Hidden Marrakesh

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North of the Jemaa el-Fna and on the fringe of the souqs are a series of lesser-known sites well worth a visit. Wandering through the narrow streets leading inwards from the historic Bab Doukkala, you’ll learn about the social structure of the medina and how so many people rub along so well in such a confined space. After a while you’ll reach the Ben Youssef Medersa, a former Koranic school; it’s incredibly peaceful and the level of skill in the tile work and plaster carvings is remarkable. Next door is the Dar Mnebbi, the superbly restored 19th Century palace of a government minister, now converted to The Marrakesh Museum, home to a collection of antiques, jewellery, pottery and art.

In the same section of the medina is the Almoravid Koubba (shrine), the only remaining building (in the whole country) from the 12th Century Almoravid dynasty. It’s quite a peaceful spot: the medina is less busy round here and the Koubba is set back slightly; it also tells a tale of the roots of Moroccan architecture, with the keyhole arches and vaulted ceilings which became a staple of all subsequent Moroccan (and Moorish) architecture. A short walk further on you come to the Fondouks of the medina; these, also known as caravanserais, were the hotels used by merchants and traders and followed a classic design of storerooms and stables on the ground floor with accommodation above; today some of them have been restored for artisans to set up shop in, for an authentic, medieval shopping experience – where you can see the goods being made whilst you browse.

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