Marrakech is not only a fantastic city, it is also a symbol of the Morocco that once was, and which still survives here. The streets of the old and pink city have been too narrow to allow effective introduction of cars. And tourists searching for the "real" Morocco have turned the medieval structures of Marrakech into good business.
The hordes of tourists that come here all through the year have still not managed to destroy the character. Actually, their high number contribute in a positive way to preserve things. The inhabitants are truly proud of their city's fame, and Moroccans all over the country never let down an opportunity to visiting.
The most worthwhile tourist traps are centred to a rather small zone, starting in the north with the suuqs, continuing through the town square of Jemaa l-Fna with its crowd of storytellers, musicians and the Koutoubia mosque which minaret is visible from practically anywhere in Marrakech.
Going beyond this, the Menara gardens, by young Marrakechians considered as the most romantic place in town, is high up on the list. But don't forget to visit one of the many examples of sights left by the many Europeans and Americans who fell so much in love with Marrakech that they constructed their palaces and gardens here.
Marrakech' reputation as a pot of hustlers is not undeserved, but few things happen here that can't be handled. If you show respect, and keep your things close to your body, and remain alert in a crowds, nothing bad will happen to you. Marrakech' old quarters has many poor people with few chances to find regular work. But in recent years, an effective tourist police has helped conditions considerably.
What is central in order to understand the position that Marrakech has, is that it never has been Arabic, always Berber. While Arabs and Berbers mingle in most parts of Morocco, Marrakech remains a bastion of Berber culture. It was its own centre in the struggle against the French earlier this century, and could have become a capital in a country away from Morocco if history had wanted it differently. Anyway, its position has been strong for such a long period, that it is from 'Marrakech' that 'Morocco' is derived.
Marrakech is situated close to the Atlas mountains, and on most days you can see blue mountains covered with snow over the rooftops. Marrakech has been a resort for many years, and comes with all the luxury those being able to pay for it, could demand. The setting of Marrakech is splendid, the city exceptionally beautiful, and the liveliness almost never ending. The city offers most sorts of activities, from pool swimming in hotels to excursions to the mountains, which in winter time involves skiing.
But Marrakech is also a place of questionable reputation. True or not true, the story goes that just 40 years ago, one out of every three woman was a prostitute, either full time or once in a while. Children were no exception in this, but the child prostitution scene described by Nobel price laureate Elias Canetti in his 1950's travelogue The Voices of Marrakech is fortunately gone.
Marrakech is a city of history, and all with a few days to pass here must see the beautiful, large mosque and madrasa of Ben Yussef inside the large suuq, that begins at the northern side of Jemaa l-Fna. For deeper understanding of Moroccan architecture, the Almoravid koubba, 20-30 metres south of the mosque of Ben Yussef. Palaces like El-Bahia, El-Badi and Dar Si Said were built to please the senses, while those who cannot get enough of gardens can still feel old greatness in Agdal garden.