I am planning to write a small series of things in Marrakesh, that I think will help people.
Firstly I will look at a overview of the red city. The I like to explore one of the great things about the city, activities like its hammams and I also want to look at accommodation.
In this post I will explore more general aspects, like where to go, safety and what to do.
For me Marrakesh is a real interesting place, intriguing that will alway leaving you wanting more. I visited Marrakesh about three years ago and I just fell in love with it and lucky for me I was fortunate enough to enjoy a weekend away to Marrakesh again this last weekend. What a great and exciting experience that was. I have visited the red city before and that enticed me to come back and experience more of it.
British Airways has short haul flights on sale throughout the year. Yes, Marrakesh is considered a short haul flight even though you are flying quite far and to another continent – Africa!
Arriving here you don’t feel like you are in Africa however the place holds a ambience of Europe mixed with Africa mixed with the orient, a real interesting melting pot.
Safety in Marrakesh
I think one of the first things that people ask is how safe is it? The world is on edge with everything that’s happening in the middle east therefore how will you be affected in an Islamic country? One thing I think is quite clear is that the law here protect you very much, therefore for me I felt very very safe. I was a lone traveller and did not feel at all intruded or threatened at any stage.
The people of Morocco is extremely friendly and they are very hospitable, I understand this stems from their religious beliefs, therefore do not let what’s happening elsewhere in the world affect your view of this wonderful country.
One thing you will very quickly understand from this place is that there are many people that will approach you (usually young men) asking to show you where you want to go. Usually the conversation starts with “where are you from?” or “what are you looking for”. My approach to this is purely just to turn a blind eye and not comment at all. Keep walking even if its into a empty/dead end street. He will wait for you on return and again just ignore him.
In the souks the stalls are mostly manned by men and they are a little bit aggressive sometimes in the sense that they will touch you to try and pull you into their stall.
I stayed in a Riad in the Madina with was a bit down a dark alley. I didn’t have any trouble walking to the Riad at any stage during my stay.
If you every feel threatened just say you will call the tourist police. The police here are very good and that small gesture of a threat could be of great assistance.
In this post I will only focus on Marrakesh as I have not visited anywhere else. There are lots to do in the city itself, it is alive with a range of activities. There are two sides to the city – the Madina which is the old town and Gueliz which is the new town.
Gueliz gets its name from a church in that part of Marrakesh. “Eglise” is the word for Church however over the years it changed to Gueliz as its know today. This new area host all the modern apartments with westernised shops and all the high end shops. It’s worth having a look, I tied visiting this area in whilst I visited the Majorelle gardens.
The Majorelle gardens is still the official house of Pierre Bergé who shared the house wth Yves Saint Laurent and still uses the house as his residence when visiting the city. The villa is painted in a unique colour of blue called “Majorelle” and is a striking colour of contrast in the red city. The villa is placed in the centre of a palmery and host a very rare cacti garden. You can get access to the gardens that is tranquil and a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the Medina. The villa also host a Bereber museum with some really impressive pieces however at a cost of 10 euro, I find it pricey to visit.
I love the cooking class activities that the city offers. There are a whole range and its a great day out. I have done two cooking classes and therefore will explore the two options in a separate post.
One of the major attractions and something each tourist must do is go and experience a Hammam. Yes it is well worth doing and you will have a great time. Again, I did all level of the experience and will write a separate post outlining what you can expect form a Local Hammam, a cheap tourist hammam and lastly the top end hammam.
Haggling and dealing with all the hagglers
This is something that puts a lot of people off, however to me, I find it part of the fun and excitement the city offers. If you don’t want to haggle then don’t ask the price. If you ask the price then be prepared to haggle, or just pay the price that was offered. Many stalls will start at totally unjustified prices and expect you to haggle them down. The issue with Marrakesh is that the hagglers want money and they are not shy to ask for it. Yes its true, you will probably pay over the odds prices for goods here but if you don’t want it, don’t buy it.
Once I set my mind on coming to Marrakesh I decided to come and buy a rug for my living room, I started saving for it and I also started looking at prices for similar rugs in London/Online. Part of my haggling experience came in when I went into a carpet shop. I went into a few, just to get a understanding of quality. There are different quality of rugs therefore investigate a little more. Maybe back home go to carpet shops and ask about it, read online and educate yourself. One very good site I thing gives the advice for rugs are –
I used Marocmama’s advice and found something that I love. Many people ask how much should I pay. I think this comes with a more straight forward answer, my response for anything you would like to buy in Marrakesh is in 3 steps:
- How much are you prepared to pay for it? – in your mind put a price to something.
- Don’t get emotionally attached, be prepared to walk away from it. If you get emotionally attached the seller will tune into that and use it to his advantage.
- Remember that you probably paid more than you should have however if its worth a certain value to you then be happy with your purchase.
The old town is referred to as the Medina and you will probably spend most of your time within the old walls of the red city. It consist of wonderful souks (market), where you will be able to get ceramics, copper goods, carpets, oils, spices and many more exotic products.
The medina is probably known for the Jemaa el Fna square that turns into a food market at night. This really brings us to, where to eat?
Thought the souks you will notice the nicest and really fresh produce. Eating is not difficult either. I have heard of bad experiences however for me, I have not had any issue eating the food. I braved every night to go to the local market in Jemaa el Fna and I had a great meal everytime I went to eat. The food was fresh and very very reasonably priced. After the meal I usually went to get a nice mint tea, which is stacked up with two large lumps of sugar. More like having tea with my sugar 😉
I will definitely recommend that you visit this magical city and be transported back to a world of old. Follow me on the my next posts where I will explore in more detail:
- Hammam experience
- Cooking classes
- Riads and where to stay