MAR­RAKECH, MOROCCO

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - MARY MOODY AU­THOR

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

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