I’ve compiled a list of things that I wish I had found on the inter webs when travelling to Marrakech.
Old town is a maze – literally. But if you get lost and someone offers you directions – don’t take it. These are the people that know you’re vulnerable and will be walking with you for 2 minutes and in return will ask you for a minimum of 50dh. However, if you see a security guard, shop owner, police officer, these people will guide you without asking for anything in return. In any case, be prepared to walk a lot in and around the souks. You will most likely get lost but the best way is to keep calm, look confident as if you’re supposed to be walking that way. I would avoid the souks during evening time, mainly because its getting late and to get back will become a bit more of a hassle.
Now to walk to the new town, also known as Geliz, is about 1hour from the old town. Very do-able, however it all depends on how much energy you have left. Yellow taxi are around and you can get one around 10/15dh during the day and 20dh during the night. However as you’re a tourist they will try and charge you double – just haggle before you get into the taxi. Make it clear where you want to go and how much you will pay. If they say no, which they most likely will, tell them you paid 15-20dh to get here, and if they still don’t budge, move on and find another taxi. Young moroccan drivers will charge double/triple, therefore try and aim for someone slightly older. Also for locals, the taxi drivers use a meter but for tourists, the idea of a meter goes out the window and they will try and make the most that they can. So haggle away with a smile. The truth is though, they know we’re tourists, so we’re never going to have the luxury of paying local fares, but it’s a real good feeling trying to get as close as we can!
The square which leads to the souks has a huge bus stand and has many buses that go to Geliz – and they only charge 5/6dh so if you really want to travel on a budget give that a go. Also it’s always nice travelling using the local transport.
Moroccan cuisine is full of fresh bread, fruit and meat. I personally adore Kefta Tagine and each place does it different. You can have it with bread, rice, chips or on its own. Old town has some pretty little cafes, however these are pretty much over priced as the only people who eat here are tourists. Geliz town was my favourite place to eat as they had a huge array of food options. Chicken/kebab skewers, pizza, tangines, lots of options which are all affordable. Now if you want to go all out, head on down to Comptoir Darna, food is more on the pricier range. Again full of tourists but you get a buzzing atmosphere – open from 7pm till late, with belly dancers, sheesha and a bar. If you want to feel like you’re in a scene of Made in Chelsea then this is the place to be.
Starbucks and Mc Donalds aren’t the fast food joints that they’re in London. These are hang out places for the rich and elite who come from 7pm onwards till the early morning and literally just hang out. Now I’m not a fan of Mc Donalds but Geliz had the nicest rooftop terrace floor that I could resist myself. If you’re looking for a sweet treat head down to Dino’s – a short walk from Mc Donalds and they serve up the nicest ice creams – but make sure you actually have space in that belly of yours as the portions are huge!
Now I didn’t do much shopping, I wanted to buy a rug but the average price was 1000dh for a small rug – it was almost impossible to haggle down so I just gave up. I did however buy a few bottles of Argan Oil from Atlas mountain which was 90dh – pure Argan goodness. And this leads me onto my next point nicely…
We did a couple;
Quad biking – pointless driving in dirt/sand. We had a much better experience in Greece and Turkey.
The average price was 500dh pp however we met a couple who only paid 200dh for the both of them. You could imagine how we felt. So honestly haggle hard!
We also did a whole day excursion from 9am-4pm, off to Atlas mountains, berbers house, waterfall with a pit stop of for lunch – which you have to pay for seperately btw – even though they make it seem like it’s in the deal. This cost us 250dh pp however the same couple only paid 220dh for the both of them. Those guys are serial hagglers – totally admire them!
We visited the YSL gardens – totally overpriced for what it is, but still quite pretty and the restaurant had really bad food & service. Definitely not recommend. Standard price is 70dh for the museum and an extra 30dh for a museum tour of the berbers (nothing to do with saint laurent) and its a small room, save your 30dh! Also don’t take a taxi right outside the YSL gardens, they will over charge you. Walk further down for 10mins, you’ll save about 70dh that way.
Bahia Palace and Ben Yousseff mosque are definitely worth the visit!
Ok – this is a biggie. All depends how long you’re going for and what you want from your time in Marrakech. If you’re a real traveller at heart and want to see all that Marrakech has to offer, the good and the ugly then stay in a Riad in the old town. These are small hotels/homes with upto 5/6 rooms. The service is a friendly one, they make you feel at home and its only a tad cheaper. Also I would only recommend staying in a Riad for 2/3nights. Any longer and you’ll get bored and miss being buy a pool and hotel amenities. If you’re staying for 7nights, might be worthwhile splitting your trip into 2 segment, some time at a Riad and the rest at a hotel. If you do opt to stay at a Riad keep the address on you at all times. Most drivers won’t know where a Riad is but will know the road name and can take you there much easily. Hotels are easier to find so you won’t face a problem there. When we went to Atlas Mountain on our little excursions I did see the prettiest hotels on the mountains with exquisite views – the only thing you’d have to deal with is coming back into town is almost 1hr 30mins drive – but if you really want to get away for a little secluded retreat then perhaps that could be an option?
Overall Marrakech is a vibrant city with quite a bit to do, with good food and good weather. I stayed for 7 nights and it felt too long, a 4night stay is probably the right amount of time I’d say!
Now onto some photos: