Insider’s Survival Guide to Marrakech
By Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki from MarocMama Blog
Marrakech gets a bad rap but it’s the only place in Morocco I’d ever want to live. Sure it’s crowded, busy and there’s always some hustle but there’s a lot more to this city than what’s on the surface. If your only experience with Marrakech is trolling Djem al Fna I can promise,chances are really good you will walk away hating this place.
I won’t gloss over this, it’s a big reason why people dislike Marrakech. The thing is, they’re not going away – no matter how much any of us would like them to. The way I see it, this leaves you have two options. The first option is get upset and angry and give up completely on your time in Marrakech.
The other was shown to me by a young woman a few weeks ago. I wish I knew who she was because I wanted to stand up and give her a round of applause. Instead of getting defensive or angry she laughed along with them. When someone talked to her, even when they said completely ridiculous things, she just bantered with them in a really lighthearted way. It was clear that it never got to her (if it did she never let on). Nothing was getting in her way. I am pretty sure she left Marrakech happy.
Now that I’ve got the most negative thing out of the way it’s time to dig into ways you can really enjoy the real Marrakech.
6 Ways to Be A Marrakech Insider
Wander in one of the free parks
I know, Jardin Majorelle is gorgeous. It’s also rising in price continuously. You won’t find many Moroccans here, but you will find it packed with tourists constantly. I love this garden but if you’d rather not, go where the Moroccans go. There are alternative gardens in Marrakech and many of them are free. My photographer friend Chris did a series on them – take your pick they each have their own charm.
The biggest mistake I see people make when they visit is over scheduling. The first headache they encounter is that things here just don’t run on very set times. It can be really frustrating if you’ve got a tight schedule planned. The easiest way to avoid this is to slow down. Loving Marrakech is a marathon not a sprint. Take a walk, sit in a café and sip tea, slip in and out of open riads, pop into a museum, or take a nap. Seriously. Some of the best things to do in Marrakech are nothing at all – simply watch life.
Don’t Go Out at Midday
From around 3—5pm things get pretty quiet in Marrakech. It also happens to be the hottest part of the day and that’s no coincidence. Marrakechi’s are masters of sun avoidance. Visitors should follow suit, trust me they’ve worked this out already. During these quiet hours plan things that will keep you out of the sun. Remember that nap or rooftop relaxing I mentioned above? It’s a good time for it.
Hire a Good Guide
Sure you can see Marrakech on your own but I think there is a real value in hiring a good guide. It also can be difficult to find, though many now have TripAdvisor profiles. I have been coming to Marrakech for 13 years, 3 of which I have lived here. From time to time when I have a special interest I will hire a guide to help me. For example I recently did a tour of Sufi shrines in Marrakech. If you have a special interest or are a photographer a guide can be immensely helpful.
Book your shopping tour in the medina here.
Avoid Pricy Restaurants – Follow the Moroccans
There are some really good restaurants in Marrakech. There are also a lot that are mediocre and some that are just bad. A good rule of thumb is just because it’s expensive does not mean it is better, especially when it comes to Moroccan food. Some of my favorite foods are sold in street stalls for only a dollar or two. I know people struggle to find good food here, that’s why we started our food tour. Pay attention to where and what Moroccans are eating and go for it. Many tourists are afraid of getting sick but if there are Moroccans there then the food is likely safe.
Take a Cooking Class
Get hands on in a Moroccan kitchen! This isn’t just about food but a real opportunity to learn about Moroccan culture and traditions. In my opinion one of the best ways to understand a culture is through its food, and you get a great reward at the end of the class! The Amal Women’s Training Center and Restaurant is one of my favorite places for beginners. If you’re more advanced or want a private experience Dar Les Cigognes cooking school may be a better option.
You can book your cooking class here.