired by the Alhambra in Andalusia, or relax in the courtyard of the Ben Youssef Madrasa, an Islamic college from the 14th century until 1960. You can mingle with the dancers, storytellers, and snake charmers who fill the Jamaa el Fan, and if you’re not in the mood for crowds, the foothills of the High Atlas are less than 20 miles (32 km) from the city.
Marrakech made a name for itself as a center of trade, and the concentration of goods and merchants in the medina is still an incredible sight. Get a guide if you’d like a hand navigating all the souks and craft shops, and check out the lively nightclubs and cabaret clubs while you’re at it.
Since the city rests on mostly flat land, it doesn’t offer much in the way of lookout points, but a hot-air balloon flight can take care of that for you. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can take a mountain bike or ATV out into the country, or venture into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains to explore sights from the peaceful hillside farming communities to the beautiful Ouzoud Waterfalls and the vast, arid scenery of the Ourika Valley.