Marrakech is called the Red City. That name derives from red ocher pigment, which adorns most of the buildings in the city. Like all Moroccan cities – Marrakech is divided into two parts: the ancient Medina and the colonial one – the Ville Nouvelle, built by the French in the mid-twentieth century. Each part has something else to offer – Medina ancient palaces, fairway labyrinths and a deeply traditional lifestyle. Ville Nouvelle – cafes, fashionable boutiques, gardens and squares.
Marrakech is one of those places on Earth, in which either you fall in love or you hate.
Well – I did not like Marrakesh. Probably because I had high expectations – a breath of exoticism, oriental atmosphere, oblivion of Western civilization and culture. Another religion, values, lifestyle. Therefore…
What you need to know about Marrakech before your first trip, so you wouldn’t be unpleasantly surprised?
Prepare for temperature changes.
Both my arrival and departure took place from Marrakesh airport. During my first days in Morocco I experienced 50 degree heat. When I returned to Marrakech after a week – the temperature was twice lower. Also, the difference in temperature during the day and night is very noticeable. So be prepared for thermal shock.
Prepare yourself to be lost most of the time.
Narrow and winding streets, gates and courtyards, the lack of suitable signs, and the streets that are not on the city map – finding yourself in Marrakech is a real challenge!
Do not ask all passersby for directions!
When you ask for help from children or men – they will take you to the place you are asking for, even if you insist that they only give you some tips. Once they will lead you, they will not leave until you pay them! If you refuse to do so, they may even end up threatening you. Hence, it’s best to ask only women or shopkeepers who can not leave their workplace.
Get ready to discuss with the taxi drivers.
If you will not bargain over the price, you will be extremely overcharged. Sometimes it also happens that after the course, the taxi driver is asking for a higher amount of payment than originally set. Marrakech is definitely not a place for people who are not assertive !!! Quite a surprise can also be a very popular custom when a taxi driver is driving round couple of clients at one time. Driving a taxi in 7 people seems to be shocking? After a visit in Morocco something like that may not be that surprising anymore.
Prepare for the low price of accommodation.
This is just a nice surprise. In Marrakech there are many luxury hostels and riads, that you can find at very reasonable prices. For us a big surprise was the situation when during our check-in the owner brought us a pot of Moroccan mint tea. It turned out that it is a tradition for a host to greet his guests in this way.
Multiple stands with freshly squeezed orange juice.
This is another positively surprising point – there are many stands in the streets, where you can buy a glass of freshly squeezed juice for less than 1 euro. The seller prepares the juice just in front of our eyes. Can you imagine better way to quench the thirst?
Do not plan to spend the night at the airport.
If you are using low-cost airlines whose scheduled flights usually include early morning hours and plan to spend the night at the airport – be prepared that around 2 AM security stocked with guns “politely” will ask you to leave. Airport in Marrakech is closed between 2 – 5 AM.
Jamaa el Fna – Marrakech’s main square is a total madness.
If you are not an assertive person – do not go to Jamaa el Fna . Vendors there are VERY instrusive, even aggressive – they would force their products right into the palms of your hand, and then demand payment from you. Warning! If they see that you are taking a photo of them – they will ask you to pay for it.
If you are a woman – avoid eye contact with men.
For men in Morocco even short-term eye contact is an incentive to make contact. Contact that unfortunately usually is very abusive, vulgar and sexist. Sometimes can even lead to aggressive physical contact. I had unpleasant situation when while walking in the market, a random man all of a sudden grabbed my hand tightly, and din’t want to let me go. If not for the fact that I was with a group of friends who quickly reacted, forcing that man to let me go – I’m not sure how the situation would end.
Did you know that the famous designer Yves Saint Laurent had his oasis in Marrakech? It is the Majorelle Garden, which took its name from the French painter Jacques Majorelle. It took him 40 years to build that place. While taking a stroll through the garden, one can notice that there is one particular color that predominates – it is blue, which even has its name in French – bleu Majorelle. Given that this is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Morocco – you can expect crowds at any time of the year.