The first time I visited Marrakech two years ago, it was a quick stop-over tacked on between flights from Rome to London. I had no pre-conceived expectations whatsoever because I knew very little about this magical Moroccan city.
Honestly, I prefer to avoiding studying up so I can experience a new locale for the first time with fresh eyes. I did just that with Marrakech and within a day, was in love with the city. Marrakech is refreshing because it’s big on tradition and doesn’t feel overly Westernized.
There’s a wonderful feeling of immersing yourself in a new culture, language and way of life that allows you to strip away your everyday routine and experience something completely new. After just 3 days in Marrakech that first time around, Kat, Gala and I knew we had to find our way back so we worked out a custom itinerary with Lucia of Dar Jaguar that allowed us to experience everything we either missed or overlooked during the previous trip.
I usually show up to a new city without set plans. There may be a few shops, cafes and sights on my list but overall, I tend to just wander, which can be both good and bad. This trip was the exact opposite with a set itinerary…and I highly recommend it.
Before I share some of the things we did, if you’re thinking of visiting Marrakech, read these quick tips first.
Don’t forget to….
1. Carry cash. Only some booths in the medina accept cards and anyway, with cash you can barter more easily. The good news is that if you do run out of Dirhams, there are money exchange places and ATMs around, especially near the town square.
2. Always barter. I am used to paying the exact price I see on an item but this is not the case at all in Marrakech! Prices are usually inflated because you’re actually expected to barter.
3. Bring comfortable shoes. Whether you’re shopping your way through the souk or hiking up the side of a mountain, comfy footwear is a must.
4. Pack modest clothing. In general, Marrakech is not the place to show a lot of skin. It’s a conservative place but also very, very hot the time of year I visited so there’s a definite balance to strike. In 105 degree weather, I didn’t wear long sleeves but I did stick to long skirts and dresses. It’s always a good idea to pack a light scarf in your bag to throw over your shoulders if you begin feeling self conscious.
5. Drink plenty of water. When traveling, it’s an easy thing to overlook while you’re excitedly exploring. At least one person in our group got heat stroke…so play it safe and lug a bottle with you.
6. Try the local cuisine. Tagine is one of the most common meals in Marrakech and consists of a slow-cooked blend of meats and spices in one pot. The good news is, it’s pretty easy to find vegetarian versions as well.
7. Bring an extra suitcase. I’m totally serious. Shipping can be exorbitant and trust me, you’ll find at least 20 magical carpets and lanterns to lug home. The shopping in Marrakech is on another level so don’t even bother holding back. I bought colorful handmade leather slippers for less than $10.00 and a hand-woven wool blanket with massive pompoms for less than $40.00. There are treasures scattered across thousands of booths!
8. Do a lap around the souks before making purchases. It’s easy to get caught up in a bartering session without seeing what else is out there. By then, you’ve blown your wad of Dirhams only to find something even better. Take it slow and take notes.
9. Take photos of signs. The paths inside the medina can be extremely confusing. Many don’t have signs at all. The first few times, making your way through can be really intimidating so we learned our lesson and took quick snaps at main areas to reference on our way out.
10. Find free wifi in the town square. Cell service is super expensive in Marrakech so when we were out for the day, we searched out cafes with free wifi and surprisingly, many had it. My favorite place was Nomad.
11. Watch out for scooters. The pathways throughout the medina are super narrow but that doesn’t stop mules, motor scooters and pedestrians from sharing the tiny spaces. Stay alert!