After what seems like an eternity we finally booked a holiday. We haven’t left the country (together) for years and it was well overdue. We thought about a City break, Brussels seemed like a good idea. Nice, clean, safe, English speaking, EU and a bit like home with stronger beer so we settled on Marrakech!
We only went for four days but loved every minute. It’s an assault on every sense, sight, smell, sound and bank balance – I could spend a week just shopping in the Souks. It’s hard to describe the chaos and the fascination that is Marrakech. There was a part of me that was a little nervous every time I stepped out of the hotel. My British reserve hated the onslaught of people selling everything and anything and pushing you to come into their shops, try their food, buy this, buy that but it didn’t take long to realise that a polite ‘No’ was all it took and it’s just business, no one takes rejection personally.
The Main Square – Jemaa el-Fna
There are lots of websites and blogs that give advice on the do’s and don’ts of visiting Marrakech and it’s useful to remember a few things if you’re going to visit.
- If you don’t want to buy or to visit a shop then just say No – don’t engage in conversation, just a polite, raised hand to show you don’t want to, if possible avoid saying anything just smile and keep walking.
- Get a guide. Unless you speak Arabic or very good French it’s worth getting a guide to show you around the Souks and any other parts of the City you particularly want to visit. It’s easier to avoid the areas that may be a problem, you’ll find out far more that you ever will from a guide book and if you want to shop they can aim you to the best stalls/shops. Most will have their ‘favourites’ and probably get a commission of sorts for bringing you there if you buy but the haggling is down to you and if you don’t want to buy just say no.
- Don’t drink tap water.
- If you want to take photographs of people ask first (unless you really can be sure not to be seen doing it) some people, especially women are very sensitive about being photographed, you may have to offer some payment to people like the Water Sellers and Fortune Tellers and expect to have to pay if you get anywhere near a Snake Charmer or the men with the Monkeys, and be warned no matter how sneaky you think you are with a camera they will see you, they have spotters in the crowd so if you aim a camera at a Snake or a Monkey be prepared to be holding it before you know it and to pay for the photograph before you can give it back.
- Visit the Atlas Mountains while you’re there, they are beautiful and full of lovely riverside cafes if you want to lunch. We had a guide organised by our hotel to drive us up there and we thought he would also be the guide when we arrived but had to pay for a local guide when we got there. Be sure to make sure you understand what you get for the money you pay for the trip. It was still worth it and not very expensive (about £20 for the local guide once we got to the mountains.