Posted by Corine
As some of you may have already gathered from some of my Instagram posts, I recently spent a few days in Marrakesh. Visiting Morocco has always been on my bucket list so what a better way to start but to visit the former Berber imperial city of Marrakesh which mixes traditional and modern living in such a majestic way. The constant buzz and animation of the city leave you no choice but to be alert of what is around you at all times and I must say it was wonderful and refreshing to swith-off from that London autopilot mode and get out of my comfort zone. I also wish I could have stayed longer to explore the Red City even further, spend more time in the paradisiac Majorelle Garden, hike the Atlas Mountains, spend a day by the sea or sleep under the stars in the desert … there is so much to do in and around Marrakesh that I am already thinking about my next visit! And to tell you the truth I am also missing its sweet sunshine and way of life! If you are tempted to visit this beautiful and fascinating part of the world, please read on as I share with you some essential tips to make the most of your first time in Marrakesh.
If you want to enjoy your stay come with the right frame of mind! Indeed unless you want to spend your entire stay in your Westernised hotel or resort (and that would be a great shame) do not get frustrated with the hassle you receive when walking through the souks from vendors, story tellers, snake charmers, food stalls owners, unwanted guides, etc. as it is part of the culture and just how business is done with tourists. It can of course get annoying and spoil the fun and enjoyment of strolling through the Medina but just remember that it is OK to say no and walk away. Having said that some vendors are more insistent than others so do not be afraid to be firm! As far as I am concerned the jewellery and henna ladies would not let go of me and would start tattooing my hand without consent and touch my stomach so me and my husband would be blessed with a healthy boy and girl in the future which was a bit annoying but also quite amusing! I must say that I am quite fond of these women as I have a lot of respect for them seeing how hard they work to provide for their families so I did end up buying some jewellery from some of them… knowing that I was getting ripped-off! Indeed do not forget that the standard of life is not as high as ours and most vendors earn very small wages so be happy to pay them a fair price as in the end of the day it will not make a dent in your pocket… but you will definitely help them! Maybe try not to visit the souks on your first day in Marrakesh so you have time to get the hang of things and get a feel for the culture before you head to the Medina.
My second tip is to make sure that you carry some change with you from the moment you step foot in the country otherwise do not be surprised if your cab driver do not have change himself and you will be left with no other option but to hand him with a massive tip! Same goes for your visit to the souks, make sure you have plenty of change in your pocket (ideally coins) and do not let the vendors see that wad of notes you have in your wallet as the price of those pretty babush you had your eyes on will suddenly triple!
Pick the products you buy carefully! Sadly most of the spices, teas and beauty products (such as the famous argan oil) you will find in the souks near Jemaa el-Fnaa are poor quality or even fake products which is a real shame considering the amazing craftsmanship Moroccans artisans possess. After paying way too much money for fake argan oil and mint tea in the Medina, we ended up buying quality and very reasonably priced products in our local supermarket in the Hivernage area and I highly recommend you to do the same as a little money goes a long way there, the prices are fixed and the items you buy will be produced in Morocco (and not imported from China!). If you wish to witness the true Moroccan’s craftsmanship and buy some hand made products at a fair and fixed price, head to the ‘Ensemble Artisanal’ in the Mohammed V avenue, just down the road from the Jemaa el-Fnaa square.
Last but not least, soak up in the atmosphere and the lifestyle of the city! In today’s context North African countries such as Morocco may seem unsafe and intimidating to some but it is pure nonsense as we know all too well terrorism can hit any one of us anywhere and the risk remains overall quite low. So make sure to get out and mingle with the locals who form a friendly, helpful, happy and welcoming community. My husband and I only took taxis to and from the airport as walking the streets of Marrakesh was a new experience for us in itself! We truly enjoyed the beautiful weather and interacting with the friendly and very respectful Marrakshis. You also do not want to miss out on the buzz that comes to life at night when everyone – and I mean everyone – is out on the streets with friends and family. It is so enjoyable and the best way to get a feel for that heart warming southern vibe! Of course make sure to eat the local food as there is no better way to discover a country and its traditions… plus the food is to die for! The highlight for me was our dinner at The Red House, from the decor to the food, the traditional lute player and the kindness of our waiters, I felt like a Berber queen for a night! Do not forget to grab a bite and a fresh orange juice from one of the food stalls in Jemaa el-Fnaa for dinner – enjoying a tasty kebab surrounded by the fascinating buzz of the square at night makes for a truly exotic and unforgettable holiday!
Please leave a comment if you enjoyed reading this article and do not hesitate to share your own travelling tips and experiences with us!