André's tips to Marrakesh:
DON’T SHOW NERVOUSNESS- even if your knees are shaking.
BE EASY GOING- Moroccans are outgoing people, and most of them well intentioned. Keep that in mind and you’ll see that many times even after declining whatever they’re offering, you’ll be greeted with a ”welcome to morocco”
BE POLITE – works on every corner of the planet
BE FIRM – if you are not interested tell it. No one can force you into a deal you are not interested in.
AGREE ON PRICES FIRST- if you start to eat without seeing a list, if you get in a cab without knowing the price, you’ll be majorly ripped-off. Once the price is set they are trustworthy and respect deals. If they don’t, call them on that. “Business is Business”.
BARGAIN – it’s the national sport, it can be extremely fun, and the locals will look at you with greater respect and approval. If you don’t get your desired price pretend to leave. They will always call you back with a lower offer.
LEARN THE CANNED PHRASE- there’s a bunch of canned expressions the business men will throw at you upon knowing your provenience. In my case it would be “Sardinha Assada” and “Bancarrota” (“grilled sardines” and “financial crisis”)- you guessed, I’m Portuguese. Throw that phrase at them before they get the chance to say it. That really catches them off guard, and they will let you go with a laugh. Other option might be pretending you’re Portuguese or Greek(even better) all the time…
CARRY SMALL CHANGE – you’re expected to tip at several occasions. Carrying a wallet with small change makes it less stressfull and confusing
BUBBLE GUM – or any other type of candy, to offer children when they ask you for money –that they never get to keep. Nothing like a true smile from street children.
AVOID DARK REMOTE ALLEYS – no need to explain much on this
AVOID THE SNAKE CHARMERS - if you don't want to get insulted for not giving them 20 euros after taking a pic. I couldn't care less, as i turn around after tipping way less than that
YELABA – If you or one of your friends is Moroccan-looking enough for it- dress one of this, and pretend to be the guide of the group. It’s guaranteed to keep other business man away, and It’s fun as hell
SALAM ALEKUM – Greet people that way and be answered back with “Alekum Salam”. Shows you come in peace
This is my guide on how to save some dirhams and avoid uncomfortable situations while having fun at the Medina of Marrakesh. Adapt it to your personality and you should do good. I took the time to do it after reading so many unjust frightening reviews. I’ll use a roller coaster as metaphor. Some people love them, some people are terrified even to look at them. It doesn’t mean they’re utterly dangerous. Only for the faint of heart – just like Marrakesh
So don’t forget, put your best attitude and prepare for the ride, and if your anxiety levels get too high, the Mountains are only 50 km away and if waterfalls and fresh air won’t do it for you either, then nothing will ;)
In the 'Good Old Days' there were proper Water Sellers in Marrakesh, now you have brightly dressed beggars. Seriously, look at the guy in the first picture. He looks like a big girl's blouse. I doubt they even carry water half the time. They strategically place themselves at the entrances of the more tourist-oriented sites. I ran into this guy outside of the Saadian Tombs. More peacock than anything. Their whole existence is letting you take a picture of them in their Hollywood costumes and then asking to be paid. Where's the water then?
Get a good long lens/high optical zoom, snap the picture and then .... RUN!
Hint – take their picture after you have visited the museum/tomb/site so that you can run away.
Take a look at the guys selling tea in the streets. You don’t see them all tarted up. And they sell tea! And they do not beg! In fact if you want to enjoy real Moroccan culture, have a nice sweet tea from one of the Tea Sellers. They work very hard for their money.
The square is very exciting however it is very hectic. You WILL be approached about 5-10 times walking through the square at least. I would suggest only putting about 20-40 dirhams NO MORE in your wallet. Most people ask for like 200 dirhams for pictures which is absurd. They will argue with you if you tell them no but stick to it. Show them your empty wallet if necessary and tell them thats all you have. I think giving them $2 dollars for a picture is more then enough. If you feel its necesary to give 20 more dirhams then go for it. If you are not interested in any of the "traps" in the square then just keep walking through....avoid eye contact.....and if they get pushy or follow you around just give them a firm no thank you. Some will get down right rude with you and cuss you out but just ignore. We had one beggar ask for a cigarette which I did not have then he proceded to ask for money. I told him sorry then he says F... your country....F you.....and then spits on us. I fought back the urge of knocking him on his rear and kept on walking. My blood was boiling and took a minute to settle down. Anyways its a very exciting country just be prepared to deal with this type of stuff because its going to happen.
You can't help but visit the Djemma El Fna (La Place or The Square) 'cause it's a UNESCO site, but your patience is definitely going to be tested here. Everyone wants you to pay them. We paid a psychic and my friend got a Henna tatoo (after constant begging and pleading and stalking by the artist) which was at least money for something... but the dudes who tip their hat and do a two-step wanting a handout? Come on guy. My friend likes monkey so when a couple of guys came over with them and said "picture, picture" of course we took pics with the monkeys on our arms. Then one of them says 200 dirham... each. No way, no day. 200 dh is like $15. This guy was out of his mind. I told him we'd just delete the photos but they kept saying "no, no... 200 dh." I just shook my head and gave him a 10 dh coin, which is still a lot for a picture.
Unique Suggestions: Stay as inconspicuous as possible. Try to either walk behind other tourists so they make a blocking path for you or stop for just a second, then keep walking. The dancing cobras are really cool... but observe from afar or just watch as you walk by. Stop and you'll have two or three guys jumping at you saying "photo, photo." We know what that means. Also, the evening is less frenetic. There are more locals around and more people to hide behind.
Fun Alternatives: There really is no alternative. You just have to brave The Square at least once. It's one of the highlights of this place. Just be careful. Also, walking across the street helps, too. All the cars rushing by is a natural protectant against the jumpy guys in The Square.
Upon entering the mellah you will be hounded by young to middle-aged men who will dog your every move offering to take you to see the "synagogue". The mellah is the historically jewish quarter and is interesting from that perspective alone, these days it's really little more than a stinky, run-down slum which is not very well-policed. It's annoying during the day and downright dangerous after dark. Also, there's little of architectural interest, looking much the same as other, less rank, parts of the medina.
The oldest surviving synagogue is mildly interesting, being guarded by an old blind man and all, and you really won't find it without the help of a guide. Arrange a price in advance (10DH is sufficient) and then stick to it when the time comes to pay up. I haven't been to the other 'gogues, but I assume that they're less interesting.
Unique Suggestions: Go to the cemetery! The Jewish cemetery can be found easily without the help of a guide. Just follow the main road that leads into the mellah from the Bahia Palace. It's quite interesting, and usually deserted, too (most tourists get fed up with the hassle and return to the better policed parts of the medina before finding it). The groundskeeper is quite nice and informative. Be sure to leave a nice donation when you leave (he'll suggest it, but is not at all pushy).
Djemaa el Fna is well known for its snake charmers; whenver you hear a sort of a trumpet being played, that's where you'll find a snake charmer, or a group of them. They are there with their vipers and cobras, posing for photographs for tourists...
Unique Suggestions: Since it's impossible to avoid seeing them in the square, do take some photos - you'll have to pay for them if you take them from close-up, but from the distance they won't mind very much if they get money or not.
In the square in the Medina, you will undoubtedly come across a man with a monkey who may very quickly ensure that you 'wear' the monkey and then he will demand money for the 'privilige'. Firstly and foremost, this is a cruel life for the monkey, I would encourage you not to indulge this person in his trade.
Myself and my husband were looking at some leather bags when a man asked us to go with him. He spoke very broken English saying "I like to show you more bag and leather, and where leather made". Doubting ourselves we walked towards the way he was taking us. We thought it would be interesting but knew there would be a cost involved. So I asked how much it would be, he said free, free, because oyou are good frineds. He then took up to some tanneries, they stunk, were very dirty and unhealth and I was worried that we could have caught something, flies and rotting skin everywhere. He took us to a tiny room where one mad was making bags in crapped conditions which were also very dirty. He then took us onto a shop. Where a man started to display shoes, and everything, it started to becom embarassinf because we didn't want anything.
We explained we were going and the man became angry saying "my things are no good, you say they are bad" etc etc Then from nowhere the origional mad arrived, demanding what equalled about £60.00 we said no but by then we had no idea where we were or how to get back to the main area. Clearly we in back streets where it was only people living, no tourists and therefore everyone staring at us. The man started shouting in arabic, we gave him some small money, and said we didn't have anything else. I was worried my husband would open his wallet and he would then see that we did have £60.00, anyway we got away fine, but for a few minutes I was very scared.
Fun Alternatives: Go on an organised trips of the tanneries, or do not bother. There is nothing that much to see and they are not nice places.
Unique Suggestions: I loved Marrakech but please be advised that you should, at least, try to look like where you’re going.
It was a bitter lesson - being insulted on the street for saying I didn’t need a guide – but one that was valid. Basically Moroccans in the Medina are ALL on the make (not necessarily so in the new town) and so you should try to avoid entering into conversations with them. It sounds harsh but they’re only friendly until it comes down to money. Then it always gets sour. Of course it you’re actually after the services and goods they sell then great – it’s the fact that they want money for directions (which is an offensive idea from an English point of view) photo’s or whatever. They track you in the streets, constantly nag and won’t leave you alone unless you either ignore them or wave them of with a smile. I recommend the latter; be absolutely unequivocal – if you’re with someone just keep up your own conversation and pretend the person haranguing you doesn't exist. They need money but you have to clearly show that this is not the way to get it.
I had a horrible experience at the tanneries in Marrakech. Please read on so you can be prepared too.
I went to the tanneries with the intention to pop in and take a few pictures and pop out again. We certainly didn't need a guide to do that. As soon as we approached the entrance, a couple of guys (which I would like to add, were tall and seem well fed unlike most frail Moroccan ) offered us mint and insisted we use one of them as our guide. We told one of them that we didn't need his services since we just wanted a couple of pictures. Well this guy was persistent and followed both my husband and I into the tanneries while constantly asking if I needed to take pictures. I ignored him and left after 2 minutes which is all I could bear. At the exit he asked me for money and I reluctantly gave him 20 dirham. I felt he should have gotten less but we had no smaller change.
This person immediately changed from nice to nasty. He told me that 20 dirham was "nothing". I asked him if he owned the place and told him if he wasn't happy, he could give me the 20 dirham back. His other counterpart decided to join in then and said to me "YOU COW!!" That's when I turned nasty and had a few words to say to him myself. I then told both of them that I would warn other travellers about them.
Unique Suggestions: My advice to you guys if you want to see this place, is to either go with your own guide, or bring your own mint and be firm with them from the beginning that if they insist on following you in, that they will not receive a tip. At the end of the day, there is no cost to enter the tanneries and perhaps you can afford to give them more but if you do so, then they will expect the same from other tourist, and if they don't receive it, they will try
to intimidate them into giving more.
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