Marrakech really is a tale of two cities. The impressive ramparts that encircle the old Medina serve as a defining arbiter of the city’s urban identity. Within the walls lies a sprawling medaieval town of sinuous alleyways, historic Mosques, grand old Riads and bustling market places. Outside is a modern, thriving city first developed under the French “protectorate” only a hundred years ago. The impression on the first-time visitor to Marrakech can be quite schizophrenic.
The traditional way of life in the Medina continues unfazed by the modernity of Gueliz. Time is of much less importance within the protective walls. Marrakech Medina is a truly remarkable urban environment, where you can step from the calm, air conditioned and wifi infused peace of a Riad guesthouse into a smokey, noisy street thronged with donkey carts and speeding mopeds in just seconds. Vegetable markets vie with local butchers and trinket sellers in a frantic whirr of vitality and energy.
Whilst in Gueliz, just a five minute walk from the Medina ramparts, you can sit in a quiet cafe just as you can in Paris or Milan. You can shop in Zara and Louis Vuitton. Get your imported groceries and wines in a modern supermarket. You can find McDonalds and Starbuck’s. There are French, Italian, Japanese and every other conceivable kind of restaurant. There are hundreds of bars and dozens of good nightclubs. Luxury apartments and villas are all around.
So it’s entirely possible to live in the Medina and benefit from all the conveniences a modern and thriving city can offer, whilst still enjoying the exotic and wonderful energy of the Old Town. As I navigate between the Medina and Gueliz I often thank my lucky stars that such a diverse and tolerant city exists here and now. It is a unique blend of the ancient and the modern. I love living here.
With the recent upgrade of the city centre airport, Marrakech has never been more accessible. It is time for you to experience the special atmosphere of this city with two hearts – one that beats a rhythm from time immemorial … and one that dances to a very modern tune.
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