Immerse Yourself in a World Unlike Any Other in Marrakech, Morocco
The Glorious City of Marrakech
Marrakech is a sensory overload. Picture medieval-like souks overflowing with colorful goods, palm trees shimmering in the heat against a backdrop of snowy mountains, the smell of mounds of spices, and the sound of the call to prayer.
Morocco travel in general is paralleled by few places. But travel to Marrakech and you will truly be immersed in a world unlike any other.
Here’s what aspects of Marrakech tourism you need to know about.
Things to Do in Marrakech
- Sip mint tea in a rooftop café. The sweet drink is a typical Moroccan beverage and it’s best enjoyed with a view of Marrakech!
- Shop in the souks. Give in to your magpie urges as you wind your way through the marketplaces, taking in the perfume, spices, crafts and carpets. It’s best to go prepared to spend a few dirham.
- Eat in Jemaa el-Fnaa. At night, the magical main square transforms into a giant food market, where you can try local delicacies such as tagine and couscous while enjoying the lively atmosphere.
- Get lost. It’s inevitable that you will lose your way in the narrow streets of the sprawling medina, so embrace the experience and dive headlong into the chaos.
- Take a walk around the Koutoubia Mosque. You’ll spot the distinctive minaret towering over Marrakech, and while non-Muslims can’t enter you can still get close enough to snap some awesome photos.
- Relax in a hammam, a traditional Moroccan bathhouse.
- Sleep in a riad, one of the palatial traditional houses. Staying in a place with elegant architecture and leafy courtyards spangled with mosaics will give you a taste of Moroccan luxury.
- Find green spaces. There are several tranquil gardens that break up the red-hued walls of Marrakech and give visitors respite from the hectic medina. Look out for The Menara and the Jardin Majorelle.
Best Time to Go on Holiday to Marrakech
The best times to visit Marrakech are from March through April, and October to November. During these months, temperatures are warm without being sweltering, and you will miss the worst of the summer tourist crowds.
In winter, the number of visitors also spikes as people head to the African continent in search of sunshine.
Morocco is already a cheap holiday destination but traveling to Marrakech in these shoulder seasons will also help you take advantage of lower prices for accommodation.
In general, Marrakech is a safe place to visit and the greatest risk you face is getting lost in the mind-boggling maze of the medina, but there are a few other things you should watch out for. You may be approached by men offering to act as your guide, or trying to sell you kif, locally grown marijuana.
In both cases it is better to decline — the exceptionally helpful stranger will ask for money after helping you, despite insisting that they don’t want a tip to begin with and it’s illegal to smoke marijuana in Morocco, even though it’s so widespread you might think otherwise.
Visiting During Ramadan
There’s no reason you can’t travel to Marrakech during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, however you should be prepared to take a little extra cultural awareness along with you.
Ramadan is a whole month dedicated to fasting, so between sunrise and sunset Muslims abstain from food and drink — even water! The day-long fast is broken after the sun goes down.
As you can imagine, fasting in the heat of the Moroccan sun can be trying, so it’s important to show respect to locals during this time.
You won’t have any problems finding places to eat and you are not expected to join in the fast. Bear in mind though that it is polite to avoid smoking in front of locals, as they are abstaining from tobacco as well.
It does become difficult to find alcohol available in Marrakech during Ramadan, so be prepared for a dry month.
Wandering around Jemaa el-Fnaa is an essential part of any trip to Marrakech, but at times it can feel like a cultural obstacle course. It’s almost impossible to blend in as a local, so scammers working the markets will be able to spot you easily and make you a target.
Keep an eye out for people carrying monkeys and snakes, and don’t let them get too close. A common scam is for the animal handler to put a monkey or snake onto you, then they will demand money from you for the “experience.”
You may also be approached by women offering to give you a henna tattoo — if you want one, you should agree on a definite price beforehand, otherwise keep your hands clear. A common tactic is for the women to grab your hands and force a tattoo on you, then to demand exorbitantly high payments.
If you refuse, they can get angry and while they won’t hurt you, they can shake you up by getting in your face and yelling. Note that the henna can also be of questionable quality and can sometimes cause skin reactions.
Shopping in Marrakech can be a grueling experience. There are rarely price tags attached to items in the souks and you are expected to haggle with the stall holder until you agree on a price.
It is a fine line to walk though, as the first price they offer you is guaranteed to be about 10 times higher than it should be. However, if you counter with an offer that they consider too low, prepare to be chased out away from their goods with accusations of insulting the crafts-person, their grandmother and their dog being flung after you.
Instead of haggling too aggressively, a better strategy can be to politely inform the stall holder that their price is too high and that you can get a better deal elsewhere. Nine times out of 10, as you walk away they will come after you and start to offer more reasonable prices.
You should stay friendly and smiling at all times, even when you feel like they are trying to rip you off.