Welcome to this colorful and amazing city of Marrakech. It is one of the largest city in the country after Casablanca, Fes, and Tangier. Marrakech has been inhabited by Berber farmers since Neolithic and the actual city was founded in 1062. It has the name of Red city due to the red walls built in 1122-1123 by Ali Ibn Yusuf and all the red sandstone buildings from same years.
It is as well a cultural, religious, and trading center for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa (Jemaa el-Fnaa is the busiest square in Africa). During the Al-Andalus era (711-1492), the Spanish named the people from Maghreb as Moors. In 1912 France established the protectorate of Morocco, this is why french is widely spoken in the country, although it is not an official national language. The independence and reestablishment of monarchy was held in 1956.
Maghreb means literally “west, sunset”. Includes most countries from north-west Africa: from western Egipt to Morocco. Nowadays it’s used mainly to define Morocco.
It is a fortified city and the Medina is packed with vendors of all kind of handcraft. You can find the most famous (and biggest) traditional markets in Marrakech, the souk. Unfortunately, Marrakech is also one of the largest centers of wildlife trade in North Africa. I saw tortoises, macaques, and snakes for sale as pets in several shops in the Medina.
I have to tell you that this trip was planned for more than a month because, for some reason, Colombians are not welcome in Morocco unless we have a valid visa. As funny as it sounds, the Kingdom of Marrakech ask Colombians for a visa to get there. Some other countries from South America just don’t need anything, but us. Anyway, I applied for my visa since January and it took over 4 weeks to be accepted (in fact it was printed out just the week before the trip).
For a short trip of only 4 days, it was a tremendous adventure for me. My first time in Africa. Just a must do trip. Next time I will try to stay longer and visit other cities, because everything was outstanding: the people, the food, the landscapes!
This trip was the final one from a week of travels (Hamburg, Rostock and Berlin were before). So after being in a bus or a plane for several times during the same week, I was very tired and still going to Marrakech. My schedule was planned for the cheapest tickets (although it wasn’t very cheap at all). First from Hamburg to Madrid with Ryanair at 10 am. on Thursday.
But my flight to Marrakech would be at 9 pm. Therefore I had to wait in the airport the whole day for my trip (during this time I could work on things regarding my PhD.). It happens that Ryanair is not only a very cheap airline but also has problems with timing. The flight was delayed 2.5 hours and I arrived at Menara airport at 1 am. Of course, there is no way to claim for anything because it must be over 3 hours delay to get any refund.
Here you can see some tips on how to travel in Morocco.
Arriving at the Riad
Fortunately, I had booked the Riad’s pick up service because you can imagine how hard it is to find any place in the center of Marrakech at that time. In fact during the night the Medina is a labyrinth. When stores close, it’s hard to find the right way. And yes, I got lost a few times during my visit. But on my arrival, thanks to the guide, I got to my room just fine.
If you want to find the best accomodation in Marrakech and you are a tourist who likes to know better the culture, I recommend taking a Riad. Here you can see the differences between a Riad and a hotel and a hostel.
There is a thing that I forgot (or I wasn’t aware of), and it’s that you need to give some tips to anybody who helps you in Morocco, even if you already paid for the service. So, evidently I forgot to give him anything, but he didn’t ask either. It’s true for waiters, guides or anyone who helps you somehow. So, if you need help to get somewhere or to buy something, remember the tips (just up to 10 dh: 1 euro, would be more than enough), otherwise, they will not like it or even ask for it (in any language too).
What to do in Marrakech
After my late arrival at the Riad, I woke up at about 9 am. and got ready to meet my cousin and get a nice Hammam. It is very traditional among Moroccans to do a hammam at least once a week. The city is full of communal Hammams, in which people wash each other. But we decided to go to a more high-level one (for tourists mainly). It is a little bit more expensive, but you have the privacy. After I did the Turkish bath in Istanbul last year, this Hammam was very similar (in my point of view) and it even hurt me a little. But after the Hammam, all my body was so fresh and relaxed, that I don’t regret doing it.
This day we went around the city and bought some crafts in the souks. We also went to a Henna art café. It is recommended to do it in a place like this one, with experienced artists, even if it is a little more expensive. Some people in the streets offer you a Henna for a very cheap price, but they also add things to the Henna to make it last (sometimes even gasoline), so it could give you an allergic reaction.
Later that day, my boyfriend was arriving from England. So we decided to go to have a coffee and a dessert at Café des Épices. It was delicious but a little too expensive for Marrakech. From there we saw the magnificent sunset. Then my boyfriend arrived and we went to get dinner at a restaurant right in the square Jemaa el-Fnaa.
On Saturday we did some sightseeing. Visited the Palace of Badii and Bahia Palace. Two fascinating palaces where you can learn a lot about Arab architecture and history. I also recommend visiting the Heritage museum, Museum of Marrakech and the house of photography.
My last day we did a volunteering work at Project Soar Marrakech, teaching football lessons to the girls. It was such a nice experience. I wish I could do it again.
After the Hammam we ate some traditional food at Café Clock. It is a very nice place for integration with the culture, but the prices are high. I mentioned already Café des Épices, which is a nice place to go and stay at the terrace, but also high prices. At night we had dinner at Tajin Dorna just in the big square (Jemaa el-Fnaa). For vegetarians, I recommend Earth Café.
If you want an artistic experience and delicious food (at a normal price), please visit Fox art food. For a more sophisticated experience (like a romantic dinner), go to Le Jardin. If you want a nice terrace (kind of expensive but very nice), visit Nomad too. And for a low budget visit, don’t worry, there is always good kebab or traditional food for only 20 dh (2 euros). Fruits are very cheap and fresh too
You should be aware that motorbikes are everywhere in Marrakech. And they don’t really care too much about the pedestrian. So just be very careful when walking through the Medina, you don’t want to be hit by a motorbike. Well, to be realistic, also bikes are dangerous. And people, in general, would go over you. I almost got run over by a wheelchair (I’m not kidding).
If you haven’t been out of your country before, you might find the odors in Marrakech very strong. Don’t worry, you will adapt fast, although sometimes it is indeed very strong (like in the fish market).
You can also find cheap dromedary trips in the Palmaraie, just a 20 minutes ride from the Medina. It is tiring to go on the animal, but it is definitely worth it.
If you want to buy souvenirs, remember that they inflate the prices, so you should bargain. We have gotten very good deals for even half of the price they asked for at the beginning. Sometimes they see your face and decide to give a very high price, but you must insist. Try to buy carpets and cushion covers, they are very beautiful and you can get good prices.
Finally, if you want to go to the airport from the Medina, there is a bus that passes every half an hour and stops close to the big square. I have to confess that I didn’t see such bus. Instead, I took a taxi, for a very good negotiated price of 60 dh. (normally it’s 70). The airport is not far from the city, so you can expect to take maximum 30 minutes if there is a huge traffic.
Hope you enjoyed my entry,
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