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Things to do in Marrakech

Grapple with a spot of rock climbing

For rock climbers, the Atlas Mountains are teasingly close. A playground of snowy peaks, deep-cut gorges and breathtaking scenery, Climb Morocco (www.climbmorocco.com) offer day trips for those wishing to grapple with the landscape. From beginners to more experienced climbers, their expert guides can show you some spectacular spots to shimmy up.

Make for the Moroccan mountains

The Atlas Mountains are one of the greatest ranges in North Africa and for hikers a great escape from the city. Just under two hours south of Marrakech, the hills are easy accessible by car. Choose an experienced outfit like Toubkal Guide (tel: +212 6711 57636; www.toubkalguide.com) whose tours take trekkers to the highest peaks.

Spend a night under the stars

There is no better way of seeing the Sahara than on a camel's back. From Marrakech, the drive to the desert takes several hours but is worth the numb backside. Vamos a Marruecos (tel: +212 6672 50247; www.vamosamarruecos.com) organise three-day trips that not only show you ancient Saharan villages but include a night under the stars too.

Spice up your life with a cookery class

Wander the markets in Marrakech and you'll see a burst of electric pink, saffron red and sunset yellow. With so many spices it's easy to be overwhelmed and hard to know where to start. Cookery school, Faim d'Epices (tel: +212 6000 48800; www.faimdepices.com) will teach you how to turn your spice haul into tasty, traditional dishes.

Unwind in a traditional Hammam

After a morning of bartering in the souks, unwind like a local in a steam room, an important part of Moroccan culture. Hammam El-Bacha, 20 Rue Fatima Zohra, offers a traditional experience where visitors hire a bucket, black soap and exfoliating glove to cleanse in the marble rooms. Mornings are for males and afternoons for females.

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Featured Hotels

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Riad L'Etoile D'Orient

Restored in 2010, this tastefully appointed riad mixes the modern with the traditional, meaning guests can upload snaps of the refined Moroccan decor using the speedy free Wi-Fi service. Just minutes from Jemaa el Fna, rooms here include flatscreen TVs and gorgeous bathrooms. There's also a rooftop terrace to enjoy.

Riad Al Massarah

This riad is the definition of Marrakech cool, with its blend of traditional lofty architecture, handsome custom-made furnishings and ultramodern bathroom fittings by Philippe Starck. Proprietors Michael and Michel are blazing the trail for responsible tourism with clever use of natural light and solar energy, contributions to local charities, and standard-setting wages for staff.

Riyad El Cadi

This elegant guesthouse is a maze of historic riads set around five courtyards and faceted with private balconies, terraces, staircases and light wells. Each of the rooms has its own décor scheme (stay in the cupola-capped Ottoman suite with Turkish tile and latticework harem balcony). It also has a pool with Jacuzzi, subterranean hammam and well-stocked wine cellar.

La Maison Arabe Marrakech

Opened in the 1940s, La Maison Arabe was a popular dining place for the rich and famous (Winston Churchill was a patron). It closed in the 1980s but reopened in 1998 as a hotel with Italian blueblood and African antiques collector Frederic Ruspoli at the helm. His collection is now the centrepiece of the hotel's luxuriously restored suites and rooms.

Les Jardins de la Koutoubia

Tucked behind the Jemaa el Fna, this lovely hotel has 100 rooms and suites, clustered around a palm-filled courtyard with a large pool, decked out in a modern Moroccan style. Other major draws include the serene spa, offering traditional hammam treatments, and the piano bar and rooftop terrace, perfect for that evening sundowner.

La Mamounia

Set within lush gardens (once the royal grounds of the Saadians) and with fine views of the Atlas Mountains, this art deco luxury hotel has been the place to stay in Marrakech since it opened in the 1920s. Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor and has a bar named in his honour. Expect beautiful rooms, succulent on-site dining and world-class spa facilities.