Undoubtedly, this is one of the most exotic cities in the world. For a city that has been around for a while, Marrakech sure knows how to attract and retain its visitors. As exciting as the city may be, it is important to get oneself prepared in case one wants to visit. There are millions of visitors to Marrakech each year because it presents a very tourist-friendly atmosphere to visitors. To get the best out of the city, it is important to plan and stay ahead. Here are some tips to take note of when planning a visit to Marrakech.
For a traveller, this may seem like an obvious tip but Marrakech, along with its beauty, has its fair share of surprises. Unlike most cities, Marrakech does not avail itself with numerous ATMs within the city. The ones readily available, somewhere in the main square, do not readily accept foreign cards. If one is looking to do lots of shopping in the city, this alone can pose some difficulty. Although several restaurants in the city accept credit cards, these cards cannot be used at the local markets (souks).
In a few places, Euros are readily accepted but this does not compare to the use of the local Moroccan currency (Dirham). To play it safe, visitors are advised to change their cash to the local currency at the Bureau de Change in the city’s airport arrival hall.
Marrakech does not abide by the orderliness that is seen in most cities in the world. One has to take into cognisance that the streets do not only consist of cars and pedestrians. More notable are the presence of donkeys, horses, motorcycles, bicycles, stray cats, carriages, and basically anything and everything that can fight its way through the chaos. If one is looking for a city where there are designated lanes, sufficient amounts of traffic lights, or footpaths, Marrakech is definitely not the city to be in.
The highlight of one’s trip cannot be complete if one has not walked the streets of Marrakech. Part of the charm in visiting Marrakech lies in finding your way through the dizzying maze of the souks, attempting to speak the local language and being one with the pedestrians. It is also a different experience to be able to speak the foreign language to communicate with the souk-sellers, to ask for directions and to be able to tell your friends back at home. Berber is the local language in Marrakech and is also the vernacular in much of rural Morocco. Berber is spoken along with Moroccan Arabic on the streets and in homes.
To avoid running into things and apologizing to everything and anyone, it is important to stay alert on the streets. It’s important to also watch out for pick-pockets. Hold wallets and bags at safe distances and with watchful eyes. As the streets of Marrakech gets busy, sometimes, the hands of pickpockets are more-often-than-not, also busy.
First, Marrakech is a city in a strongly devout Muslim state. However, picking out clothing for the trip should not be as stressful as one may think it. Both men and women are required to dress and conduct themselves in a manner that does not attract sexual attention. For the men, simple T-shirts and a pair of pants would do just fine. Women are requested to clothe themselves modestly, and not wear clothes that attract attention. A visit to the main square and one could easily pick out the tourists because of their clothing. The locals do not ideally frown at individuals wearing shorts but one would look exceptionally silly in tank tops. It isn’t forced onto tourists to dress a certain way, but it’s important to feel comfortable in a city that has so much to show and offer and dressing accordingly can avoid discomfort between tourists and locals.
Undoubtedly, it is almost the constitutional right for tourists to take pictures – that’s usually one of the purposes of visiting. While Marrakech welcomes its tourists with open arms, it is far more important to understand the locals to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment. When you go into the local markets, ensure you ask for permission from owners before capturing their stalls in pictures. Usually, there are signs in place with the inscriptions, “No Photos”. Another reason to be cautious before taking pictures is the fact that some locals might misunderstand the act as you capturing their women on film. It is best to ask for permission in a setting where a person or business might be in the picture.
This may seem weird appearing on travelling tips but Marrakech is a city like no other. Ensure you take along your toilet rolls wherever you go. Most of the places do not readily have available tissue papers in the toilets. Marrakechis a traditional city and it’s a common sight to see toilets as just holes in the ground. Ensure you have money change in hand because you will pay for most of the public toilet use. Most restaurants still charge for toilet usage – just take change and toilet paper wherever you go.
Since we have established the situation on the streets of Marrakech, you have an alternative to escape the chaos by just getting a cab. Unless one is determined to experience life as the locals do by walking on the streets, one could also get this experience watching from the comfort of a cab. The city is not so big; you can easily navigate to the southernmost and northernmost ends in a matter of minutes. Cab fares are also not expensive as an average fare goes for about 40 Dirhams – an equivalent of £3.50.
There is almost no way one will visit a city and not communicate with at least a local. Marrakech is a Moroccan city, despite its religion, was colonized by the French. Try and learn as little French you can, as it goes a long way to smoothen the hearts of the locals. A simple ‘Merci’ and ‘Bonjour’ can go a long way in melting the hearts of locals. There’s absolutely nothing wrong if one does not communicate in French but one has to ask himself truthfully, what really is the essence of visiting a city like Marrakech if not to gain a new experience?
It’s not all about the luxury now but more importantly about the comfort and serenity. Marrakech is busy on its own (with or without you). An accommodation that allows you to enjoy calmness after the day’s hectic walks goes a long way to make your stay in Marrakech a memorable one. One also has to acquaint oneself with the call-to-prayer noises that would most certainly be a norm.