Like many North African towns, Marrakech is divided into two distinct parts, the Gueliz (the modern French-built city) and the Medina (the Old City). For generations it has been a meeting place for the mountain Berbers and the desert peoples of the south, who come to trade and barter amongst the colourful souks, turning the centre of the old city into a rich cacophony of noise and colour with spectacular architecture and wonderful facades.
Heading out the city accompanied with a local guide, we wander past vendors selling doughnuts and fried grasshoppers, meander through native markets where Muslim women, their hands and feet dyed with henna, call out to sell their wares, and enjoy the sounds and the smells of the exotic. For those that want to, there is the option to stay in town and make your own way back to the hotel after our city tour, taking time to enjoy more of the remarkable Medina, perhaps haggling for a bargain or two, or simply sitting at one of the local cafés and watching the street tableaux unfold before you.
The city's beating heart is the spectacular Djemma-el-Fna, a site not to be missed and a scene straight out of the pages of the Arabian Nights. You will find the square alive with storytellers and musicians, jugglers and acrobats, snake charmers and clowns.
Leaving the city behind this afternoon, we drive south towards the craggy peaks and plunging valleys of the Toubkal Massif. Crossing the Haouz Plain we pass through the tiny town of Asni, from where our road begins to climb towards the foothills of the Massif.
Below us the valley of the Oued Rhirhaia stretches out into the distance and small villages cling to the sides of the steep hills as we meander our way towards the village of Ouirgane. The towering peaks of the High Atlas are North Africa's greatest range of mountains, a wild region, culturally removed from the rest of Morocco, and a barrier between the northern plains and the pre-Sahara. This is the land of the fiercely independent Berbers, the Lords of the Atlas, whose traditions and ways still hold sway up here in their mountain strongholds far away from the cities below. The Berbers present us with a unique view of a way of life lost to the rest of North Africa, where music and dance, even language and religion, are far removed from their Arab neighbours.