Sharpen your bargaining skills
Or be prepared to be ripped off. This is the way it is. The price your told initially is not set in stone, they expect you to bargain. And if you don't you'll feel foolish when you ask a marrakeshi if you got a good deal. I found that it worked best to offer half of the price I was told and work from there. They will look at you like you're crazy, then say another price, then you'll do the same. At some point, hopefully, you'll arrive at a price you're both happy with.
If they won't budge/go down on the price enough to make you happy, I suggest that if you really want the item you're bargaining over, you scan their "shop" for something else you like as well and say "OK, I'll pay 200 dirham for it if you throw this item in as well." This worked more often than not.
Sometimes they will refuse your offers entirely as a bluff. Be prepared to walk away. I had a man chase me half way through one of the souks to sell me an item, and at MY price.
However, don't be a cheapskate. A LOT of these items are handcrafted, and a lot of these people get by on A LOT less money than you make at home. Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more than you want to, to get something you'll never find at home.
Train to Marrakech
On our first visit to Marrakech we travelled by train from Rabat. The journey takes 4 hours and it was one of the nicest journeys of our trip. The colour of the landscape is beautiful especially south of Casablanca, when it changes from being mostly green to red and orange. You can feel you are entering the south!
We also spent a lot of time talking to a couple from Dubai/Sweden who were on the way to visit relatives in Marrakech. They knew the area well and gave us many tips on what to see and do. The trip was very good value. We travelled first class and it cost about 100 Dh each for a single ticket.
The station in Marrakech is in the Ville Nouvelle. We planned to stay at Hotel du Pacha which was a 10 minute walk from the station. If you do get a taxi from the station watch out for the cost. It shouldn't cost more than 10 Dh for most trips in the city and Marrakech's taxi drivers are notorious for overcharging foreigners.
Town square Jemaa l-Fna
Jemaa el-Fna, nobody knowns what the name means, is the heart of Marrakech. Nobody knowns how old it is, this open square poorly defined by surrounding buildings, a police station and a parking lot could easily be thousands of years old. Maybe it is older that the city itself. Maybe it is the reason for why Marrakech came into being.
The place owes little of its fame to beauty, it is all about charm and atmosphere. There is almost always something going on here. Day and night. During most of the days, performers of every kind put up their shows, continuing until the evening when food trolleys force their way in and occupy half the area and all of the attention of the audience.
From the Jemaa there are several entries to the fantastic suuqs, and for anyone who needs to relax for a while, there are plenty of cafés around the Jemaa, where the main attraction is looking at the ongoing activities.
Jemaa el-Fna owes most of its fame to the large number of spectacles going on all around all the time. Snake charmers, singers, story tellers, healers and fakirs attract a dominantly Moroccan audience.
The quality of the juice is excellent, and if you want a variation, tangerines, grapes or lemons can be added by request.
The food stalls take over the Jemaa as soon as the orange juice sellers have packed up and gone home. The food is prepared from fresh on the spot, and you can choose between fish, meat or vegetable dishes. The concept is easy, you point at everything you desire, indicate the quantity, and within few minutes it is there in front of you.
The food is exquisite, tasteful and much appreciated by Moroccans and tourists alkike. Never forget the good rule of eating in Morocco: eat where the Moroccans eat — they know where to get good food!
Although most artists pack up thier stuff when natural light goes away, a new line of artists move in. Story tellers and fire swallowers benefit much from the atmosphere of the night.
The suuqs of Marrakech are like a labyrinth where you soon lose directions. Maps in guide books turn out to be of help only when you stick to one of the few wide alley ways. Yet, should you get lost, noone will take advantage of you if you seem stranded.
Some might find that it is quite too much, that colours and shapes get exaggerated. But there is a self confident elegance to the strong colours and wild shapes of everything from carpets to water mugs.
Roofs are essential: during the summer season temperatures pass 40°C for months. Among the most common materials are found palm fronds. The roofs and the coolness of the stone houses make the suuqs a place to hide from the sun.
Ok , we found a sign. ... and it wasn't on my map.
How to find your way around?
My orientation that always works perfect failed
here. How about my logic?
Yes , that worked fine.
My orientation told me to take little streets to
the left and right in order to find point A.
But those streets always seemed to end at
somebodies house. My logic said to find
the way back by always walking to the place where
most people were walking. And that worked
Always follow the big crowds. The important
streets connecting important places are
always full of people AND always bordered
by shops. Easy.
The Colours Hidden within the Pink City
Marrakech is, unsurprisingly, nicknamed "the Pink City". And true, as you wander and meander though the souks, the walls behind and ahead seem to be nothing but pink. Yet it is so much more than that-- and for this travel page I'd like to take a little walk down the path less taken and highlight some of the more intriguing colours that thsi city has to offer.
All photos appearing here will be mentioned in a proper tip somewhere in the page. Happy exploring!
//Tips and photos continuously being added. Cheers!
"Riads, riads-- so many to choose, so little time"
Riads are just about the most charming form of inns/hotels I have encountered in the world. Each of them are small (7-15) rooms and so the owner has a direct hand in decorating it and giving each its own special character. The staff are helpful and personable, and would even sit down with you for a cup of tea to tell you more about the local culture if you'd like. They are true representatives of the trademark Moroccan hospitality, and you could hardly go wrong picking an riad.
I would be happy if I only went to Marrakech to stay in different riads and do little else. Bring a good book with you and enjoy the terrace. (Recommended: Riad Chouia Chouia)
"Plants by the desert"
Don't be fooled by Marrakech's proximity to the desert-- this city has some well hidden green havens which will surely be a delight to the weary traveller.