Essential Tips for Visiting Marrakesh, Morocco
Named Travel Advisor’s best travel destination in 2015, Marrakesh deserves a place on the bucket list of every globetrotter out there. Marrakesh is just the right balance between not too far from home but also a completely new experience brimming with culture.
Whilst there are plenty of reasons to hop on a plane to Marrakesh ASAP, there are also a few things to be aware of before jetting off. So, here’s some top advice which will be helpful if you are planning to explore this facsinating city for the first time!
1. Visit the Djemaa El Fna
The Djemaa El Fna is often described as the heart of the city, and it certainly lives up to the hype. The square is constantly buzzing with exciting noises and smells that you may not be used to – in a good way. Wandering through the maze of souks could easily fill up a whole day’s worth of entertainment as it’s incredibly easy to have a wander and admire it all. However, if you’re looking for a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle of the markets then go to Place des Espices (Spices Square). The Spices Square is by far the calmest and most atmospheric place in the Djemaa El Fna, not to mention absolutely beautiful. The lantern stalls are also worth an honourable mention; the perfect place to go to feel the Moroccan magic and possibly get an Insta-worthy travel snap.
2. Wear Sunglasses
I admit this tip seems pretty self-explanatory but there’s more to it than you think. Whilst they are important to protect yourself from the North African sun, sunglasses also serve a special purpose in the markets. When strolling through the Djemaa El Fna you will be approached by shopkeepers who will try and sell you their products with perseverance. The main way they pull you in is through making eye contact with you, so by wearing sunglasses it is much easier to walk past them without being harassed. Although this may be daunting at first, it is important to remember that this is very much part of Moroccan culture and is something to be embraced.
3. Be Firm but Polite
In addition to wearing sunglasses, another tip for the markets is to be firm but polite. If you have been approached by a shopkeeper, a simple ‘no, thank you/non, merci’ is enough to ward them off and allow you to carry on with your day. The shopkeepers will appreciate you being firm but fair rather than saying nothing at all. It might feel as if you are being rude at first, but it is just part of the Moroccan market culture.
4. Have an Open Mind
As aforementioned, Marrakesh is full of cultural experiences that might be entirely different to what you’re used to. For example, some souks might casually have snakes and monkeys which is very normal to them but quite abnormal for us. Embrace it!
It’s also worth mentioning that some of the meat stalls let you pick your chicken and kill it in front of you, so it’s not for the fainthearted (or the vegetarian!)
5. Be Aware of Scams
As with most places, there is a risk of being taken advantage of as a tourist, so it is very important to stay aware of your surroundings. Whilst the markets are extremely pretty, be careful when taking photos of them as some shopkeepers might try and charge you for it. It may also seem like people in the markets are eager to help you with directions, take your luggage and may even suggest that you have ‘dropped something’ – don’t fall for it, it might be their way of getting money off you.
Henna is beautiful and a really lovely souvenir to get from your trip, however beware of getting black henna from the main square as it is harmful to your skin. It’s worth paying to have it done properly in the Henna Art Café on Derb Sqaya – it’s brown, safe on your skin and lasts far longer.
6. Be Respectful
Lastly, Morocco is a Muslim country and so you’ll be expected to respect their local laws and customs. Most importantly, it is always safest to cover up, especially your shoulders and ankles. Wearing a strappy vest top and short shorts will make you stand out in the worst way possible. Yes, it’s hot and humid but respect is incredibly important. Also, learning at least a little bit of the local language is always a good idea!
Morocco is an extraordinary country in every sense of the word, so even though there are precautions to take before and during your travels, don’t be put off by all the warnings and experience the culture for yourself!
By Bethany Richards
Are you interested in booking a trip to Marrakesh? The following pages will give you ideas for things to do: