In July, my boyfriend Henner and I travelled to Marrakech for Henner’s late 21st birthday present. I loved every second of our time spent in the beautiful city so I thought I’d share a few tips on how to make the most of your experience.
1. Stay in a Riad.
I can’t stress this advice enough. if you’ve never been to Morocco, you’re probably asking your self: What is a Riad? A Riad is a traditional Moroccan style guest house with a courtyard in the centre, hidden behind large wooden doors down the alleys of windy Moroccan streets. They are much more intimate than staying in a hotel and you will definitely be well looked after by all the lovely staff. You won’t believe your eyes as you see what’s behind those large wooden doors. We stayed at Riad Farhan and our stay was incredible from start to finish.
2. Try Morrocan cuisine.
Anyone reading this who knows me well will know I loove trying new things, especially when it comes to food. I’d already eaten Moroccan food from a Moroccan family restaurant back home so I knew more or less what to expect but Henner hadn’t and he loved everything he tried.
I’m not a huge fan of breakfast, unlike Henner who can’t function before it, but I must say, I woke up every morning excited for the breakfast at our Riad. We were served typical Moroccan bread with butter and strawberry and apricot jam, fruit salad served in cute little mini tagines, orange juice, tea and coffee and depending on the day, coconut cake, chocolate cake, croissants or pancakes.
On our second night in Marrakech, we went to a restaurant called Marrakechi at Place Jemma Fnaa and ordered the tasting menu for 2. There was definitely waaaay too much food but it was all delicious and we left feeling like we’d tried pretty much everything. My personal favorite was the vegetable cous cous wth the Lamb and prune tagine, soo tasty!
3. Always have a map with you, walk confidently in the search for your destination and learn to say NO thanks.
There are so many streets in the Medina (the Centre of Marrakech where all the souks are) so it’s super easy to get lost as most of them look so similar. The best way to get around is using the Place Jemma Fnaa as a point of reference and finding everything else from there. If you look lost, within 2 seconds you will be surrounded by people offering to show you the way to your destination, always in exchange for a tip. The best thing to do is ignore these approaches, something we learnt on our first day on our way to the Medina. A man approached us offering to show us the way to the Colour Festival that was taking place for Ramadam as he was going that way anyway. We stupidly accepted his offer and ended up at a leather factory that smelt awful and had to give him a 10€ tip. So, as I said, walk with confidence and say no thank you to anybody offering to do you a favour and show you the way.
4. Be aware and try not to be overwhelmed by the mayhem.
When you think of Marrakech, you imagine beautiful spice souks and large open terraces with people drinking mint tea and smoking shisha. That is exactly what you can expect, but there is also a chaotic side of the city, with packed streets, people shouting in various languages trying to sell you souvenirs, children running around, motorbikes coming in all directions giving you a little beep before nearly running you over… It can be very intimidating at first but don’t worry, within your first few hours you will soon be used to dodging motorbikes and saying no to the shopkeeper that keeps offering you that leather bag that you just don’t want!
5. Haggle, haggle, haggle.
As you wander through the medina, you will see a huge variety of lovely things on offer at the souks, ranging from spices to imitation designer sunglasses. In Morroco it is typical for everything to be on sale for a much higher price than it should actually cost, so don’t be afraid to negotiate, the shopkeepers expect it. Go two thirds down and you will most probably be closer to the actual price. I personally really enjoyed haggling the prices with the shopkeepers, it’s like a game for them. In one shop, I bought a chess set for a quarter of the asking price and the shopkeeper told me I was a hard bargainer. I definitely got that trait from my mum, haha!
6. Taking photos.
In most touristic areas, taking photos is perfectly fine, but in others, be prepared to be asked for a small tip, especially within the souks. There may also be scenarios where people just don’t want you to take a picture of them or their shop, so always be respectful and ask politely first.
7. Dress code.
Absolutely anything is acceptable in Marrakech as it’s a very touristic city. Obviously if you walk around half naked you’ll get the odd stare or whistle, especially if you’re blonde, but showing skin isn’t a big deal. I would advise all men to take a pair of long trousers/jeans, despite the heat, as in some locations (Hotel Mamounia for example) it isn’t acceptable to wear shorts.
8. Last but definitely not least, have fun, enjoy and embrace the MOROCCAN MAYHEM, you may only visit Marrakech once so make the most of it!!!