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19 Tips for Visiting Marrakech

It’s historic, colorful, brimming with culture, and probably a lot different from your hometown. Marrakech was once an imperial city, leaving it filled with stunning mosques, gardens, and palaces. It’s a medieval city, protected by an aging wall, and keeping to its roots with bustling souk culture. Marrakech is a dream for those who love art, shopping, photography, and history. If you’re planning a trip, here are 19 tips for visiting Marrakech. Keep these in mind for a holiday that’s all smooth sailing.

Keep Plenty of The Local Currency With You

The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham and it is what you must use when making purchases. While a few places will accept Euros now and then, make the Dirham a priority in your wallet. Before leaving the airport, you can exchange your currency with no fee. The vendors in the souks typically only take cash, and the hotels and medinas are cash heavy too. Plus, many of the locals will ask for tips after providing services, so having cash on hand is useful. And, since ATMs are scarce, make sure to take out large amounts of cash when you do find one.

Try Staying in a Riad Within The Medina Walls

People who have visited Marrakech say that no trip is complete without this authentic experience. Even if you prefer hotels, it’s recommended to try a Riad for a night. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan home with its own interior courtyard. Many of them come with swimming pools, sunny terraces, and a complimentary breakfast.

Marrakech

Dress Modestly

While Morocco can get extremely hot during the summer, do your best to dress modestly, especially if you are a woman. This is part of the country’s culture and religion, and as a guest, you should do your best to respect their customs. Showing off shoulders, cleavage, and knees could be offensive to the locals, so try to keep covered up when possible. This is especially important to keep in mind when visiting religious sites.

See The Tanneries  

The tanneries are some of the most visually stunning, colorful, and interesting sights in the city. You’ll find them in the northeast of the medina, and there are sure to be locals who offer to bring you to them. You can stand on one of the terraces and watch the locals hard at work below as they dip cloths into colorful pools of water. This will give you a chance to see how many of the items in the markets are made. The tanneries are especially a treat for photographers who can easily get amazing shots.

tannery

Be Aware Of Taxi Scams 

Taxi scams are big business in Marrakech and you don’t want to fall prey to one. Make sure to ask someone at the airport for the normal rates. Tourists should expect to pay more, but many of the taxis inflate their prices to preposterous amounts. Some taxis will claim that you won’t find a cheaper option. But, if they don’t come down in price, just be prepared to walk away. And, try to make sure you solidly negotiate a price before getting in. If you can arrange a taxi through the airport, this is much easier than trying to get one on your own.

Get Prepared to be Lost but Learn to be OK With That

Getting lost in Marrakech is to be expected. If you’re the kind of person who gets frustrated and upset when you can’t find your way, try to go into it with an open mind. The narrow streets and busy souks are easy places to lose your way. But, you’ll end up finding some true gems while you try and get back on track. Many tourists say that the signs are hard to read or aren’t correct. however, you’ll usually come across a large tourist attraction that will help you navigate. And, you can easily find a taxi to take you back to your hotel.

marrakech market

Haggle in The Markets

Between the souks and the colorful souvenirs, you’ll probably want to do some shopping in Marrakech. If you do, be prepared to haggle. The vendors will quote you outrageous prices, mostly because you are a tourist. Haggling is also a common practice in the culture, so prices start high as vendors expect you to make counter offers. If you can’t agree on a price, just walk away. It’s highly likely that the vendor will give you what you ask for instead of losing the sale altogether. And don’t forget, keep things polite. You don’t want to insult the locals.

Don’t Drink The Tap Water

The water in Marrakech isn’t all that safe to drink, especially if you aren’t used to it. Avoid tap water and ice made from tap water as much as possible. Buy bottled water and make sure to keep some on hand as you are wandering around the city.

 moroccan man

Try Speaking The Local Language

You can certainly get by on English, but many of the locals speak French and Arabic. If you can learn a few words in the local language, you may get more respect and better prices. If Arabic is too much of a challenge, try to brush up on your French. It will get you a whole lot further.

Watch Out For Pickpockets

Like any bustling city, there are pickpockets lurking in the crowds. Make sure to wear a money belt under your clothes or to keep your backpack on your front. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a backup credit card and extra cash in your hotel room. Be especially alert while in the markets, wandering around the medina or at busy tourist attractions. As long as you take precautions and pay attention to what’s going on around you, you shouldn’t have any problems.

marrakech medina

Be Careful in The Medina at Night

This is especially true for women, but everyone should take precaution. While the area is not inherently dangerous, it is a place where locals may prey on tourists. There is a lot of poverty going on in Marrakech, which makes tourists with money look like appealing targets. Travel in numbers, stick to crowded areas, and avoid the Medina if you are alone.

Be Careful When Taking Photos

This is probably not that obvious to most visitors, but taking photos is kind of a big deal in Marrakech. It’s considered rude to take photos of the locals without their permission. In Morocco, they believe that photos capture their soul. So, it could be quite devastating to someone to have their photo taken if they aren’t expecting it. Also, avoid taking pictures of animal performers or snake charmers in the main square. The owners of these operations may demand a hefty fee from you for the privilege of taking photos. And, be inconspicuous when taking photos of shops or stores. Many of the owners may ask you to give them money or buy something for using their shop as your photo subject.

 taking photo

Don’t Trust The Advice of The Locals In All Situations

There are plenty of nice, generous, and helpful locals in Marrakech, however, there are some malicious ones too. If someone offers you advice without you asking for it, just be wary. You may encounter men in the street who will tell you that your hotel is closed. Then, they may try to lead you to an alternative, most likely their family’s hotel or Riad. This can happen with restaurants and shops too. Other times, someone will tell you that a street is closed and offer to direct you another way. However, they may aggressively demand a tip for being your guide afterwards.

Try The Food in The Markets/ Night Markets

The food in the markets is generally safe to eat and is much cheaper than in the restaurants. Try the snail soup which has a well-spiced and very flavorful broth. The snails are usually very tender as well. Enjoy a B’stilla, which is savory pie with flaky layers. It usually has some kind of fish or pigeon inside. It also has eggs and almonds, and is a treat that is both savory and sweet. Chebakia is a fried sesame cookie that is shaped like a flower and covered in syrup or honey. Ma’gooda are potato balls that are deep fried and often covered in a spicy harissa sauce. And Harira is a traditional soup that is served throughout the year. It features noodles, lentils, chickpeas, and sometimes has meat.

Marrakech Medina Food

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings at all Times

The streets of Marrakech are busy and crowded, leaving you vulnerable to a lot of danger. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sounds and sights, but stay alert, especially to the traffic. There will be taxis, motorbikes, carts, and donkeys that could easily knock you over if you aren’t paying attention. And, since the city tends to be crowded and busy, make sure that you and your travel partner have a way to contact each other if you get seperated.

Get Ready For Heat If Visiting in The Summer

It’s sunny and hot most of the year, but especially in summer. Make sure to prepare for the high temperatures by bringing a water bottle with you and wearing loose, light clothing. Opting for a Riad with a pool is a great idea if you want to retreat from the heat during your stay. Despite the hot weather, remember that Morocco is a Muslim country so women should not show too much skin, you can find out more about what to wear here.

pool marrakech

Experience The Jemaa el-Fna 

This is one of the most famous public squares in the city. It’s a place that really captures the culture and feel of Marrakech. You’ll stumble upon snake charmers, entertainers, henna tattoo artists, and stalls full of street food. It can be found within the medina and is usually brimming with locals and tourists. This is one of the best spots for people watching and sampling the local cuisine. While a visit during the day is eventful, it’s in the evening when this square truly comes to life. You’ll come across magicians, storytellers, dancers, and even more food stalls offering treats and unusual snacks. It’s a Marrakech experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Visit The Jardin Majorelle

Created by French painter, Jacques Majorelle, this is one of the top attractions in Marrakech. Over 40 years he infused this garden with art and creativity to make it what it is today. There are more than 300 species of plants and a maze of small streams, tiny alleyways, and beautiful trees. It really is a magical place with an intriguing history. The entire place is two and half acres and it has been bringing in visitors since the 1920s. It used to be the home of Majorelle and his wife until they divorced. Then, it was taken over by fashion designers who restored its beauty and continued to allow public entry. There are a few museums on site as well so you can make a day out of it.

Jardin Majorelle

Try a Hammon 

A Hammon is a traditional bathhouse and a great way to experience the local culture. It can be a bit intimidating for visitors as the custom is to strip down with a group of strangers. However, if you can gather up the courage to try one, there are a ton of health benefits. Males and females are separated and before you can enter, there will be someone to wash you. These facilities tend to overcharge tourists so be careful about which one you choose. Locals typically pay 50 to 100 dirhams so try not to pay much more than that.

Marrakech is brimming with colorful sights, sounds, culture, history, and natural beauty. As a travel destination, it really has it all. No matter what you’re looking for, it’s likely that you’ll find it in Marrakech. Travel in Marrakech has its challenges, but so do most places in the world. So, arm yourself with these tips, and enjoy your travels.

Here Are the Best Things to Do in Marrakech (37 of them!)

Colourful hanging carpets, whiffs of spice as you walk through the souk (market), and camels elegantly crossing sand dunes is what comes to mind when you think of Morocco.

But that would be just another touristy day that anyone can do. We want you to taste Morocco for what it really is, in its detail. That’s why we’re handing you on a silver plate the best things to do in one of its most culture-intense cities, Marrakech.

1. Medina

The first thing you have to do in Marrakech is put on your comfortable shoes and head to the Medina. Walk under the archways and through its alleys, and absorb the life around you. Take in the browns of the stone the city was built with, the sound of locals talking to each other, the aromas splurging out of the food stalls…

A word of warning though: keep an eye out for cars and horse carts, they’re everywhere!

2. Djemaa El-Fna

Follow the old city walls of the Medina to get to the main square, Djemaa El-Fna. If you’re there during the day, try a fresh orange or grapefruit juice from one of the carts.

At night, as the temperature cools down, people start sprouting out from everywhere and the square fires into a vivid atmosphere.

Sit at one of the shared tables and eat a Harira, a pea, lamb and pasta soup. This is the same soup Moroccans eat for breakfast to break their fast and celebrate the end of Ramadan.

oranges

3. Hat for the Heat

If the heat starts getting to you, look for women selling straw hats. You’ll bless the few dollars you pay for it as it blocks the direct sunlight from your head. Is is important to dress appropriately when visiting Morocco to ensure that you feel comfortable.

4. Saadian Tombs

These tombs were discovered in 1917 and subsequently restored, but date back to the same era of Ahmad al-Mansur.

When visiting, admire cedar wood, stuccowork and Carrara marble decorating the tombs of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty, who came from the valley of the Draa River.

There are three rooms to go through with twelve columns, but what’s interesting is just outside is a garden with the graves of various soldiers and servants.

5. Marrakech Museum

This classical Andalusian-style house, Dar Menebhi Palace, was renovated and converted into a museum in 1997. Walk around the fountains in the central courtyard, admire the mosaics, carvings and tile work around you, then head towards the exhibits – pottery, coins, historical books – from every period of Moroccan history, Islamic, Berber and Moroccan.

6. Souks

Once your belly is nice and full and your head covered, head to one of the endless labyrinths that surround Djemaa El-Fna. You’ll find countless souks where you can buy leather, spices beautifully decorated in huge colourful cones, the local shoes – babouches. But probably the most hypnotising thing to do in a souk is walk into a carpet house. Be ready to have various carpets flung open in front of you, until you fall in love with one.

babouches

7. Barter

Of course, once you decide to buy any item in the souk, you’ll need to barter. Here are a couple of hints:

• Start by greeting the shop owners when you walk in: ‘Salam alek um’, to which they’ll reply ‘Alek um salam’. A little friendliness never hurt negotiations.
• Remember, it’s always a 3-step process. They’ll give you a price, you give them another, and it’ll always be somewhere in between the two. Keep that in mind when shooting your price – don’t say what you’d really pay, but a little under.

8. Walking Tours

There’s no better way to get to know a place than to walk around it. You have the time to look around, hear what’s around, and smell what’s around. It’s a fully sensual experience that you can take up on your own. However, in places as rich in culture and history as Marrakech, a walking tour with a local guide will dive you into much deeper layers than you’d imagine.

9. The Mellah

Also known as the Jewish quarter, the Mellah isn’t a souk but is probably the best place in the Medina to buy fabric.

10. Have Tailormade Clothes Made

Find a tailor, tell them what you’d like made, be advised on how much fabric you need, then go to buy it in the souk. Doing this will save you from the fabric seller overselling unneeded lengths.

A jilab with a touch of your own style is a great idea for a souvenir to take back home.

11. Visit a Riad and Have a Mint Tea

When you feel like a break, stop at one of the old aristocratic houses usually turned into a boutique hotel, a Riad. Ask for a mint tea and enjoy watching the ritual of the tea, as the waiter pours it three times until it reaches the perfect foam on top.

mint tea

12. Rue Bab Agnao

For a calmer atmosphere, head on a 5-minute walk to the entrance of the Kasbah district, the Rue Bab Agnao, which is the most impressive of the Medina’s entrances, with less hustle and bustle and better-kept streets.

Once there, visit the Royal Palace, the former El-Badi Palace, and the Saadian Tombs.

13. El Badi Palace

Built in 1578 by the Arab Sultan, Ahmad al-Mansur, from the money of a substantial ransom paid after the Battle of the Three Kings by the Portuguese, this now-ruined palace has turned into a must-see for anyone visiting Marrakech. Make sure you get there before 4pm to have time to enjoy it before closing time at 5pm.

14. Jardin Majorelle

Created in the 1920s and 30s by the French expatriate Jacque Majorelle, this 12-acre botanical garden sprinkled with brightly painted walls and plant holders also houses the Islamic Art Museum, the archaeological museum of Marrakech.

15. Bahia Palace

When Si Moussa, the grand vizier of the sultan built this palace at the end of the 19th century, he meant it to be the greatest palace of its time. Named after one of his wives in the harem, the rooms intended for the concubines surround the central basin.

16. Boucharouite Museum

This museum holds interesting Berber boucharouites, rugs made out of rugs, and a gallery with Moroccan popular art including painted doors. If you feel like eating something light, head upstairs to the terrace.

17. Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret

This mosque and minaret have welcomed visitors of Marrakech with their overpowering height for close to a thousand years. The name comes from the Arabic ‘bookseller’, which is interesting because it dates to the 1200s when books were still unknown in the Christian world.

morocco

18. Cyber Park, Arsat Moulay Abdeslam

Good place to just sit in the shade to have a break from all the sightseeing and enjoy some free wifi.

19. Dar Si Said

A beautiful museum that oozes nostalgia in every little corner. It mixes old with new in such a way you can see items that were used in the old Hispano-Moorish times, which you can still see in use on the streets of Marrakech simply by walking out of the same museum.

20. Smoke a Shisha

You’ll know when you’re near it. The sweet aroma of the flavoured tobacco will drag you in as if under hypnosis. Just go with it, sit down and let the assistants bring the coal for your Shisha, then just watch as it bubbles and it starts vaporising for you to enjoy. You might not be a smoker, but what you’re doing with this is experiencing an ancient communal ritual, once exclusive to the higher class.

21. Take a Belly Dance Class

Why not? Go on, go get those muscles a good stretch and find out what fun belly dance can be. Don’t take yourself too seriously, simply enjoy the moment and the wisdom of the celebration of the woman’s femininity in all its shapes and forms. After all, everyone in class will probably never ever see you again. Just go for it!

22. Food Tasting

There are tours for food tasting too, but the best thing to do in Marrakech is to walk around the city and follow the best aromas for the best food. Sometimes they’ll be coming from a street vendor cart, other times they’ll come from a small, local eating joint, and sometimes out of lush restaurants. Take your pick! Just try not to end up in someone’s private kitchen.

23. Rahba Kedima Square

A quieter souk. You’ll find souvenirs, spices, and carpets, but what’s most intriguing are the dried up plants and animals!

spices

24. Photography Museum of Marrakech

You’ll find more than 8,000 photographs ranging from 1870 to 1950, including an exhibition of hundreds of old photographs and projection of the very first film recorded in High-Atlas colour, ‘Landscapes and Faces of the High-Atlas’, produced in 1957 by Daniel Chicault.

25. Musee Tiskiwin

Compared to other museums, the Tiskiwin might look small but it’s well-organised and contains insightful information about the history of Marrakech and its region, including artefacts from past centuries that will make you look at the city with fresh eyes.

26. Mouassine Museum

If you like old buildings, this is a museum you shouldn’t miss. It’s split into parts, one used by the family and the other open to guests. The most amazing feature of this house is that the plaster was taken off and its original bright colours were restored back to vivid life.

27. Get Lost

Once you plunge into this addictive shopping spree, you’re sure to look up at a certain point and realise you’re lost. Here’s what you have to do – find a narrow door that signals a rooftop café, walk up its winding steps, and from there you’ll be able to (more or less) locate yourself.

marrakech

28. Look for Local Delicacies

Here are some of our favourite dishes we highly recommend you sample:

Moroccan crepe for breakfast, tagine of sardine balls, liver in onion sauce, roasted lamb and of course you have to try some bakery items!

29. Try an Avocado & Date Smoothie

Maybe the most curious refreshment you can get in Marrakech is the avocado and date smoothie.

30. Farmhouse cooking tour

As days go by and you feast on makouda, kefta, zaalouk, cous cous and b’stilla you might end up thinking how you’d miss this food back home. Well, there’s a way to prevent that – learn how to cook some Moroccan dishes, so you can make them back home. Ask around for the best cooking course or tour.

That’s not all. If you fancy stepping out of Marrakech for a while, you can find other fun, active things to enjoy. Here are some:

31. Horse Riding

Visiting the Atlas Mountains while riding on a horse, past Berber villages, and soaking in the landscape of all shades of brown is definitely worth some time away from the city.

32. Palm Grove, Sunset & Camel Ride

The only thing to top that is riding on a camel in Palm Grove, just half an hour out of Marrakech and walking into the sunset as if you were in a postcard or movie.

desert

33. Quad Bike Safari

If riding on the back of animals isn’t your idea of fun, then maybe riding on a four-wheeler might be. Just put on your helmet and ride the sand, through wild palm groves.

34. Hot Air Balloon Ride

Then again, it might be the sky you’re aiming for. Well, nothing in Marrakech is impossible. Book yourself a hot air balloon ride and feel the excitement of elevating away from the ground and going swiftly up, up, up into the sky.

35. Oasiria Water Park

The gardens and pools of the water park are a great idea for a relaxed day away from the heat of the streets, but also a fun place to entertain kids.

36. Get a Flag Beer

Trying the flag beer of every country is a must. In Morocco, you’ll find Casablanca Beer in most of the touristy places. Snap that bottle open; it’s time to freshen up from the heat.

37. Visit a Hammam

Let’s face it, holidaying can be tiring. The good news? In Marrakech, there are various hammams, what we know as a spa. You’ll find varying prices and qualities, but whichever you choose make sure to get a nice scrub, especially to your well deserving feet, then soak into a beautiful massage.

That was our top 37 things to do in Marrakech. Is there something that you love to do in Marrakech that we’ve missed out? Let us know, we always love to hear about your experiences and holidays in Marrakech.

Need any more reasons to visit Marrakech? Get that suitcase ready and, whatever happens in Morocco, remember the 2 magic words: Mashi Muskhi (No problem!)

For more inspiration contact Epic Morocco today and discover more about the enigmatic city of Marrakech and book your trip. 

From Morocco to Timbuktu: An Arabian Adventure

Camel trek in Erg Chebbi

When we got the call from Tern TV to be their Moroccan fixer for the BBC 2 Series, From Morocco to Mali: An Arabian Adventure, it started us off on a quest to find the historic salt roads that cross Morocco from North to South and down across the Sahara.

Our job was to help plot the route, to input any ideas we had of people to meet along the way, to get all the film permits sorted and to transport the crew through Morocco. We were then there as an integral part of the team all through the filming to make sure that everything ran smoothly.

We needed every one of our fourteen years of experience in designing tailormade tours and adventures in Morocco to get the job done – it was a mammoth task.

Morocco to Timbuktu

Charlie Shepherd, Epic Morocco Founder, took the lead and made sure the three week shoot went as smoothly as possible. Simo Hadji was the camera assistant and Khalid was the driver. Our guide, Saaid Naanaa got to play a starring role as he guided Alice across the mountains.

In fact, the presenter, Alice Morrison is also a part of Epic Morocco. We sponsored her for her big world first trek: The Atlas to Atlantic when she trekked from the top of Mount Toubkal to the Atlantic ocean straight across the Atlas Mountains.

Epic transport to the mountains

The Series starts in Tangier and then travels down through Fez and Marrakech, across the Atlas Mountains and to the ancient, lost city of Sijilmassa.

Morocco to Mali

We explore historic salt mines hidden in the mountains, the traditional camel market in Guelmim, and finally cross into the dunes of the Sahara Desert.

It is on BBC2 on 11th and 18th May 2017 at 9.00 pm and available after that on BBC IPlayer.

We are also designing a trip to visit some of the destinations featured. Please contact escape@epicmorocco.co.uk for details.

The book on the adventure is out now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1545581371/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER MARRAKECH

Flying high over Marrakech By Alice Morrison.Hot Air Balloon Ride, marrakech, ciel d'afrique, marrakech

I woke up with a jump as the alarm went off at 5.00 am for my pick up. My first ever hot air balloon ride with Ciel D’Afrique. I was excited but slightly nervous, my Mum’s message had been, “Have fun, but remember balloons can pop!”. Any qualms I had were calmed when I  met our pilot, Hicham.

“It IS fun,” he said about his job, “but it is also a matter of responsibility. I am not only a pilot I am also the first Moroccan balloon flight instructor.”

Hot Air Balloon Launch

Our launch point was about a half hour’s drive from Marrakech, towards the little mountains, the Jibilat. We had stopped to pick up the guests including James and Ashley who were on their honeymoon and expecting their first baby. Seven of us clustered round and watched the miracle of the balloon unfold. It was like a scene from a modern Rembrandt as the glow of the propane lit up the faces of the men working and then the magic of the balloon billowing and filling above us with its bright red and green stripes.

Hot Air Balloon Ride, marrakech, ciel d'afrique, marrakech
We clambered in and it was time to go up. Hicham let loose the propane and we gently, gently started to rise. It was so gradual that I got a shock when I looked over the side and saw how high we were.

Magic in the air

Everything you imagine about a balloon flight is true. It is a magical experience, drifting over the surface of the earth in the cool of the morning air, silent except for the wooosh of the propane. We could see the lights of Marrakech burning bright in the distance and then slowly fading as the sun rose in a perfect yellow ball over the Jibilat.

Ciel D’Afrique had provided champagne and we toasted Ashley and James and their new life together. Extra magic.

The wind was light and we moved lazily towards the little mountains for sunrise, then changed direction and over flew some tiny farms. We could pick out every detail below in the sharp morning light; olive trees, a flock of sheep, a well with a water tower beside it, clusters of date palms and even a magpie scurrying along.

In the distance, the Ciel D’Afrique vehicles were following us, ready to pick us up wherever we landed. I thought the landing might be a bit of a bumpy, jolty affair but it was a lot smoother than most Easyjet flights. We came down next to a Oued, a dry river bed, near one of the farms we had seen from above.

Hot Air Balloon Ride, marrakech, ciel d'afrique, marrakech

Flying definitely creates an appetite, and we were very happy to see the Berber breakfast laid out in one of the tents at the landing ground. Local honey and olive oil with freshly-made crepes and Moroccan pancakes, teamed up with salty, black olives, eggs and mint tea. The perfect end to the perfect morning.

If you would like to try a flight with Ciel D’Afrique, let us know, or contact them directly.

This article was by Moroccan-based Adventurer, Alice Morrison.

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