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CNNGo in Marrakech: Souks and Moroccan pancakes
How to haggle over a cup of mint tea plus spectacular ways to see and escape Morocco's beautiful desert gateway
In July CNNGo travels to Morocco's red city, Marrakech.
We meet master craftsmen in the city's maze-like souks, visit the playground of the snake artists and fortune tellers; see spectacular views of the city from the air and visit a secluded village that resembles an exotic kingdom from Game of Thrones.
We also sample the delicious local pancakes and the contemporary arts scene that lies hidden beneath the city's traditional facade.
Here are some of the places we visited:
The Souks Of Marrakech
The medina, or old city of Marrakech has been luring traders and shoppers for hundreds of years.
These days, livestock and exotic foods have been replaced by indistinguishable clothing and spice stalls, but there are still unique treasures to be found in the city’s markets.
There are an estimated 5,000 stalls, grouped by craft, including the Souk el Dabbaghin (the leather tanning market) or the Souk el Haddadine (the metalwork market) all making interesting pieces for visitors to take home.
That is, if they can find their way out of the labyrinth.
Mustapha Blaoui's Tresor Des Nomades
Like the treasure-lined cave in Aladdin, Tresor Des Nomades is a cornucopia of Moroccan goods.
Lanterns, rugs, tea glasses, jewelry: whatever his customers want, charismatic store owner Mustapha Blaoui will dig out. If they're after something bigger -- a door from a long-gone kasbah or an antique chair -- then it's worth dusting of haggling skills to spar with Blaoui and reach a pleasing price.
It's not impolite to negotiate -- Marrakech stall owners love the ceremony of haggling and it’s hard not to love the endless cups of mint tea while you’re doing it.
Tresor Des Nomades, Rue Bab Doukkala, Marrakech, Morocco; +212 5 2438 5240
Morocco from the air
A bleary-eyed sunrise journey from hotel room to the countryside around Marrakech for a hot air balloon ride is rewarded by spectacular views of the city and its surrounding valleys.
Ciel d’Afrique has been flying its fleet of balloons over Marrakech for over 20 years.
After an hour overlooking Marrakech and the surrounding mountains by air, the balloon descends into a village where passengers enjoy a meal with locals then head home, having achieved so much before lunch time.
Ciel d'Afrique, Ali Building, Apartment 4, 2F, Youssef Ben Tachfine Avenue, Marrakech; +212 5 2443 2843
The tantalizing smells rising from Marrakech’s variety of street stalls lead travelers on a journey through Marrakech’s heady Jemaa el-Fnaa square and its surrounding alleyways.
One common street dish is msemmen, a pancake-like snack, which has locals and tourists alike lining up with a mint tea.
The only debate among locals is who makes it better, the vendor or their mothers?
Kasbah Bab Ourika
A serene sanctuary 45 minutes away from the bustle of Marrakech’s chaotic streets, Kasbah Bab Ourika is perched above the Ourika Valley.
A hotel and restaurant with spectacular views of the shockingly vibrant greenery, Kasbah Bab Ourika is also a fantastic base for those wanting to learn more about Morocco’s Berber culture.
Despite the proximity to Morocco’s tourism capital, both the surrounding Berber villages and the Kasbah remain charmingly unspoiled, like a snapshot from a time long past.
Kasbah Bab Ourika, Tnine Ourika, Asgaour 40000, Morocco; +212 6 6874 9547/+212 6 6163 4234
Moha Fedal, Chef
Abdellatif Benhrima, Guide
Maryam Montague, Writer & Hotelier
Two Tone, Rap Artist
Laila Hida, Photographer
Artsi Ifrach, Fashion Designer