In about the same time it would take you to reach Milan, Berlin, or Zurich from the East Coast of the United States, you could be daring and try something completely different. Like the Red City. Given its nickname from the city walls’ clay color, Marrakesh is one of Morocco’s largest and most vibrant cities. Located at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh is a combination of the old and the new, with the Medina–the fortified, maze-like center–surrounded by modern neighborhoods.
Your senses will awaken while exploring the city’s intricately woven alleyways. Listen for traditional Berber music and the call to prayer; browse at souks; visit Ben Youssef Madrassa, the Dar Si Said Museum, and Bahia Palace; eat couscous and tajine; smell jasmine in hidden gardens; and sleep in a riad. Be prepared for mild but damp winters, and hot, hot summers. And don’t worry, you’re bound to get lost.
By now you’re ready to relax at a comfortable, peaceful hotel. Riad Joya, a converted old grand house near Djemaa el’Fna in the heart of the Medina, combines the east and the west, the modern and the traditional. Decorated with cedar, terra cotta, burlap, and bronze, the small hotel still feels like a private home.
The seven rooms include sitting areas, fireplaces, and stone bathrooms. Meals have a combination of Moroccan, Mediterranean, and Italian influences. And the rooftop terrace is the perfect place for sunset drinks. The staff is eager to offer assistance and recommendations to ensure this is your first, but not last, visit to Marrakesh. Before you begin your second day of touring though, it’s time to get some sleep. The call to prayer will wake you at dawn.