Marrakesh is a diverse city. As one of the largest cities in Morocco it encompasses new and old in a tale of two cities!
The old town is centred around the medina called Jemaa el-Fna. Within the walls of the old town is a maze of alleyways and markets with wonderful smells from the juice bars, spice markets and the leather stalls.
One thing to try is the fresh orange juice. For fifty cents you get a glass of possibly the nicest orange juice you’ll ever drink. Nothing compares!
Within the medina is a range of stalls selling anything from carpets, lamps to medicine. You think of it, there probably will be a stall selling it. During the day the souks are quite quiet but at night they come alive with outdoor cooking and snake charmers. The food stalls cook a mix of everything. The chicken is perfectly spiced, the kebabs are grilled to perfection and the cow’s brain, well I didn’t try that! Cous cous is one of the traditional dishes that gets served with a meal but you can request fries on most stalls if this isn’t your thing.
The sellers can be quite pushy, and they will touch you. If you aren’t interested in what they are selling try not to get into conversation with them, a simple no will let them know to stop. If you are going to buy anything then a fair few minutes of haggling will have to take place before settling on a price. This is their culture, they aren’t trying to rip you off or exploit tourists.
One tip for the girls when walking around the old town, place a pashmina over your head, you will get nowhere near as much attention from market traders or street performers doing this. (I only realised this on our last day there!)
Another thing is tipping isn’t customary. In fact, too big of a tip can be taken as an insult
A walk to the tanneries is a good trip to take, this is where the cow hides get treated to become leather. People will try to guide you to them, for a fee of course. They are free to get into and signposted so don’t pay someone to take you to them.
One word of warning though, they stink, so take a tissue with perfume on to smell.
The hotels in the old town tend to be small bed and breakfast types. They are basic but full of character. The breakfast was a range of bakery goods, coffee and orange juice
The new part of town is a lot more westernised. Wider streets and side walks. The buildings are a lot more modern and there’s even a McDonalds!
The larger hotels are in this area of town.
They tend to be gated complexes with pools.
If you are visiting for longer than a couple of days I would stay in one of these just for the fact there is somewhere to relax.
Also in the new part of town are fancier restaurants and high street clothes shops. A lot of the restaurants serve pasta dishes but dishes like moussaka are more traditional and tend to be cooked to a better standard.
Stay away from ice in drinks and tap water, always buy bottled. Don’t want to ruin the holiday with a dodgy stomach
Alcohol is hard to come by since it is a muslim country. Where you can buy it, it tends to be very expensive.
During the days you will hear bells coming from the mosques calling people to pray. Sometimes this is very early in the morning so it is worth checking out the location of your hotel otherwise you won’t be getting any lie in’s on holiday.
If you are staying in the new part of town, the temptation will be to hire a car to get around. DON’T!!! They drive like absolute lunatics!
It is the only place on earth I have seen, cars, buses, lorries, trucks, coaches, bikes, motorcycles, mopeds, horses, camels, donkeys and pedestrians on one road. Absolute chaos! There are no road markings either. Get a taxi, it is definitely easier!
Also, when it comes to crossing the street, the vehicles will not stop for you if you are stood at the side of the road. You have to start walking across the road before they will stop. Take your life into your hands!
We took a day trip out to the desert on quad bikes. The hotels will sort excursions out for you if you haven’t booked before you go. When they say desert though, don’t go expecting sand dunes, as fun as it is it isn’t picturesque. We stopped off at a small village on our trip. It was great to see how people live outside of the city.
Clothes drying in the sun and children playing ball games in the street. In the village we had a cup of the local peppermint tea before riding back to the city.
Another day, we took a trip into the Atlas mountains. It was an early get up and a long drive but the scenery on the way was amazing!
We travelled through traditional Berber villages with mud brick houses and eventually reached the valley of Asni. Asni is a small village in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, it is noticeably less touristy than Marrakesh and therefore is more like the ‘real’ Morocco.
For a small charge you can enter the walled complex. Other than that there really isn’t that much to do here, it is really just a stretch of the legs and back into the car to head to the Ourika Valley
The first thing we did when we got to Ourika was eat!
There were many restaurants to choose from all with very similar, traditional menus. The food is super fresh and delicious. After lunch we headed into the village where there are souvenir shops and great views.
Unfortunately there are some tourist traps here! There are people dressed in traditional Berber dress who will happily pose for a photo, if you pay afterwards of course. There are also a lot of argon oil shops who will show you how argon oil is made (by hand) and then will try to pressure you into purchasing some.
My advice to avoid getting trapped is to maintain a slow walking pace, allowing you to see everything but never stopping to be able to get caught.
Apart from this it is a great village to visit. There is a lot of walking on uneven paths so sandals would not be a good idea.
Marrakesh has such a great mixture of culture. It’s a great trip to take to see something new, relax and explore and try new food while you are at it! But don’t go expecting luxury, you’ll be in the wrong place.