Yet another country that doesn't like to tell you what an item is really worth... I would probably love haggling if I was any good at it, but I end up feeling like I've paid way too much every time I go shopping. And it's not just paranoia - in almost every instance I found a shop up the road with cheaper products.
Having said that, it is nice to talk to local people and we've sparked some really good conversations arguing over the price of saffron!
Anyway, apparently, the trick is to always be willing to walk away - Never Give In!!!
Ryanair, or any other budget carrier
We used Ryanair twice to fly from Airport Weeze (The Netherlands/Germany) to Marrakech and had very cheap fares. It is almost unbelievable but we paid only € 10,- (including tax, fees and charges) for our one way tickets around end November, making reservations a couples of weeks in advance.
We are absolutely satisfied with Ryanair, knowing it is a budget company making money from drinks to a lottery on board. But their planes are modern, no problem with seats, flights were on time and staff is rather friendly.
‘Of course’ you have to pay extra’s, although you can avoid some of them. Some of the more or less 'strange' fees (November 2009):
Online check-in per one way flight: € 5,- (at the airport € 40,-)
Payment Handling Fee - Per passenger/ Per One Way Flight: € 5,-
Checked Baggage 1st Bag - Per bag/ Per One Way Flight: € 15,-
Nowadays an increasing number of budget airlines ids flying between Europe and Marrakech. I’m sure you will find affordable tickets. Just check one or more websites for their fares:
Aichas No. 1
Although I'd put this in my custom guide, pre departure, on my first night in Djemma el Fnaa, I'd forgotten about it. I was soon pursuaded to take a seat at one of the food stalls, where I was made to feel quite welcome.
I wasn't sure what to order, so just pointed to dishes my fellow diners were eating. I had a pleasant (and cheap) meal of bread, 2 spicy sauce dips, lentil soup, and lamb brochettes with a small salad, all for about 20dh.
It wasn't until I was leaving, after my meal, and one of the boys pointed to the sign, so I'd remember where to come back to, that I realised I'd found Aichas! I ate here a few times, and enjoyed all the dishes.
Besides the meal above I also tried vegetable tajine, vegetable cous cous, potato cakes, and small spicy sausages on various visits.
This is probably a good stall to head for on your first night, if it's your first time eating in Djemma el Fnaa, as the staff are used to tourists - ignore their calls of "lovely jubbly/ asda price etc" The food was good, and there were Moroccan families eating here too.
You can then venture to another stall the next night, or return here
The Carpet shop
Every tourist is taken to a carpet shop as part of their organised itinerary.
From my journal:
'The obligatory carpet-stop, where we are served mint tea and all the carpets are rolled out in the centre of the room and the different styles and quality is described to us.'
"Marrakech - I'll never go back"
Marrakech has changed since the Hippies carrying Europe on $5 a day books came to buy cheap hashish in the 70s. One thing is that there is not a whiff of hashish in Marrakech now, not in the air, or for sale. Hashish does not work for me so lack of it is not regretted anyway.
Ever wonder what happened to Ali Babas forty thieves? They all came to Marrakech and each had ten kids. These kids all followed the trade of their fathers and rob and cheat tourists in the squares and alleys of Marrakech.
This is what can be read on the internet:
One highlight of Marrakech is the Jemaa l-Fna market square, a lively meeting place, where tarot card readers, snake charmers, tattooists, hash sellers; amateur boxers, story tellers, musicians and even the occasional mad dentist tout their wares. Surrounding in a colourful arc of honour are charismatic salesmen offering sweet, fresh juice from locally grown oranges.
But now where is all this great entertainment? There are no hash sellers, dentists, amateur boxers, story tellers, and as for musicians, all I saw were some Moroccans banging drums and chanting. I could do better myself.
As for the so called snake charmers. The snakes are not charmed; in fact the snakes are sluggish probably because they have just come out of a fridge.
The snake charmer is stood up well away from the snakes blowing his horn. What he is blowing has no semblance to music – I think they are making it up as they go along. But if anyone stops to take a look, their open hands will shoot out quicker than the snake.
If one takes a photograph, the charmers will rugby tackle the photographer before he gets away without paying. My advice is, take the picture with a telephoto lens.
The stalls selling to the Moroccans displayed no prices, and I’m sure charge reasonable prices – to Moroccans.
However this is how the tourist food stalls with menus operate. The staff is brash, loud, and aggressive, so when they overcharge the tourist at the end of the, already, expensive meal, the tourist will too scared to complain. Well it did not work with me. I could see what the crack was, as the Irish say, and acted accordingly. When the waiter stood over me shouting, I gave my order at full volume to match his shouting. Everyone looked. The service was slow, one dish was off, but they took the order, and at the end, guess what, they tried to overcharge me.
I stood up and fronted the bar-stewerds. I did not pay a penny too much and did not leave a tip. Screw em.
And among all this beggars everywhere. One nine year old boy beggar was even sniffing glue out of a plastic bag!
At another stall I bought a bowl of snails. The sign showed a picture off a snail next to a 3. Was it 3 do dars a bowl? No it was 10. The sign with the snail had the number of the stall next to it. They knew how it would be read, and at the back of the stall partially hidden was a price list showing ten a bowl.
And so it goes on. Maniacs ride motor bike and bikes at full speed through the alleys of the bazaar. How anyone is not seriously hurt was amazing. I was wishing two bikes would collide going in opposite directions.
The street stink of human excrement and urine, and everywhere is the so called Moroccan guide. Ask the way, or talk to some man walking alongside and the man reverts to guide. He escorts the tourist for 50 yards and demands $12! Eventually they are paid off with $2 just to get rid of them, big money in Morocco. I saw it happen all over. It is a form of mugging.
There are some nice old buildings about, but no better than other Moroccan cities. So have an afternoon there, by all means, then move on.
Marrakech is the rip off capital of Morocco. There are a dozen other problems with the place that I have not mentioned for fear of boring readers. Eventually I bought the T shirt and tried to leave for ever – but that is another story.
I don’t think I’ll be back