One of Morocco’s four Imperial Cities, Marrakech was founded in the 11th century at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu and it soon became a vibrant centre for trade. Set against the magnificent backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, its walled city is a maze of narrow alleyways lined with medieval buildings. The main square, the Djemma el Fna, is the heart of the city and a frenzy of colour and activity with entertainers, acrobats, snake-charmers, musicians and food stalls. The labyrinthine alleys and souqs that surround the square feature hundreds of stalls offering all manner of goods including carpets, leather, jewellery, spices, pottery and ceramics. It is worth leaving the charms of the old city occasionally to experience the bars, restaurants, art galleries and fixed-price boutique shopping in the ville nouvelle (new town). The stylish gardens of Yves St Laurent, Jardin Majorelle, also provide a tranquil contrast to the vibrance of the old city centre. Other important sites in Marrakech include the Koutoubia Mosque, visible all over the city with its 77 metre minaret, the Saadian Tombs, the Badi Palace and the Bahia Palace.
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