Best things to do and see

Marrakech: Why go

Founded nearly a thousand years ago, Marrakech is Morocco's most vibrant and exotic city, with rose-coloured buildings, a wealth of monuments and labyrinthine souks set against the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. A shopaholic could spend a lifetime here, browsing the stalls of homeware, fabrics, spices, wooden crafts, lanterns and other trinkets.

The walled medina is a maze of unsigned pink alleys, and getting lost is part of the experience. The main hub, and the point where most alleys emerge, is the huge square of Djemaa el Fna (also spelled Jma el Fnaa and other variations), where open-air BBQ stalls, nut and date vendors, orange juicers, snake charmers, story tellers and assorted touts mix with a melee of bemused tourists. But there's plenty more: opulent palaces, royal tombs and - in the new town of Gueliz - colourful gardens including the popular Majorelle of Yves Saint Laurent fame. Further afield are the dense palm groves of the Palmeraie, dotted with upscale resorts and the occasional golf course - an alternative place to base yourself if you want a bit more breathing space and don't mind taking taxis in.

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