One morning, we set off to explore the medina’s beautiful buildings. The Ben Youssef Madrasa dates from the 16th century and was once home to more than 900 scholars, who occupied tiny cell-like rooms while learning the Quran by rote. The huge courtyard was a magnificent example of Arab-Andalusian art, with intricately carved walls and beautifully mosaicked walls, zellige tiling and carved cedarwood ceilings.
The Saadian Tombs, the burial place of the Saadian dynasty, were equally breathtaking with mausoleums decorated floor to ceiling with the zellige tiling typical of Islamic decorative art. The tombs remained hidden for centuries until 1917, when they were discovered by a French aerial survey.
The magnificent Bahia Palace was the cherry on top. A huge complex that once housed a vizier, its numerous rooms had exquisite tiling and superb painted ceilings. An internal garden was bursting with fruit trees. Bahia means "brilliance" and we walked around quite stunned by the resplendence of the decoration.
We left the palace with heads spinning from visual overload. Marrakech has this effect on the senses. Fortunately, there are several gardens in which equilibrium can be restored.
We took a taxi to the Jardin Majorelle in the Ville Nouvelle, the "new" city outside the medina walls. Planted in the 1800s by French artist Jacques Majorelle, the garden fell into a derelict state and was rescued from demolition by Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who restored it. St Laurent lived there and a museum in his honour will open later in 2017.
The pavilion, painted in the cobalt blue known as Marjorelle blue, was once the artist’s studio and is now a Berber museum. The display of Berber jewellery and silver, amber beads, bracelets and amulets was particularly impressive.
The garden was a visual feast, planted with cacti and succulents along with huge bamboos and exotic trees and plants from five continents. Back in the medina, my husband and I headed for some pampering in a hammam.
Aimed at tourists, Les Bains de l’Alhambra offered his and hers sessions, which was how we found ourselves lying in adjacent green marble baths filled with warm water and strewn with rose petals.
Fortunately, it was lit only with candles as we realised too late we were not supposed to strip off for this part of the treatment. Head, face and neck massages were followed by mint tea, while we dried off in towelling robes before an hour-long, full-body massage. We emerged fragrant with oils and as relaxed as could be.
The peace was shattered hours later while we ate camel burgers at Café Clock, a funky cultural centre, where an ear-splitting concert of Gnaoua music — which has roots in the slave trade that passed through the area — was performed.
Marrakech is the most sensual of cities, from its vibrant art and architecture, the smell of spices, mint tea and sandalwood to the flavour of slow-cooked tagines or irresistible msemen, a flaky pancake eaten with honey for breakfast.
It is also a city of contrasts. those seeking their fortune on Jemaa el-Fna are but a few steps away from street beggars. Mostly, for visitors, it is a city that rejuvenates and invigorates through the sheer vitality found on every corner.