There is not much point renting a car: all hotels can organise a pick-up from the airport, and the centre of town is only a 15-minute drive away. If this is your first time in Morocco, navigating can be confusing. Plus the traffic can be somewhat chaotic, what with having to avoid donkeys and horse-drawn carts.
Fly to Ménara International Airport with BA (www.ba.com), Air France, Royal Air Maroc or its budget carrier, Atlas Blue (www.atlas-blue.com) - although it's not the slickest operation. EasyJet flights from Gatwick are a good option.
Country code for Morocco: +212; Marrakech: (0)524 for land lines, (0)624 for mobiles.
Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud; A Year in Marrakesh by Peter Mayne; The Spider's House and The Sheltering Sky, both by Paul Bowles.
Do go / Don't Go
It's great to get your Christmas shopping done here, and New Year is fun, but this is prime time, so it's busy, with prices pushed up accordingly. July and August are unbearably sweltering, while spring and autumn are delightfully balmy - October/November and February are wonderful times to visit. Things can be slow during Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.
Mint tea, tajines, couscous, and pastillas - pigeon pies laced with icing sugar and almond - are the ubiquitous dishes here; you'll either love or hate the sweet/savoury combination of spices and fruits, but you should definitely try them at least once. Other fare on offer includes French fusion dishes, often featuring seafood, and the simple but tasty grilled skewered meat, fish and vegetables on offer at stalls all over the Djemaa el Fna square (aka the 'grand place').
Small cabs (or 'petits taxis') take up to three passengers and stay within the city limits. They are metered; sit in the front seat so you can keep your eyes on the ticker, or make sure you agree a price before setting off. Big cabs ('grands taxis') take up to six people. It's always best to establish a price for your journey regardless of the government's attempts to enforce standard rates. Always have small change on you: it may be hard to get the correct change without hassle. Taxis tend to be pricier after 20h.
In eateries, leave around 10 per cent tip; sling porters and anyone who helps you out along the way maybe five or 10 dirhams. Taxis tend to overcharge, so don't feel you need to add extra.
Moroccan Dirham (Dh); there are around 16Dhs to £1; euros are also accepted in many places, although you will get a poor cash equivalent of €1 to 10Dhs.
Leave space in your suitcase for new purchases; take bubble-wrap for fragile trinkets; a French phrasebook; and warm clothes for the evenings, especially in winter, when the temperature can dip surpsisingly low.
The Jardin Majorelle in Guéliz (www.jardinmajorelle.com) was designed in the Twenties by French artist Jacques Majorelle, then restored by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, who lived, stylishly and privately, in Marrakech. Go early in the afternoon to avoid all the tourist buses; the Musée d'Art Islamique is also worth a peek, to see Majorelle's lithographs and the antique Berber pieces. Ben Youssef Medersa, in the medina, is a 14th-century Koranic school. It's no longer in use, but is a beautiful building to visit, open 9am-6pm.
See our feature on Marrakshi style in the members' section.
Browsing the souks is the most fun way to shop, but those with extra retail-therapy needs might like to visit Beldi, at 9-11 rue Mouassine, for top-quality kaftans and cushion covers. Akbar Delights on Place Bab Fteuh is a boutique bursting with Indian fabrics, slippers, belts and jewellery. Moustafa Blaoui at 144 rue Dar el Bacha (near Bab Doukkala) is your best option for furniture, mirrors, poufs and throws; its entrance is marked only by the street number - just push open the studded wooden door to reveal the Aladdin's cave of Moroccan homewares within. For the most effective retail experience, enlist the services of Laetitia (+212 (0)6 6147 7228.; www.lalla.fr) who will help you source the most stylish goods. She also designs gorgeous bags; they're stocked at Paul & Joe, but we say buy 'em at her Medina boutique. Fans of soft-leather Tod's-style loafers and shoes should pay a visit to Attika on Rue de la Liberté in Guéliz; and you can have tailored leather jackets made at Sergio Balantcia on Boulevard el Mansour Eddahbi, also in Guéliz.
Café de France on Jemaa el-Fna is the most famous of the city's coffee spots. It's a little shabby round the edges, but the balcony is a classic perch from which to see the hurly-burly of this teeming main square in all its glory; go for a coffee at sunset and watch all the stalls setting up for the evening.
The main square, Place Jemaa el-Fna, comes to life at night, with snake-charmers, musicians, storytellers, magicians and acrobats galore. Enjoy some mint tea in the souks while you're bartering, take your time, and let yourselves be as sweet and polite as you would be at home.
June/July Marrakech Popular Arts Festival is an annual week-long festival that sees dance troupes from all over the country perform in the city (www.visitmorocco.org). December The Marrakech Film Festival attracts screen stars from near and far (but mostly from France) to Morocco to celebrate all things celluloid (www.festival-marrakech.com).