In the middle of a hot wasteland, where distant peaks rise out of the barren landscape, there is a restless city surrounded by ancient walls. While it may sound like the stuff of a fantasy book (which, conveniently enough, you can buy here) this is a real place called Marrakech.

In the heart of the souks senses go into overdrive as bright colours pour through handcrafted lanterns, carpets and clothing. Smells of spices and sweetness mingle with sewage and sweat. Drums are banged around an unknown corner. Motorbikes swerve around you as traders and ‘guides’ call out for your attention. All the while you’re trying to take in the beauty of the architecture and wonder how such an impossible place can only be a three hour flight from the cotton-wool-bubble of England.

souk Close, Souk Far

We found our way around Marrakech much faster than we thought. After our taxi from the airport tagged out for an old man with a wagon in the heart of who-knows-where. We followed said man through narrow streets where kids bang drums and seem to always be playing with matches to our riad. We wondered how we would ever make sense of this place. From the comfort of our riad (and with a little help from Google) we decided to brave the madness.

As we negotiated our way through the maze of Marrakech, Abby drew a map. We followed our instinct and made more than a few wrong turns. Soon it all became clear. Turn right by the fruit and veg stands, straight on under the tunnel, left by the ceramics, and another right past the place full of shimmery clothes. Straight along that road we should come to the famous Jemaa el Fna. This massive square is full of food, snake charmers and henna women. Chants from the minarets echo above the sound of pipes, hawkers and percussion.

Meanwhile the imagination runs wild. Somewhere, hidden down some unassuming alley must be an ancient person, who remembers Ali Baba on a personal level. Or a tatty old scrap of paper that points to hidden treasures, perhaps even a genie in a lamp. In the heart of the medina, magic never dies.

About an hour away from the madness of the Medina are the Atlas Mountains. Read about our Atlas Adventure here.