To experience local, ethnic living, you MUST stay at a RIAD in the medina.
They come in a range of comfort standards..
Check these sites:
http://www.hipmarrakech.com/ (sorted in price categories on homepage itself!)
http://www.31best-riad-marrakesh.com/ (popular for bookings)
http://www.riad2000.com/ (popular for bookings)
Fondest memory: Trying my best to blend in & experiencing Morocco through the eyes of a local :)
Favorite thing: While Arabic is the first language of Morocco, French is spoken so widely it might almost be considered a dual language country, at least here in Marrakesh. Street signs are in both languages, many shop signs indeed are only in French, and café menus are always available in French (and only occasionally in English). We found that while many people working with tourists will say they speak English, this was often very limited; however their French was generally much more fluent, and by using what we knew of that language we got on very well. I think without any French (or Arabic, naturally) we would have found it much harder, especially when dealing with the various people we met as a result of my fall – the doctors, staff in the clinic and in the pharmacies where I paid for and had the injections that were prescribed for me. Our riad too, Les Lauriers Blancs, was owned and run, as so many of them are, by an ex-pat French couple who spoke only very limited English, so being able to converse with them in French was really good – both from a practical point of view and also because it meant we were able to get to know them better. So if you have a little knowledge of French from your school days, do brush it up before you go to Morocco as you’ll find it really useful.
Favorite thing: Dirham is the official currency in Morocco. At the time of my visit in Nov/Dec 2006, the exchange rate was 1 euro = 10 dirhams; US$ 1 = 8.5 dirhams. Djemaa el Fna area has several banks with cash machines where one could withdraw dirhams. This is also the case along Avenue Mohamed V in Guéliz, the new city. However, many people will accept US dollars or Euros (including taxis) if one is not carrying dirhams. I suggest you bring a lot of small euro/usd change for tips or small purchases, just in case.
Favorite thing: While Arabic is the official language in Morocco, French is nearly as important. It is the second language in Morocco and spoken practically by everyone. If you speak some French, you will inevitably find yourself using it, and would have an easier time. However, most shopkeepers in the souks speak at least some English, Spanish and other languages, learnt by dealing with tourists, to increase the likelihood of selling. This is not the case with taxi drivers and the general public.
The Djemaa el Fna square is a unique cultural experience which, not in vain, has been listed by the UNESCO as a cultural heritage of the world. Not because of the architecture of the buildings which line the square, which is rather anodine and not appealing at all, but because of the magic and autenticity of the traditions that take place here every day (magicians, storytellers, acrobats...). The most amazing thing is that most of the things happen here as if the tourists didn't exist and it has not become an artificial show. The colours, smells and sounds of this square will remain forever in your mind.
The atmosphere in the sooks is also unique, although, being one of the tourist Meccahs in Morocco, Marrakesh is not the cheapest place in Marocco to buy handycrafts.
HOTELS AND ALTERNATIVES
Marrakech has got a couple of the lousiest and cheapest hotels in the whole country, and one of the most beautiful and exclusive hotels in the world. And everything in between.
While the actual number of hotels and hotel rooms is high, do not take anything for granted. You do well in booking your hotel room in advance, even if it is no more than the day before. But normally you will find hotel rooms if you look around in the middle or the afternoon.
Prices are quite OK for all classes. While you might hear recommendations saying that you should avoid staying in one of the hotels near Jemaa l-Fna, because of dangers of theft, this is still the most interesting area in Marrakech, and not as bad as its reputation.
RESTAURANTS AND ALTERNATIVES
Eating can be everything from rock-bottom cheap to very, very expensive. The rule applies for Marrakech as everywhere else in Morocco: Cheap places with lots of Moroccan customers offer the best food. Only to be challenged by the top restaurants in town.
Mid-price restaurants can easily be boring and not worth the extra you pay from one of the simple places.
When night falls, the Jemaa l-Fna turns into a fair of great food stalls, serving fried food of all sorts. This is a spectacle not to be missed, and the food is great, even if it is more expensive than elsewhere in Morocco.
Marrakech has some reputation for its nightlife in Morocco, with a large number of nightclubs and discotheques. You should, however, note that only very few of these have a local female clientele that is not at work!
Some very few places are popular with young people of Marrakech of both sexes, and sometimes it is not expected that a foreigner will be interested in visiting such a place.
Marrakech has many sophisticated night clubs with live music, entertainment, food and expensive drinks.
Fondest memory: TRANSPORT
Marrekech connects to all imaginable places. There are numerous connections going by bus or shared taxis, and they leave frequently. With very few exeptions, these will not ask for higher prices because you're a foreigner.
The only problem of Marrakech to be noted, is that there are several stations spread all around the city. A taxi driver will normally know which station applies for what destination. But if you are heading in direction of a smaller destination, even well-informed taxi drivers can know less than they claim to know, so asking around can be of great help.
Marrakech has also got train as a possible transportation form, but there is only one line, which heads directly north to Casablanca.
Not bad if you're going to Ouarzazate, is going by air. This is far more expensive than bus or taxi, but it will save you from more than 10 hours of travelling (which is not so bad, after all, considering the scenery). Flights even connect you to Casablanca, but is more an option for people in a rush.
Marrakech is much more pleasant for tourists than it used to be. The introduction of a tourist brigade, involves that not only your health is protected, but also everything else. The tourist brigade will even walk you back to the shop if you have been tricked into paying too much for a souvenir.
Marrakech should be avoided in the middle of summer, unless heat is no problem for you. July and August can be dangerous for visitors who are used to colder climate.
In Marrakech you can see women dressed as occidental women ... but if you don't want to be looked or men to say you things ... just try to use big things ...
I walked after women that wear tight trousers or Tshirts ... and they tell them things ... and look at them very much ... (they don't say bad things .. only .. I supouse ... nice things ...)
I used always big bluse ... and a scarf for my neck ... and ... they didn't disturbed me so much ...
at night ... some times ... as I have a little blond my hair ... I covered my head ... is not that I had to ... but ... just because I felt better ...
you don't have to dress like the pic woman
The first morning I was at Marrakech I asked a guide to show me the city ... to learn how to move and to explain me a little of the better monuments ... and souk ....
He was a very good guide of about my age, and I had a very good time with him. He took me to Saadies Tombs .. to Bahia Palais, to Merdesa ... and to the souk ...
I bought with him few things ... and ... help me to learn how to bargain ... :)))))))
The man in the pic is a tipical guide ... with the chilaba ...Its not minen ... the guide that helped me was dress normaly ...
you can ask for a guide at the tourist office .. but also you will find them anywhere ...
120 dirham half day aprox
250 dirham all day aprox
You might be walking down a street minding your own business, and without warning a local will pounce trying to interest you in anything from restaurants, traditional berber robes to weed (called kif in Morocco)
Fondest memory: If you are not interested in what they have to offer, be decisive and make an excuse, a lot of the hustlers pounce on tourists' indecision and make you do/buy things you really don't need.
Favorite thing: Spent a afternoon and evening at the Djemaa El-Fna square! It's a famous square and a lot of tourists are there, but it's also a square where a lot of local people go to in the evening. There's a lot of entertainment, acrobats (around 4pm), futurepredicters, medicine men, Henna-women, story tellers and a lot of food and orangejuice stalls. My favorite was an old storyteller, I didn't understand a word he say, because he spook in arabic, but the way he was telling and people were listening it was nice to see!
And this is her beautiful home, found right here in the Ourika Valley.
The Berber families that are still found in the Ourika Valley lived in houses made of mud (I think) with no electricity... including this particular house that we visited.
It was interesting for a cosmopolitan career woman like myself to experience. I felt as if I was being twirled back in time to the medieval era. (See pic below).
But truly, what they lacked in earthly riches, they made up with their wonderful hospitality and warmth.
And this Berber Mom's daughter even speak French! I should have guessed. The main languages of the Moroccan people are either Arabic or French.
Having breakfast at the home of this Berber Mom who lives in the Ourika Valley was one of my favorite moments here in Marrakech. Yes, we had the ubiquitous mint tea and ate some freshly baked pita bread. Hey, when you're this hungry, you'd eat ANYTHING (like me). What? Me - greedy? Will you pleeease stop telling everyone this? :-)
The Berbers are the original tribe people who first lived in Morocco... and some of them are still living in the Ourika Valley today... about a 1 hour's drive away from bustling Marrakech. The majority of modern day Moroccans (approx. 40% of them) are pure Berber with another 35% of Berber ancestry...
The Berbers are an indigenous group of North-West African non-Arab tribal people and you can find them living in areas of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It is believed that they inhabited North Africa as early as 3000 B.C. Confused? Yeah, me too.
Don't worry... just remember that they are a really nice bunch of people! :-)) Really.
How could we leave out the RUG MERCHANT in a page like this one? This is where the most fierce and serious bargaining takes place. You will hear every sob story ever told since the day rugs were first woven.
How the rug is an original and took hundreds of hours to make, the whole nine yards. Three doors down, same rug, same sad story, higher price, lower price, it is a living comedy.
One of the couples on the ship we were on actually purchased a genuine Moroccan rug, he was so very proud of how he bartered laboriously and finally won out.
Several days later, Arnie was smitten when we found the same rug in a small shop in Southampton. Seems this shop imports them from a factory ~ genuine MOROCCAN CARPET made in SRI LANKA. Arnie was glum for days.
at Marrakech roads you can find any kind of transport ... there many donkeys transport ... I love donkeys :))))
When the sun is going to hide is when you will find more traffic in the roads ...
Favorite thing: If you come from a non-donkey country, it's pretty cool to see these little guys everywhere, carrying baskets and pulling carts. Somehow, you feel like you're walking through the Bible.