Travel Guides

Marrakech – a city guide

August 18, 2016

Marrakech, the city of four colours, is impressive and a must for travellers from all over the world. Although tourism is now an inherent part of Morocco, it may be useful to gather some information about habits and customs of the culture, before travelling. Our insider city guide of Marrakech will help you enjoy this lovely town even more: you will find tips on how to interact with locals, which places to see, where to eat and how you can save some money.

Marrakech

Useful everyday tips

Taxi: It starts when arriving at the airport in Marrakech. A taxi from the airport to your accommodation can be quite expensive. Taxi drivers have the tendency to charge more. It may be significantly cheaper to take advantage of the shuttles most Riads offer in Marrakech. A transfer from the airport starts at 20 Euro.

Marrakech

Shopping: When walking through the Medina you will be flooded with new impressions. Locals and tourists greet each other. It is custom to greet the shop owners with “salam alaikum; les bess” (Hi, how are you?) on entering a shop. As one stall follows the next, each shop owner will try hard to win you as a new customer. The goods in Morocco may differ from goods in Europe. So do the prices. What initially may seem cheap to you, you will for sure find cheaper in another shop. Our tip: Never buy things right on the first day. Ask around, to get an impression of prices. Once you have decided on a shop, you should negotiate. It will be worth it. As a starter, you can suggest at least 3/4 of the offered price, if not even half the price. Try always to be polite and keep smiling. The locals are nice and very obliging; however they might become upset if you push the price too low. No means “la”, yes “wa”, enough “safa” or thank you “sukran”. No matter where you shop, you will for sure pay more than a local. Nevertheless, the price will still be worth it. When leaving, say goodbye with “bislama”.
Sightseeing: When touring the Medina, it is advisable to take a map with you as you can get lost in the alleys of the souks very quickly. If it still happens and you do go astray, you can ask locals for directions. Bear in mind that they might charge money for the service. Five Dirham should be sufficient.

Where to stay: When looking for a place to stay in Marrakech, Riads or Dars are more personal and authentic than hotels. They are usually in traditional houses and often have a small pool in the courtyard and a rooftop terrace overlooking the Medina, where breakfast is usually served. In contrast to Dars, Riads also have a garden. When checking out, it is highly appreciated if you leave 100 dirham tip for the staff.

Photo by Alan Keohane

Photo by Alan Keohane

Clothing: It is part of the Moroccan culture, to cover most parts of the body with clothes. Therefore, it is advisable not to wear too short shorts. Although the locals tolerate any clothing, it shows respect to wear more covering clothes, especially during Ramadan.

Wine: What you might not know: There is a very tasty wine in Marrakech, which is rarely found in Europe. The “vin gris” or gray wine, is a delicious dry wine with a rosy / gray colour. It is served in most Riads and in some restaurants.

Pictures: If you want to catch some holiday impressions, it happens quite often that a local will be in front of your camera. Please note that not everyone likes to be in your picture. Some even charge for that.

Shops:

Mustapha Blaoui

KIS Boutique: In this very stylish boutique you will find modern and fashionable clothes, jewellery, household goods and much more.

Mustapha Blaoui: With its three floors this shop is a bit like Aladdins cave. Even if you do not find anything here, it is worth a visit. A variety of lanterns, lamps, vases, pots, tables and chairs are offered. Everything in Moroccan design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activities:

Resort Lapause Marrakech: The Resort Marrakesh, outside Marrakesh, is highly recommended, even if you do not spend the night here. A perfect hideaway for nature lovers. The nomad tents and traditional food make this place very authentic. Enjoy a lunch or take a walk under the desert sky.

Ballooning over Marrakech: The contrasts between city and countryside are best illustrated during a hot-air balloon flight. Prices start from 2.050 Dirham. For further information, and bookings see the link below:
http://www.cieldafrique.info/anglais/accueil.php

Hammam: Discover the secret of Moroccan women and men. A weekly visit is compulsory for local people. Most of the Riads in Marrakech have their own Hammam, which unfortunately do not allow more than 2 persons. A visit to a Hammam outside of the hotel allows you to enjoy this experience with more people. However, not all Hammams fulfil everything they promise. For that reason, we recommend the Hammam Hilton to be on the safe side.
The Hammam Hilton is an inexpensive Hammam. Hence, you will have to bring your own bathing essentials like soap, sponge or henna, but for the amount of 20 Euros, the experience is a great deal. The best thing about it is that the Hammam Hilton is rather unknown by tourists, meaning you will most likely meet local people there.
Comparing to Hammam Hilton, the Hammam de la Rose is more expensive. A one hour Hammam can cost up to 55 Euros. The exclusivity is reflected in the modern and comfortable design. In contrast to the Hammam Hilton, you don´t have to bring your own bathing essentials.

Hammam de la rose
A little additional advice: If you are thinking of getting a Henna tattoo, remember choosing the brown one instead of the black one. The black Henna usually contains chemical ingredients, which may be harmful to your skin. However, the brown Henna only consists of natural products.

Worth seeing:

Majorelle Garden and Berber Museum: The Majorelle Garden is one of the most visited attractions in Morocco. That is for a reason. The botanic garden, which had been almost forgotten and was overgrown, had been bought by the famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who restored it to its former beauty. You will find plants and flowers from all over the world. In honour of Yves Saint Laurent, a museum will be opened here in 2017.
The Berber museum, which is definitely worth a visit to those culturally interested, is located within the gardens. In case you have gotten hungry meanwhile you have lunch here.
Maison de la Photographie: The culture and history of Morocco is also brought to life here. Innumerable pictures illustrate the history, development and Moroccan life. You can also enjoy the beautiful panoramic view from the rooftop terrace while enjoying an inexpensive, but delicious meal.

Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle

Medersa Ben Youssef: The Medersa Ben Youssef is a former college, which was built in the 14th century. Nowadays, the Merdersa has become one of the most important historic buildings in Morocco and attracts more and more tourists. Let yourself get taken back in time to the 14th century.
Saadian Graves: The graves of the Saardier dynasty had long been hidden in the intent let them be forgotten. However, in 1917, they were rediscovered and restored. To reach the graves, you have to pass the magnificent Kasbah mosque, which is also worth visiting. Once you have reached the mausoleums, you can see the 7 sultans’ graves as well as those of 62 members of the Saardian family in an awe inspiring atmosphere.

Lounges, Cafés and more:

Café Litteraire: In the oldest known building of the Medina, you can find a small oasis of relaxation. Although you can enjoy a saffron tea and a Moroccan meal in the Café Litteraire, the focus is not primarily on the food, but on the ambience. As usual in popular places, it can also get crowded here. Therefore, being prepared to wait for a longer time will be useful.

Kosybar: In the Kosybar, a bar and a restaurant, you can enjoy a panoramic view on Marrakech from a two-floor terrace. This is the ideal location to observe the beautiful sunset.

Bo-zin: As the name already shows, this place is not really typically Moroccan. The large variety of drinks and food is diverse and extravagant. Ranging from Asian to African it covers all tastes. The music is a little bit louder than in other places, and in the evenings, especially on the weekends, parties are hosted here.

Café Arabe: In the Café Arabe you can sit on the terrace or in the lounge under a lemon tree and enjoy the charming atmosphere. Besides Moroccan cuisine, Italian dishes are also served.
Restaurants

Café des Epices: The Café des Epices, right next to the spices-market, is ideal to sit down and take a break. Next to coffee, tea and fresh juices, the Café offers a selection of light meals. The food is good and cheap, however, it is not comparable with a five-star menu.
On the roof terrace, you have a great view on the market allowing you to calmly watch the crowds of people below.

Nomad: This restaurant in the heart of Marrakesh is highly recommended. There is a modern Moroccan menu, which offers a big variety of meat, fish or vegetarian dishes. All dishes are made of fresh, regional products and refined with traditional spices.

Nomad

Jemaa el-Fna: You shouldn’t miss the Jemaa el-Fna on your trip to Marrakech. It is difficult to describe the Jemaa el-Fna. The best is to imagine an open air circus by night, in a huge place, where many stalls offer food. The later the hour, the fuller the Jemaa el-Fna gets. Numerous local people gather here, including singers, storytellers and magicians and not to forget: snakes, apes, horses, etc. Concerning the food stalls, keep in mind that not all of them fulfil hygienic expectations. We can recommend stall number 1.

La Famille: The La Famille lies in the heart of Medina and offers exclusively vegetarian meals that vary daily. Here you can retreat from the hot summer sun in the magical garden.

Marrakech Moroccan Spices

Cooking classes:
People who have tried to cook Moroccan dishes themselves probably have noticed quite fast: it’s not as easy as thought. For those who wish to learn how to cook Moroccan dishes we recommend to take cooking classes at the beginning of your trip. Before the cooking starts, the teacher will take you to the market and buy the ingredients together with you. Having a local guide to go shopping groceries with you makes these classes very special.
For beginner’s classes, check out: http://www.soukcuisine.com/
For advanced classes, you will find more information here: http://www.lamaisonarabe.com/en/ateliers-cuisine.html

Swimming Pools:
In case you want to refresh yourself, Marrakech offers a number of nice swimming pools. Below you can find a small selection:
Oasiria: This swimming pool is suitable for a visit with children. Tickets are about 120 dh for kids and 190 dh for adults.
Nikki Beach: This location is good for younger people, less for children. Reservation is required, either by phone call or online.
Beldi Country Club: The Beldi Country Club is suitable for a day-trip. Next to the four pools, further activities are offered, like horseback riding, tennis, etc. Kids will surely enjoy themselves. Tickets cost between 200 dh and 250 dh, depending on which program is chosen.
Manzil la Tortue: Massages and spa-treatments are offered here amongst other things. The prices are 290 dh for adults and 220 dh for kids.

Where to stay:
Dar Attajmil
Riad 72
Riad El Fenn
Riad L’Orangeraie

A few minutes outside of town towards the Atlas:
Dar Zarraba

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