Marrakech is a bustling city in the south-west of Morocco and it’s an extremely popular tourist destination. Many assume that Marrakech is the capital of Morocco, while it is actually Rabat.
The first hassle you will encounter is arguing with the taxi drivers at the airport about the fare to the Medina (= city centre). It’s a short drive so you shouldn’t be charged more than 150-200 MAD (15-20€). But the taxi drivers all work together and first they wanted to charge us 500 MAD which is crazy. We tried to bargain it down to 150 MAD but we had no chance. After talking to three different drivers and their manager we finally gave up and agreed on 300 MAD.
The next trap was already waiting for us when we got off the taxi. The driver waved a couple of boys to us and told them to show us the way to our hostel. But we have read before about those “faux guides” that show you something and then expect money in exchange. We tried to tell them that we can find it on our own. The boys didn’t go away and told us to follow them. So we did follow them and they brought us to our hostel. In the end I have to say we probably wouldn’t have found it on our own since it was in a hidden alley. Of course they expected money so we gave them some coins. Only after that we saw the sign on our hostel door saying “Do not pay anyone to show you the way!”
The first day in Marrakech I was just overwhelmed by all the impressions. The Medina is incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen before. People, animals, noises, smells, heat and dust all mixed together. I was flashed but I loved it. I would say you have to stay in Marrakech for at least three days to get used to it. On the first couple of days I was always happy to be back in the hostel because walking around in the Medina exhausted me extremely. Everyone tries to talk to you, everyone tries to sell you something, you have to be careful not to be hit by a moped or a donkey – it’s crazy. But after a while you learn how to handle the people trying to approach you and how to cross the streets without getting hit by a car.
The Souks (markets) in Marrakech are perfect to get lost and discover all the products and spices that are sold. I can’t even remember all the things I bought but if I had more space in my luggage I certainly would have bought more. Spices, cosmetics, tea, etc. – leave enough space in your luggage.
Jemaa el-Fna is the main square of the Medina. During the day it’s almost empty, maybe because of the heat, but the later it gets the more crowded it gets. Food stands open and locals do performances. Once it’s dark you will be squeezed through the crowd. On Jemaa el-Fna you can buy extremely cheap and good fruit juices. Other products, except for food, shouldn’t be bought on the square. The products are more expensive, sometimes fake and I disagree with the way they treat the animals that are just there for pictures.
From Marrakech you can do several tours to the desert, to the mountains, etc. We decided to do a one day trip to the Ourika Valley where we did a hike to see a waterfall. It was a nice trip and good to be in an area where it was a bit cooler because in Marrakech it had 37°C. However, the waterfall was really crowded and we could only go into the water with our feet. Moroccan women went swimming with their clothes and it would have been inappropriate to swim in a bikini.
After four days in Marrakech we decided to go to the coastal town Essaouira. The bus and train systems are really good and cheap. But it’s recommended to buy the tickets in advance as they sell out quickly. We had to wait two hours at the bus station because the earlier busses were sold out. When we finally left, it took us about three hours to get to Essaouira.
At the end of my trip I spent one last day in Marrakech. Right before flying home I went to a SPA where I got a hammam (traditional Moroccan washing) and a massage. I went to Le Bain Bleue because a friend recommended it to me. The hammam and the massage were a great experience and the facilities are very clean and nicely decorated. But the SPA was obviously created for tourists. If you seek a more traditional hammam where Moroccans also go to, you shouldn’t choose Le Bain Bleue. But in general I recommend to experience a hammam once in Morocco.
Marrakech is a fascinating experience and I recommend it to everyone who is open for other cultures. There’s loads of things to do: markets, palaces, gardens, a visit to the new part of the city, etc. You won’t get bored for sure. Plus, there are a lot of options to do excursions to the surroundings.
- Don’t stay in Marrakech Rouge Hostel. I don’t know how they got all the good reviews (neither did any of the other guests I talked to) and a staff member stole 100€ from me.
- Have lunch or dinner at the restaurant Toubkal on the main square. Most of the other restaurants on the square are over-priced but this one has really good food for a low price.
- Don’t take pictures of snakes or monkeys on the main square. You will be charged for it and they won’t leave you alone until you give them money. Plus, I feel extremely sorry for the animals and I don’t agree with the way they keep them.
- Don’t let the women on the main square paint henna on your arm. They will say they do it for free and then beg for money. It’s better to get your henna somewhere else for a better price.
- In the evening there are some performances of locals on the square. You can watch for free but if you take a picture or a video they will expect money.
- Don’t seem like you’re lost. People will try to show you the way and charge you for it.