GO: Marrakech, in the heart of Morocco, captures the colour and history of this exotic country with a fascinating ancient walled city of palaces, forts, tombs, mosques and minarets. The famous main square, Djemaa El-Fna, comes alive in the evening with outdoor restaurants, tantalising food stalls and live theatre. Wander the labyrinth of backstreets and enjoy a cool drink or refreshing mint tea at one of the many rooftop cafes; morocco.com.
VISIT: The spectacular Jardin Majorelle is a dryclimate garden designed by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge in the 1960s. It is an amazing collection of cacti and succulents from five continents set against the backdrop of their electric-blue villa. Make time also for Musee de Marrakech, an ancient palace housing a collection of historic photographs from the 1870s to 1950s; jardinmajorelle.com; museedemarrakech.ma.
BUY: Look for carpets, fabrics, jewellery and ceramics inside the maze of souqs (markets) on the north side of the main square. Take a map because it’s easy to get lost as you wander these narrow passages, where the shops are grouped according to specialities such as leatherwork, brass and glassware. You’ll find goods from traditional to modern and edgy, and don’t forget to haggle for a better price.
TASTE: Experience tagines of every description, based on wheat or barley couscous, plus sumptuous cakes and pastries with both Arab and French influences. My favourite dish is the savoury and sweet pastilla (or bastilla), which is a tasty and traditional pigeon pie. Wines from the Meknes region are excellent, although sometimes hard to find.
EXPLORE: Head for the nearby Atlas Mountains to appreciate the beauty of the landscape by taking day walks and overnighting in comfortable village homestays.
STAY: There’s plenty of choice in the riads (converted townhouses and mansions) of the old medina; these private abodes offer luxurious guestrooms set around a central courtyard garden of fountains and mosaics.
Mary Moody is an author and former presenter on Gardening Australia on ABC TV. She will lead a 14-day Markets, Gardens & Food of Morocco trip in April, 2017; 1300 729 000, worldexpeditions.com.
Graham Erbacher Graham.Erbacher@news.com.au