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Mad for Morocco: The country’s run within the World Cup has kicked off a tourist boom


Oh, to have been in Djemaa el-Fna square when Morocco were on their option to the World Cup semi-finals. At the most effective of times, the place is crazy. But when the nation’s football team were scoring goals and winning hearts across the globe, it will need to have been utter madness.

At one point, the BBC went live to the square and captured a number of the hysteria. And maybe that’s why interest in Morocco has soared. In accordance with the tourist board, there have been greater than 13 million mentions of the country on social media up to now month — when normally there would only be some 500,000 for that period.

I used to be there several weeks before the footy. It was my first time in Marrakech and I realised how true that old line is about Morocco being a short-haul flight to a long-haul destination.

Marrakech’s Djemaa el-Fna square. Kate Johnson writes: ‘At the most effective of times, the place is crazy. But when the nation’s football team were scoring goals and winning hearts across the globe, it will need to have been utter madness’

The medina was already jam-packed, so who knows where all the brand new tourists are going to suit, but they’ll definitely be made to feel welcome. Even probably the most persistent shop owners exude good-natured charm, and there’s no awkwardness when you don’t buy.

Just as well, too, because the souks would confuse a compass. The owner of romantic rooftop restaurant L’mida told me: ‘I used to be born here and I still wander off.’ Google maps didn’t even attempt to help me discover a way through the infinite twists and turns of packed cobbled lanes to Djemaa el-Fna. I arrived and it was thrumming; drumbeats went through my soles as I joined tons of of individuals taking within the snake charmers, traders spreading their wares on blankets and dance troupes — all infused with a smell of incense.

I stayed within the Bab Doukkala neighbourhood, on the newly renovated Riad Elegancia, with its secluded roof terrace for breakfast and sunbathing and small stylish rooms with carved wood and hand-laid tiles.

Because the sister property of La Maison Arabe, a hotel as dug into the history of Marrakech as Churchill’s favourite La Mamounia, it was the proper spot to feel plugged in to the rhythms of the town — and to enjoy a hammam within the spa. Top tip on the hammam front: abandon all British reserve before stripping off and keep your eyes closed for a routine of black soap, full (I do mean full) body scrub with a rough glove, numerous hosing down, the warmth of a steam room and a massage, after which you’ll understand why it’s a weekly ritual here.

Kate's hotel in Marrakech's Bab Doukkala neighbourhood - the newly renovated Riad Elegancia

Kate’s hotel in Marrakech’s Bab Doukkala neighbourhood – the newly renovated Riad Elegancia

Morocco fans celebrate their team's success in Qatar - they came fourth overall

Morocco fans have a good time their team’s success in Qatar – they got here fourth overall


Doubles B&B at Riad Elegancia from £126 (cenizaro.com). Doubles B&B at Dar Rhizlane from £200 (dar-rhizlane.com). Wizz Air London Gatwick to Marrakech returns from £33.98 (wizzair.com). 

The square in daylight gave no hint of the frenetic evening before as my guide (an important luxury for this city, organised through the hotel), the supremely elegant Youssef, led us through the souks, via babouches (craftsmen hand-stitched the soles), spices from a store no wider than a front door, spectacular kaftans in silk, wool or velvet and eventually a carpet shop where the tiny doorway gave option to rooms of rugs, stacked to the ceiling (recent inventory: 28,000).

Staying within the medina is really dazzling, after which you would possibly need a vacation out of your holiday. 

I decamped to the ‘recent town’, inbuilt 1914, encircling the town partitions, with palm trees and boulevards and specifically made for the impossibly glamorous Dar Rhizlane, a luxurious and welcoming villa with 21 rooms and suites with gorgeous tiles and gypsum plaster, a heated pool, gardens with ancient trees, and impeccable restaurant. Its alluring authenticity proved the truism that the mark of a well-designed room is to have the opportunity to sit down in it for an hour and find it interesting.

A brief stroll away was the brand new M Avenue, where global brands from 4 Seasons to Aston Martin jostle for space. Locals said they loved it, though it felt quite bland to me, but still ideal for coffee and people-watching before a spin around the 300 plant species, curving walkways and Berber museum of the Jardin Majorelle.

Kate stayed in the 'impossibly glamorous' Dar Rhizlane - 'a sumptuous and welcoming villa with 21 rooms and suites'

Kate stayed within the ‘impossibly glamorous’ Dar Rhizlane – ‘a luxurious and welcoming villa with 21 rooms and suites’

Finally, half an hour south-west, through traffic that needs to be a tourist attraction, I spent a soothing afternoon within the lunar landscape of the Agafay desert, at Yes We Camp’s.

There are 40 everlasting tents (all velvet drapes and berber rugs), a swimming pool and fire pit — and I heard nothing but birdsong.

Three holidays in a single. That’s all a part of the magic of Marrakech.

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