Djellabas and kaftans
The traditional Moroccan dress is the djellaba for men, kaftan for women. You'll see many people around Marrakesh in these long robes, which look amazingly comfortable. However, there's a pretty broad spectrum of dress codes in Marrakesh--you'll see plenty of women with their heads uncovered, wearing trousers or other clothing. For men, t-shirts and trousers are ubiquitous.
Getting to Marrakech
We flew to Marrakech with British Airways from London Gatwick (British Airways also fly to Marrakech from Heathrow). The flight took around 3 hours. On our return flight, the plane went via Casablanca, where it stopped for about 45 minutes for re-fuelling and to take on more passengers (while we remained on the plane). This made our return journey about 5 hours all up.
Other airlines that fly from the UK to Marrakech include Ryanair from London Luton, Easyjet and Atlas Blue from London Gatwick and Royal Air Maroc from London Heathrow.
Marrakech Menara airport is pretty basic and the service is very slow....we almost missed our flight! After queuing for ages to check in, then had to wait forever to get through the passport check....by the time we got to the queue for hand luggage scanning we had 10 minutes till our flight left - luckily we managed to jump to the head of the queue, then had to run to the gate, and were last on the plane!
More cheap food on Djemaa El Fna
When in Marrakech, eating at the food stalls on Djemaa El Fna square is an absolute must!
Hundreds of stalls set up in the square each evening, offering a selection of tasty meals at ridiculously cheap prices. Competition is fierce and each stall will try to entice you to eat there with promises of the best food in town! The touts have clearly been working on their sales pitch - I was met with shouts of "Marks and Spencers quality food", "our food is sound as a pound/lovely jubbly" and "cheaper than Asda prices".
In truth, I was a little apprehensive about eating food from street vendors. Each stall displays its raw meat out in the open, with flies buzzing around. So, the first time I ventured down to Djemaa El Fna I decided I'd just eat my meal....and then see if I was ill the next morning! I'm happy to report that I ate at the food stalls at Djemaa El Fna on several occasions and never suffered any illness at all.
On my final night in Marrakech, during a visit to the city in February 2007, I ate at #93: Chez Bienvenue (each stall has a unique number and name).
Similar to the stalls that I had eaten at earlier on in my stay, the food on offer here consisted of whole chickens, beef, lamb and chicken kebabs, meat steaks, merguez sausages, shrimps, calamari, French fries, couscous, eggplant and salads. The set up was identical to that of countless other stalls on the square, with dozens of diners sat shoulder to shoulder on benches around the stall.
I sat next to two brothers from Birmingham, one of whom had just finished eating a plate of sheep brains prior to my arrival. The hygienic standards at the food stalls in the Djemaa El Fna always looked a bit questionable to me. This was highlighted during the course of my meal at Chez Bienvenue, when a large pile of mince meat fell from the stall onto the concrete below. The owner picked it up and dusted it down, while the tourists looked knowingly at each other as to what he was about to do with it. Sure enough, the meat was placed back on the stall awaiting its consumption by an unsuspecting customer!
My meal at Chez Bienvenue consisted of:
- The ubiquitous complimentary piece of round bread and a plate of diced tomatoes and onions;
- Fried shrimps: a large plate of tasty shrimps served with a slice of lemon;
- Chicken kebabs: 6 skewers of tender, well cooked chicken
- A bottle of Coca Cola;
- A glass of sweet mint tea.
The total cost of my meal was just 75 Dhs (approx. 4.50 GBP).
As I've said in my other tips about the various food stalls at Djemaa El Fna, eating at these no frills stalls and mingling with the locals is probably my overriding memory of my stay in Marrakech and the best way to experience the city and its people!
Cheap, tasty shrimps and kebabs in an amazing setting! Highly recommended!!
The Medina of Marrakesh is encircled by ochre rampart walls which give the city its nickname of “the red city”. These walls, varying between eight to ten metres in height, date back to the 13th century and run for a total of nearly 12 miles. They were constructed from straw and clay using techniques that date back to before the time of Christ, with wooden scaffolds and frames filled with the mixture, much in the way of a modern steel and concrete construction. You can still see the square holes where the wooden frame once protruded, which now serve to allow fresh breezes to pass through into the Medina.
The ramparts are cut through by 18 gates, most of them fairly unadorned and some simply gaps in the wall. Bab Doukala gate, seen in my main photo, is fairly plain, but on the south side we saw Bab Ksiba gate which has some more ornate decoration, and Bab Agnaou, the most decorative of all – however travelling by taxi I wasn’t able to get photos of these.
The towers in my second photo stand just outside the walls north of the bus station (Gare Routiere). We were told that they mark the tombs of seven great men but I haven't been able to find out more than that - can anyone reading this shed any more light?
In the middle of the day the walls look relatively dull but first thing in the morning and again late in the afternoon they glow. To walk all around them would be a long and dusty trail, so a popular alternative is to tour all or part by caleche. A complete tour will take about an hour and should cost between 200 and 300 dirhams.
A few days only in Marrakesh was enough for the magic of this city to grab me. On first sight in the morning the Djemaa El Fna does look a bit like a giant car park. After a few minutes walking through the stalls, dodging getting hit by motorcycles, the sounds & smells got to me. Followed this by a stroll into the souks & I was truly enchanted by the city. Those experiences were even more intense after dark.
As predicted by some guide books & fellow travellers you can get hassled by people selling almost everything. A polite but firm no & they leave you alone, at no time did I feel threatened. They are only trying to make a living after all.