With only a 3.5-hour flight separating London and Marrakech, it is a perfect place for a long weekend getaway for winter sun-seekers and adventurous travelers.
With a complete contrast to UK culture, Marrakech could be on a completely different planet. When we first arrived we couldn’t quite believe the difference, but we soon adjusted and got our head around the many cultural differences. Below we share our favorite tips and tricks for surviving Marrakech’s medina and souks.
Don’t be afraid to get lost in the souks
It doesn’t matter if you have a map to hand, you will get lost in the labyrinth of souks at some point during your trip. But don’t panic, instead, just take your time to explore and immerse yourself in the many alleyways and shops. You will find it will better your experience of Marrakech. Also, you will never be far from the main square and will eventually stumble back into the vast clearing at some point.
Sample the delicious street food at the night market
As the sun sets, Jemaa el Fna takes on a different role to the day as hundreds of locals ascends on the square to set up the nightly open-air food market. Be sure to eat there at least once during your time in Marrakech. The food cooked up is cheap, amazingly tasty, and usually better than the surrounding permanent restaurants. If you’re really brave you can try the local delicacy, boiled sheep’s head.
Extra tip: Eat with your hands as the cutlery is usually only rinsed between customers.
Try the fresh orange juice from the market stalls
After walking around the souks and medina you will no doubt be a little parched. To quench your thirst, head straight to the orange market stalls at Jemaa el Fna and sample the freshest, purest orange juice you will ever taste. We frequented the same stall at least twice a day during our stay.
Don’t take photos of the snakes and monkeys
As you walk into and around Jemaa el Fna you will no doubt see the snake charmers and monkeys chained up next to their ‘owners’. Apart from being damn right cruel do not entertain the thought of taking a picture. If you do, you will be chased down, surrounded, and have demands of money for the privilege. Another trick is the local men walking around with a fez trying to place it on your head and then pose for a photo with you. Although harmless fun this is another money-making scheme and they will want, paying. And yes we did get caught out by this trick! 🙂
Carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer
You will find toilets in most restaurants and cafes, but don’t expect to find any toilet roll and even soap on some occasions. Always carry some toilet paper for emergencies, and use hand sanitizer before you eat as sanitation isn’t high on the agenda in some places.
Ladies, make sure you’re covered up!
When in public respect their beliefs and culture. Wear long-sleeve tops and long dresses or trousers, you will find the locals will respect you more and you won’t be stared at by men and women.
Ask permission before taking photos of shops and people
As you can imagine in Jemaa el Fna and the medina there will be plenty of photo opportunities every corner you turn. Whether it’s the old buildings, stunning doorways, or colorful tanneries and not forgetting the locals sat outside their shop’s handcrafting goods, there will be plenty of chances to capture some great photo moments. But before you get snapping away ask the shop owner’s permission first just to make sure they’re ok with it. Most will be fine, some want a few dirhams and others will refuse politely.
Barter, Barter, and Barter some more!
When buying gifts and goods in the souks never pay the asking price. The shop/stall owners will expect you to barter as it’s all part of the game. Our tactic is always to offer around 1/3rd of the asking price and work your way up from there. Never go in too high as it’s impossible to lower the price. Think of a price you are willing to pay and never go above and beyond it. Most of the time if you start walking away they will accept your offer as they want the sell.
Do not be put off by some of the things you have read here and from other websites. While there are scams in Marrakech, you will come across this is many other countries worldwide. As long as you go with an open mind, a sense of humor, and keep your wits about you Marrakech is a great city to visit and it will make you want to head back there again and again.