A visit to Marrakech sounds exotic doesn’t it? Images of dusty lanes with market traders, interspersed with snake charmers and all kinds of tasty foods could spring to mind. And it is all of that, but with a twist.
Whats the twist? Well I will get to that in a minute.
Upon arriving in the old medina (city) you will be greeted on the main square by all kinds of intriguing activity. If you arrive at night the feeling you initially receive will most likely be more intense.
The snake charmers have the creatures slithering about openly around them, while traditional dancers show off their skills, surrounded by curious onlookers.
Food stalls are everywhere selling all kinds of interesting tidbits for the non-initiated to Moroccan cuisine. From kebabs to the more unique. Sheep’s head anyone?
The daytime is a more tranquil setting, but not by much.
These are some great day trips that you can do from Marrakech when there.
The craziness of Marrakech markets (souqs).
This is where the real fun awaits you, depending on your perspective of things.
Getting lost in the warren of lanes that make up the markets of the medina is a full on experience.
There are many different areas, with some specialising in a particular expertise. The metal works souq is one of the most interesting, with welders working away, surrounded by the sparks from their tools in full swing.
The rest of them have spices, clothes, souvenirs, woodwork, in fact a lot things you could imagine can be found. However with the high level of activity and people, it could be a bit overwhelming for some.
As someone interested in photography I can recommend a museum called Maison de la Photographie. It displays old photos collected from the 1800’s up to the late 50’s showing the people and culture of Morocco, particularly from the Marrakech area.
It’s a fascinating look back in time.
The another good thing is that they have a small rooftop terrace where you can sit and enjoy a drink with a view over the rooftops of Marrakech. The cost to enter the museum is only around $5.
There are other sites, such as old palaces and tombs, but to be honest I didn’t find them that interesting. But maybe you would like them, and they only cost $1 to enter, so why not.
Taking narrow side streets away from the main action is a must to escape the chaotic energy. In these more relaxed areas you can slow down and take a breather.
In fact some of the best places to stay in the old medina are down these small lanes. You can stay in traditional houses with a communal courtyard situated in the middle of the building, while the rooms go upwards around it.
Now lets get to that s twist I mentioned at the beginning.
The bad side of a visit to Marrakech.
The reality is that for all its exoticness it can be a lot of hassle to visit. Indeed its that exotic nature that brings in lots of tourists, which means a lot of touts. For a first time traveler it really is a serious full on place to deal with.
The aggressive touts are everywhere, trying to get you to buy this and that (including hashish), or want money to show you directions. They wont take no for an answer easily.
Constantly being asked if you want something gets really annoying very fast and can drain your energy, along with the fast paced action of the markets. It’s a tiring city.
You will also be asked to pay money for photos sometimes, such as taking a picture of a snake charmer, or some of the traditional dancing. The trick around that is to just get your zoom lens fully ranged out and take it from a distance.
How to deal with touts in Marrakech.
Saying a friendly no to them doesn’t work, they will persist in trying to get you what they want. But just say no one time, and just ignore them after that if they continue.
You will eventually get tired of saying no all the time for hours on end however, so just bite the bullet and ignore them altogether. You may feel like you are being rude, but it’s them who are being rude by constantly bothering you.
If you do decide to use their services, such as them showing you somewhere (if you get lost) then make sure you agree on a price beforehand. And trust me they will want money or to show you to a shop where they hassle you to buy something.
The best thing is to put a local sim card in your smartphone (if you have one). They only cost around $5 with 1gb data, and that means you can use google maps to find your way around.
If you do need directions it’s best to ask inside a shop that just sells things like food, as they will be less interested in trying to sell you something.
Be strong and don’t allow them to push you around.
It’s still worth a brief visit.
Having said all that about touts it’s still worth going to get a glimpse of what I mentioned in this article, albeit for a short time.
And there are some very genuinely friendly people around that don’t just want to get some money from you.
You read and trust me for my advice and I can say I wasn’t hugely impressed with Marrakech. There were some things you would enjoy, but for me 2 nights was enough.
There is so much for you to see in the rest of Morocco.
Here’s a foodies guide to Marrakech.
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