What Not to Do in Marrakech: Top Mistakes to Avoid

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What Not to Do in Marrakech

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Marrakech, a vibrant Moroccan city with a rich history, offers a unique blend of traditional and modern experiences. Colorful markets, ancient palaces, stunning gardens, and bustling streets make it a popular destination for tourists from around the globe.

However, it’s important for visitors to be aware of the cultural customs and practices in order to have a smooth and enjoyable experience.

One aspect to be aware of is the avoidance of certain activities or behaviors that could lead to unwanted situations or offend the locals. To ensure your trip to Marrakech is both enriching and respectful, it’s essential to know what not to do while exploring this fascinating city, get your Marrakech travel tips researched in advance.

Understanding Marrakech

History

Marrakech, often referred to as the “Red City” or Ochre city due to its red sandstone buildings, is one of Morocco’s most famous cities. It was founded in the 11th century by the Berber Almoravid dynasty, who made it the capital of their empire.

Over the centuries, Marrakech has been under different rulers and dynasties, which have all left their mark on the city’s architecture, culture, and traditions. Today, this exciting city is a thriving metropolis that attracts millions of tourists every year due to its rich history and unique charm.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 1985, Marrakech’s Medina was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its outstanding universal value. The medina, or old city, is a maze of narrow streets, bustling souks, and stunning architecture, including palaces, mosques, and historical monuments.

Some of the most iconic sites within the medina include the Koutoubia Mosque, Bahia Palace, and the Saadian Tombs. The Jemaa el-Fna, the city’s central square, is also a must-see attraction, filled with food stalls, musicians, storytellers, and snake charmers.

Customs and Traditions

When visiting Marrakech, it is essential to be respectful of local customs and traditions. As a predominantly Islamic country, Morocco has its unique set of customs and practices, which every visitor should be aware of. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Dress modestly, especially in religious sites and during the holy month of Ramadan
  • The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), and it is best to carry some cash for small purchases in the markets and to tip service providers
  • Haggling is a common and expected practice when shopping in the souks
  • It is considered rude to refuse an offer of mint tea, as it is a symbol of hospitality in Moroccan culture

By understanding the rich history, UNESCO World Heritage status, and local customs and traditions of Marrakech, visitors will be better-equipped to fully appreciate the enchanting city and properly enjoy this amazing cultural experience.

Accommodation and Transportation

Choosing a Riad or Hotel

In Marrakech, it is highly recommended to stay in a traditional Moroccan riad rather than a regular hotel. A riad is a traditional house or palace that typically has an interior garden or courtyard and offers a more authentic Moroccan experience.

When choosing a riad or a Marrakech resort, consider its location, amenities, and reviews to ensure a comfortable stay.

Navigating the Marrakech Medina

The Medina is the historic district of Marrakech, known for its maze-like streets and bustling atmosphere. It can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, but with a few tips, you can navigate it smoothly.

  • Get a map: A physical or digital map (google maps) will come in handy to navigate the winding streets of the Medina.
  • Use a guide: If you’re not confident in navigating the Medina on your own, consider hiring a reputable local guide.
  • Pay attention to landmarks: Identify landmarks like mosques or markets to help orient yourself.
  • Be cautious of scammers: Some locals may offer unsolicited guidance or directions and then demand money. Politely decline their offers.

Taxis and Public Transportation

When it comes to getting around Marrakech, taxis and public transportation are the most common options.

  • Taxis: There are two types of taxis in Marrakech: petit taxis (small, local taxis) and grand taxis (larger, long-distance taxis). Always negotiate the fare before starting your journey with the taxi drivers. To avoid misunderstandings, confirm the price in Moroccan Dirhams (Dh), otherwise the taxi driver might con you.
  • Public Transportation: Buses are the primary mode of public transportation in Marrakech, with tickets being relatively cheap. However, buses can be crowded and may not always be punctual. Check the bus routes and schedules to plan your journey.
  • Parking: If you are driving in Marrakech, parking options include public lots or street parking in the Gueliz neighborhood. Parking fees typically range from Dh20 ($2.20) for a day or Dh40 ($4.40) for 24 hours. Some streets in Gueliz have parking meters.

Navigating the Souks and Markets

Marrakech is home to some of the most vibrant and bustling souks and markets in the world, where you can find anything from spices and textiles to ceramics and jewelry. Navigating through these chaotic markets can be a challenge, especially for first-time visitors.

Haggling Tips and Tricks

In Marrakech, haggling is a way of life, and it’s essential to engage in this practice if you want to get the best deals. Here are some useful tips for effective haggling:

  • Begin by offering a lower price than what you’re willing to pay, usually about half of the initial asking price.
  • Be polite and respectful throughout the process, as this will create a positive atmosphere for negotiation.
  • Maintain a sense of humor and a friendly demeanor while bargaining, remember this is their local culture.
  • Be prepared to walk away if the seller does not agree to your preferred price. This may lead to them calling you back with a counteroffer.

Recognizing Quality Crafts and Products

The souks of Marrakech are famous for their crafts and handmade products, such as leather goods, ceramics, and textiles. To recognize quality items, consider the following:

  • Examine the materials used: Genuine leather goods should have a natural, supple feel, with distinct leather scent.
  • Check for consistency in patterns and colors, especially in textiles and ceramics.
  • Look for detailed, intricate workmanship, a sign of skilled craftsmanship.

Avoiding Pickpockets and Scams

While exploring the markets of Marrakech, it’s important to remain vigilant to protect yourself from pickpockets and scams. Follow these guidelines:

  • Bring only the necessary amount of money for the day, and leave your valuables in a secure place in your accommodation.
  • Keep your belongings safe in a secure bag worn across the body or in a zipped pocket, especially if you are wearing loose fitting clothing (required for the heat).
  • Be cautious of overly friendly locals offering unsolicited help. Politely decline their offer or indicate that you have a local contact.
  • Stay alert in crowded areas, as pickpockets may take advantage of the chaos and confusion.
  • Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true, and verify the authenticity of products before making a purchase.

Notable Attractions and Experiences

Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace is a beautiful 19th-century palace in Marrakech, showcasing exquisite Moroccan architecture and craftsmanship. The palace’s decorative ceilings, colorful tile work, and a tranquil courtyard create an enchanting atmosphere for visitors.

Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle is a stunning Marrakech garden, designed by French painter Jacques Majorelle in the early 20th century. The garden is famous for its iconic blue walls, lush plants, and the striking Berber Museum. This tranquil oasis is a perfect escape from the bustling city streets, and a great place for nature lovers to explore.

Jemaa El-Fna

Jemaa El-Fna, also known as Jemaa el Fna or Jamaa el Fna Square, is the vibrant heart of Marrakech. During the day, the square is filled with fruit stalls, snake charmers, and henna tattoo artists. In the evening, it transforms into a lively food market offering a variety of delicious Moroccan cuisine.

Tips for visiting Jemaa El-Fna:

  • Visit during both daytime and nighttime for different experiences.
  • Be cautious of pickpockets and keep your belongings secure.
  • Bargain for souvenirs, as prices are often inflated for tourists.

Jemaa El-Fna is also a great starting point for exploring other attractions, such as museums and palaces, within Marrakech’s historic Medina district.

Cuisine and Dining

Trying Local Dishes

Marrakech is known for its rich and diverse cuisine. When visiting the city, it’s essential to step out of your comfort zone and try some traditional Moroccan food like tagines, couscous, and pastilla. However, it’s crucial to be cautious and choose where you eat carefully to avoid potential food poisoning. It’s better to stick to reputable restaurants or recommendations from locals to enjoy the best Moroccan cuisine. If you eat meat, remember some Moroccans do eat camel meat which you may want to avoid eating/

Staying Hydrated and Safe

While exploring Marrakech, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially during the hot months. However, drinking tap water is not advisable due to potential contamination. Instead, opt for bottled water or bring a water bottle with a built-in filter to ensure your safety. Also, avoid consuming street food and beverages from untrusted vendors, as it might affect the quality and even safety of the food. Choose reputable establishments to enjoy the local tastes.

Tipping Customs

Tipping is customary in Marrakech, with a 10% tip typically expected at restaurants. However, giving a one-dirham tip, even if it’s 10% or more, is considered an insult. In such cases, it’s appropriate to leave at least a two-dirham tip regardless of the total bill. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the local tipping etiquette to avoid inadvertently offending the locals.

Things to Avoid in Marrakech

Sensory Overload

Marrakech is a city filled with vibrant colors, bustling markets, and rich history. It’s not uncommon for tourists to feel overwhelmed by the intense smells, sounds, and sights. To avoid sensory overload, it’s a good idea to plan breaks in your itinerary to escape the hustle and bustle.

Consider visiting quieter spots like gardens or museums away from the tourist areas. Be prepared for the weather, as high temperatures and strong sunlight can exacerbate sensory overload.

Asking for Directions

In Marrakech, asking for directions can sometimes lead to more confusion. Locals may offer unsolicited help and provide misleading directions, often expecting payment in return. Instead, rely on a reliable map, a GPS device, or use your smartphone’s mapping application. Before venturing out for a day trip, make sure your devices are fully charged and familiarize yourself with key landmarks and routes.

Accepting Unsolicited Help

As a tourist in Marrakech, you’ll likely encounter locals offering help in various forms, such as guiding you through the maze-like streets or carrying your bags. Although some locals genuinely want to help, others may have ulterior motives, such as expecting a tip or even leading you to a place where you might be more vulnerable to theft or scams.

To avoid getting caught in such situations, it’s best to be cautious and politely decline unsolicited help. Stick to the Marrakech travel tips you’ve researched and trust your instincts. As a traveler, it’s essential to strike a balance between being open to new experiences and maintaining a level of skepticism to ensure your safety and wellbeing in Marrakech. Before you go, ensure you check the latest Marrakech travel restrictions for updated travel advice.

FAQS on What NOT to do in Marrakech

What to be careful in Marrakech?

It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and keep your personal belongings secure in Marrakech, as pickpocketing can occur, especially in crowded places like the medinas or souks. Be cautious of people offering unsolicited guidance or services as they might expect a tip. Also, be prepared for the hustle and bustle, and haggling culture in the markets.

What to avoid doing in Morocco?

Avoid showing disrespect to local customs and religious practices. For instance, during Ramadan, it’s respectful not to eat, drink, or smoke in public during the day. Avoid taking photographs of people without their permission. Dress modestly, respecting the local Islamic culture.

Which areas to avoid in Marrakech?

Generally, Marrakech is safe for tourists. However, as in any city, certain areas can be less safe at night. Be extra cautious in the less crowded and poorly lit areas of the medina after dark. Always stay in well-travelled areas, especially at night, and keep track of your belongings. Some advice to avoid the Essalam neighbourhood, which is just below the Djemaa el Fna square.

Can I wear jeans in Marrakech?

Yes, you can wear jeans in Marrakech. It’s recommended to dress modestly out of respect for the local culture, meaning avoiding revealing or tight clothing. Jeans are perfectly acceptable, as long as they’re paired with tops that cover the shoulders and aren’t overly tight or revealing. In general, locals appreciate when tourists respect their customs and dress codes.

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