Encircled by 19 kms of ochre-coloured ramparts, Marrakech seems to have it all: splendid off-season temperatures, year round sunshine, gardens ablaze with bougainvillea, roses and orange trees and an ideal location between mountains, desert and sea. The city stands on a large fertile plain 240 kms south of Casablanca, its highways leading, in three or four hours, to Essaouira and Agadir, the coastal resorts of the Atlantic. Much closer, as the ever-present backdrop to the city, towers the impressive chain of the High Atlas beyond which the main highway heads south, via the ancient kasbahs of the Draa valley, to the very edge of the Sahara.
In the maze of narrow streets that characterise the ancient Marrakech médina and its souks one is immersed in an atmosphere that has changed little in centuries, each a melting pot of smells and colours, amid a hubbub of sound in which the cries of street vendors and the clatter of donkey carts and horse-drawn calèches compete with calls to prayer from a host of lofty minarets. The exotic appeal of Marrakech stems very much from the impact of this intoxicating sensory cocktail. What better place for an exotic short break little more than three hours from northern Europe?