Pearl of the South, Jewel of the South, The Rose City: just a few of the nicknames Marrakesh has acquired over the years. The pearl and the jewel symbolize its importance as the center of Morocco ever since it was a trading and resting place on the crossroads of ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu. The rose attests to a city still painted entirely in pink in keeping with the red-clay earth below. Once called Morocco City by foreign travelers, Marrakesh eventually lent its name to the country itself. Part Berber, part Arab, and part African, Marrakesh is the heartbeat of Morocco, where palaces and monuments of unrivaled refinement sit calmly alongside the snake charmers and Gnaouan drums pulsing constantly from Djemâa el Fna Square, the most exuberant marketplace in the world.
Virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages, Marrakesh protects its mysterious labyrinthine medina, which hides sultans' palaces, the ornate mansions of rich merchants, and some of the most colorful bazaars in the Arab world. Late in the afternoon, Moroccans as well as foreigners crowd the Djemâa el Fna to hear storytellers and musicians perform, to see acrobats, and watch smoke rise from the outdoor food stalls as vendors whip up a wild array of fried fish, meats, salads, and such Moroccan delicacies as goat brain!
This intoxicating city is for the eyes, a place where even the refined elements have a roughness to them, yet what is rough has its own refinement. Apart from the many things to see and do, one of the most refreshing things about Marrakesh is that time slows down here. The helter-skelter of mopeds, Mercedes, donkey carts, and pedestrians in the streets is really just a mirage; beneath it all, you can feel a languor in the way people walk and the way they take time to stop and talk to each other, conducting their daily affairs much as their ancestors did. With its dramatic beauty and unhurried rhythm, the Jewel of the South can beckon even the most seasoned traveler to stop moving and stay forever.