It had been a long and cold winter and my wife and I were practically dying for some warmth and sunshine. The daily drudgery of our jobs had also taken its toll and we wanted a change.

The Magic of the Medina in Marrakech

Our annual vacation time was looming and we had been trying to decide where to go. We were looking for a little adventure and a little old-world charm and chanced upon a travel brochure extolling the virtues of the medina in Marrakech. It didn’t take us long to pack a couple of backpacks with summer-appropriate outfits and a goodly supply of antacids. Soon we were standing at the balcony of our picturesque riad in downtown Marrakech, looking out at the ancient walls of the medina.

Engulf in the sea of frenetic activities

We didn’t know what lay beyond but were sure as hell going to try and find out. As we stepped into the central open area of the Jemaa el-Fnaa, we were instantly engulfed in a sea of humanity and frenetic activity. Our senses were overwhelmed with colours, smells, sounds and a dizzying array of little shops selling their wares. Welcome to one of the most famous souks of Marrakech we were told.

As we stood drinking in this sea of information, our eyes were arrested by the sight of the Minaret of Koutoubia, an eight centuries old minaret that dominated the landscape. We made our way over to the medina, which turned out to be a labyrinth of small shops selling all kinds of wares from daily necessities to lamps, shoes and exotic snake oil cures for a variety of ailments. Be sure to take a guide along, we were told; GPS is of no use there. But true to our adventurous spirit, we went in bravely with nary a care, totally prepared to get lost.

Magic of medina
The entire medina is dotted with tiny cafes and eateries, where one can momentarily escape the hurricane of activity and enjoy a little peace, while taking vindictive pleasure in seeing other tourists ambling about in a bewitched daze. Such is the magic of the medina! We spent a happy afternoon visiting the famous hamam (bath house), mosques, museum and tannery. We stuck mostly to coffee and fresh juices and skipped lunch altogether.

Dishes and delicacies
By the time we successfully navigated our way back to the Jemaa el-Fnaa (the trick is to keep the Minaret in sight), it was already quite dark. Armed with a few pairs of babouches (leather slippers), and sundry other knick-knacks, our first instinct was to wonder if we had come to the wrong place: The whole area had transformed into what can only be described as an enormous open air restaurant! The tattoo artists and snake charmers had made way for numerous stalls selling traditional Moroccan lamb dishes and other delicacies. Needless to say, we gorged with abandon, famished as we were!

Bliss of the whirlwind
We settled on the rooftop of our riad with a bottle of wine and gazed out at the night sights of Marrakech. The muted conversation drifting from the square and the quiet magic of the medina soon overpowered our senses. We drifted into a contented stupor and became one with the ancient mystique of this remarkable town. We knew we would be going back to our routines in a couple of days, but nothing was going to take away the bliss of our whirlwind trip to Marrakech.