Our journey to Morocco was fuelled by enthusiasm, curiosity and a little bit of uncertainty about what to expect. Shortly before our departure, we read a useful few travel posts regarding Marrakech and had mixed feelings.
Instead of writing about the amazing architecture or distinct culture, fellow travellers decided to concentrate on sexual harassment, verbal attacks, food poisoning, taxi scams and came very close to portraying local men like wild animals.
I am not going to pretend here; due to a staggering amount of negative feedback, we were scared and were secretly getting ready to be physically pulled in all directions by local people.
Yes, we even tried to come up with a solution if someone would hunt us down into a very dark alley, demanding to buy their product or ask for money.
We had to find the courage to alter our thoughts and worries about travelling to Marrakech with a baby and draw attention to the positive aspects that surround us.
I remember looking over the shoulder on the first day in Marrakech and felt pretty stupid about it. While no trip or destination is perfectly safe, I wasn’t gonna let other travellers irrational and exaggerated fears or bad experiences ruin our journey or make it unnecessarily stressful.
Unless you travel to a place with recent terror attacks or tourist kidnappings, we have to use common sense, and we have to understand that some areas just makes people uneasy for a whole lot of other reasons.
What we actually found was a fantastic and a little bit chaotic city filled with the most incredible light and colours, friendly locals, exceptional food and high-quality artefacts. We were enthralled at every turn and had one of the most memorable trips.
10+ Things you need to know before visiting Marrakech for the first time
While not everyone is doing the research before the trip or reading travel guides on the plane, knowing what to expect and knowing main attractions, events, and routes, can make your journey more pleasant and it is a great way to optimise your experience once you reach your destination.
What I am saying is, it’s good to know the lifestyle and to understand the customs when going to Muslim or any other country for the very first time, there is a wealth of useful information online, from tourist board websites to personal travel blogs you can use to inform yourself.
- Best time to visit | Spring and autumn month are the best times to visit Marrakech as the summer month brings the unbearable heat (it can quickly reach 45 degrees). It’s quite beautiful in wintertime too; the weather is usually sunny and pleasantly warm during the day but chilly in the evenings. We travelled in early March, and the average temperature was 20’C.
- Shopping | The handmade goods found in souks are of excellent quality and if you see something you like, buy it right away. With such a staggering amount of stalls, likely, you won’t pass it again. Many places don’t have fixed prices, therefore be ready to bargain with the seller and if you are not happy with the price (it can be unreasonably high at the beginning), say thanks and walk away.
- Taxis | Before getting a taxi, always ask your accommodation host to give you an approximate price that should be travelling from point A to point B. You might still need to negotiate, but this way you know what you are working with.
- Water | Don’t drink the tap water in Marrakech. If you want to avoid purchasing plastic bottles than bring a reusable water bottle with a replaceable filter that removes most of the waterborne bacteria and parasites.
- Ramadan | If you travel to Morocco during Ramadan, known worldwide as a month of fasting for Muslims, remember that opening hours change to accommodate prayers and meals. Tourist attractions and shops usually open later and close earlier than usual.
- Safety | In general, Marrakech is a very safe city. Be aware of your surroundings and use common sense. Don’t walk around medina after the dark, especially by yourself. Watch out for traffic, don’t flash your valuables and avoid ‘faux guides.’
- Transfers | Most of the riads are hiding behind simple doors, and usually, no signs are pointing in the right direction(forget about Google maps, they are no good). Our riad offered private transfers from the airport straight to the accommodation, and we agreed right away. We were cheerfully greeted by a young, friendly man who drove us to the entrance of Old Medina, where an old guy with a pushcart was already waiting for us.
Exploring the Old Medina
Oh, Old Medina, where do I even begin? First of all, if you are visiting Marrakech for the very first time, prepare for the culture shock and get ready to be completely overwhelmed and disoriented.
Once the souks, traditional Arab markets, open in the morning, streets are flooded with people, constant chattering and buzzing. With so much distraction and hypnotic intensity of colours, it’s challenging to fully engage with where you are. If it gets a bit much, take a deep breath, think with your heart and let the emotions wash over you.
Getting lost in the labyrinth of crisscrossing alleyways, that pretty much all look the same, is part of the cities charm. There’s just no way around it. Apart from the donkey carts, bicycles, and loud mopeds, Old Medina is a pedestrian-only zone, so you can’t howl a taxi to take you back to your accommodation.
After browsing the old part of the city, we struggled with finding our riad on the first day; it was impossible to remember the way. That’s why before leaving our accommodation again, we consulted with the staff and got a good map of the Old Medina.
Money in Marrakech
The primary currency in Morocco is dirhams(MAD or Dh). You are not allowed to take it out of the county and have to spend it before leaving (it’s impossible to re-change MAD outside of the country).
ATMs are a bit tricky to locate and even when you do; they don’t accept foreign cards. Once you arrive, you can use Bureau de Change in Marrakech’s Menara airport to exchange money.
Most of the hotels and riads accept credit cards, but in the markets and shops, cash is the primary way of paying.
To avoid being left with money, we made a list of all the places we wanted to visit. We googled the entrance fees, added transportation, food, souvenirs and came up with a set amount we need. This strategy, by the way, is a great way to keep spending in check.
When we visited Marrakech 100Dm were around 9 euros, so we kept this in mind while shopping.
Where to stay in Marrakech
If you are considering a trip to Marrakesh, you’ll need a place to sleep. Here you’ve got the option to choose between typical hotels and riads. We highly recommend staying in the Old Medina for a proper Morocco experience.
Behind the Old Medina walls, you’ll find a vast amount of Traditional houses, called Riads, each of them with a beautiful enclosed courtyard on the inside. One of the unique features is that windows and doors in your room will open up to the yard.
We dedicated a great deal of time looking for that perfect riad, by flickering through online photos. Every single one we saw was unbelievably likeable, displaying incredible artwork, splashes of vibrant colours, soft floor cushions, and trickling fountains. Local Moroccan designers and artisans craft the elegant décor for the most lavish riads.
We didn’t even need to leave our riad to find sheltered spots and corners. Our room was light and airy and decorated with traditional furniture. On the rooftop, was a wonderfully spacious terrace, ornamented in creamy hues, with views of the Atlas mountains in the distance. Potted plants, lanterns, thick carpets, columns and arches only spiced up the incredible interior and were pleasing for an eye.
The only downside to staying in a riad is the price, they are more expensive than hotels, yet the overall experience, attention to detail, outstanding service and friendly staff was few of the reasons we would stay there again.
Dress code for Morocco and Marrakech
Morocco is a Muslim country and Moroccans remain untouched by Western cultures and are trustworthy to traditions.
Searching for valuable tips from other bloggers about Marrakech, I stumbled upon lots of blog posts where girls concentrated on sob stories about how challenging Morocco can be for white female travellers and was quick to tell real-life horror stories about verbal abuse.
Taking into context the astounding quantity of personal blog posts that can be found online about how to dress and behave in Muslim countries, we were dumbfounded to find European girls walking around Marrakech with barely-there denim shorts and skimpy t-shirts.
Despite the unbearable heat during the summer month, dressing accordingly, respecting customs and traditions is merely a suitable manner, after all, we are guests in a foreign country. Make some effort and at least cover your shoulders and knees.
Loose clothing is the best when visiting in the summer and layers are perfect for the winter month. You can expect 40’C(104F) in July and August.
If you don’t have any maxi skirts or dresses, you can always get some from the souks or even invest in a traditional Moroccan kaftan or djellaba, usually made out of soft to touch fabrics and beautiful colours.
The Djellaba is the most famous piece of traditional clothing, worn both by men and women. This free-flowing, hooded outfit changes according to the seasons. Light cotton ones are used in summer and wool ones in the winter month.
Where to eat in Marrakech
When visiting different countries, we usually venture out for lunch or dinner to sample the local cuisine. In Marrakech, however, we mostly stayed and dined in as our riad served delicious vegetarian tagines and freshly made Moroccan salads. For traditional breakfast, we had a great selection of bread with jams and honey and fresh orange juice.
We explored the city and tried pretty much everything we could find. We sampled fresh fruit, bread, dates and sweets from street vendors, Pringles crisps and coconut waffles from the corner shops, an endless amount of mint tea from the rooftop cafes, and the most delicious vegetarian dishes in Nomad restaurant.
Nomad restaurant popped out of pretty much every single personal blog story that we’ve read online. Kamal Laftimi and Sebastian de Gzell are two guys behind the success story where the old carpet store is being transformed into a trendy restaurant serving traditional Moroccan dishes with a unique spin.
We ignored the table at a lower level and went straight upstairs to the sunlit roof terrace with brilliant views of the city. Yes, we paid 100 DHS for the roasted cauliflower served over a bed of couscous that was infused with harissa sauce and ginger, yet this was one of the most satisfying meals we had a chance to sample in Marrakech.
… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …
Now over to you!
Have you been to Marrakech? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Marrakech and have travel-related questions!