Marrakech can be characterized with one word: overwhelming. Especially if it’s your first time visiting an Arabic country. But if you know what to imagine and pack the right attitude with you, Marrakech can be incredibly enriching!
Here are Marrakech’s most notable features:
1. Constant hassling
I assume you will expect a lot of hassling when you go to Marrakech. But be ready because it never stops, especially when walking through the Djemaa El-Fna Square. Every orange juice stall owner will call out to you, every lady will want to paint your hands with henna, you’ll be approached all the time by people begging… No wonder, you as a foreigner look like a walking pot of gold to the poor locals, even if you’re a broke backpacker.
2. Price haggling
In any Marrakech market, never buy an item for the stated price. Haggling is not only expected, it’s a must if you don’t want to spend a fortune and end up ripped off. You can learn real haggling techniques in this article about How to Haggle like a Pro and rather turn it into a game than despise it.
Also read this guide to Morocco shopping.
3. Tourist vs. local
With all the cheap Ryanair flights, it’s now easier than ever to travel to Marrakech and you’ll see a large number of tourists there. Please make sure to be respectful of their culture and don’t join the club of ignorant foreigners. Nobody there is ready to see your cleavage or thighs. Here’s a set of tips for what to wear.
4. The food
The food in Marrakech is mouthwatering. Tajines and couscous in so many varieties, always delicious..! Street food can taste awesome too, just be a little cautious. It helps to look for stalls that are popular among locals; you don’t want to eat at a place where even locals wouldn’t dare to eat. In any case, pack some activated charcoal with you – it definitely came in handy for me in Marrakech :)
5. The smells
Marrakech is fragrant. You can smell all sorts of things there. From exotic spices to less pleasant leather-dying smell, Marrakech has it all. From the moment you step off the plane, your nostrils will curiously catch smells that you might not be used to from home. How exciting!
If you don’t know any words in French or Arabic, you won’t have it easy. But you can always learn, right? Nail a few phrases in French and Hello & Thank you in Arabic. That can get you a long way! Other than that, use your hands :)
Most animals you’ll see will not be having the time of their lives. From snakes with sown mouths to tired-looking horses standing day and night at Djemaa El-Fna, that’s just the way it is. PETA wouldn’t be thrilled, but what country hasn’t used animal power in their agriculture and development, right? Right?
8. More than Medina
Marrakech is more than the Medina and Djemaa El-Fna..! Stroll away further from the centre and you’ll find empty streets. Not all of the amazingly tall palm trees are real. We found a couple of fake ones! :)
The real modern Marrakech is in the quarter of Gueliz – just wander the streets there and marvel at all the western-looking shops, quite a contrast to the old town! It helps that it’s just a walking distance from Jardine Majorelle – the beautiful garden created by Yves Saint Laurent! It’s a must-see, even though it’s always packed with tourists and it’s a little pricey. Don’t forget your camera, this is where you can put it to good use! Oh and did I mention the beautiful and modern train station?
Marrakech offers a great insight into the Arabic culture and Morocco as a whole. Come with an open mind, be cautious about your belongings (there are pickpockets and scammers everywhere) and enjoy it all! Don’t let the occasional hassle put you off. It would be a pity because Marrakech is a place with special charm – Yves Saint Laurent would have surely agreed with me!
Read also these tips on preparing for your first visit to Marrakech – it’ll seriously help prevent the seemingly unavoidable sensory overload!
Have you been to Marrakech? What did you like most? Do you ever plan to go back?
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