Marrakesh is Morocco's most intoxicating city. Ever since Morocco's Jewel of the South became a trading and resting place on the ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu, the city has barely paused for breath. Lying low and dominating the Haouz Plain at the foot of the snowcapped High Atlas Mountains (a marvellous sight on a sunny day), the city was stubbornly defended against marauding tribes by successive sultans. They maintained their powerful dynasties and surveyed their fertile lands from the Menara Garden's tranquil olive groves and lagoon, and the Agdal Gardens' vast orchards. Today, exploring the city has never been easier. A crackdown on hustlers who hassle means that you're freer to wander and wonder than ever before.
The medina is Marrakesh's miracle—a happy clash of old and new, both beguiling and confusing in turn. Virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages, Marrakesh's solid salmon-pink ramparts encircle and protect its mysterious labyrinthine medina, hiding palaces, mansions, and bazaars. Pedestrians struggle to find their balance on the tiny cobbled lanes among an endless run of mopeds, donkey carts, and wheelbarrows selling a mixture of sticky sweets and saucepans. But pick up your jaw, take your time, and take it all in, stewing in the Rose City like a mint leaf in a pewter teapot.