Change is upon this ancient city of balmy weather, mazelike souks, tender tajines, and the five-times-a-day call to prayer. There’s construction everywhere, from the crumbling old city walls to the vast new villas springing up outside them. Yes, veiled women still trudge along bent under sacks of sticks, and old men in djellabas still deliver rugs by donkey-driven carts. But it seems only a matter of time until these eternal images become obsolete. So we suggest you plan your Marrakech getaway as soon as you can, while the city still retains some vestiges of its magical, mysterious allure.
- No trip to Marrakech would be complete without a stay in a riad, Morocco’s version of the boutique hotel. (A riad is a traditional center-courtyard house.) The eighteenth-century building that houses Riad Kniza has been in the same family for 250 years; a team of artisans spent three years turning it into a jewelbox of Moorish design. Tucked away on a tiny street deep in the heart of Medina, it’s an oasis of pampering tranquility. 011-212-44-37-69-42, www.riadkniza.com
- Riad Farnatchi’s five suites are vast and quite luxe by riad standards. Manager Lynn Perez, a human Rolodex who knows everyone in town, runs Farnatchi like a laid-back private home. 011-212-44-38-49-10, www.riadfarnatchi.com
After a few days in the city, head for Kasbah Tamadot to chill out. About 45 minutes from Marrakech, this 18-room mountain resort (owned by Richard Branson of Virgin fame) offers great food, amenities galore, and an unfailingly warm Berber staff. (800) 225-4255, www.sanctuare.com
- A multilevel performance piece of Moorish architecture, Restaurant Dar Yacout is almost Disney-esque in its fantastical beauty, music, and cuisine. 011-212-44-38-29-29
- If you eat everything that’s offered at Le Tobsil, you’ll slip into a blissful, food-induced coma. If you don’t, you’ll regret it: This eatery offers up some of the best meals in Marrakech. 011-212-44-44-50-52
- When you’ve had one tajine too many, find your way to Crystal for inspired, modern European fare at a fraction of Paris prices. 011-212-44-38-84-80, www.pachamarrakech.com
Need a tooth pulled, an evil spirit expelled, a letter written in Arabic, a henna tattoo, or a live chicken? You’ll find everything in Jemaa El Fna, the massive square where all of Marrakech mingles. Each evening at six, it becomes an open-air restaurant filled with the smoke of 100 food stalls. Day or night, the Café de France and the Café Glacier offer world-class people-watching for the price of a mint tea.