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MOROCCO: Marrakech

 The Djemaa el-Fnaa market place


Whilst I will accept that Morocco isn't strictly in Europe, it is a popular excursion for many travellers making their way across Europe - particularly if they are looking for something a little more exotic.

Besides, as most of Morocco was a French protectorate in a previous life, you can indulge yourself in the heady north African culture and yet still hold on to some of that old European familiarity.

Marrakech Fez dancer
The first thing that you should be aware of is that everyone outside of your hotel appears to be either mental or corrupt - sometimes both. 

The second thing you should notice when travelling around Marrakesh is the distinct lack of women - any women. 

This is because Morocco is a Muslim country, and as such, their women are expected to stay at home. 

With the streets full of men of all ages, women travellers are going to stand out and as such will draw attention - sometimes unwanted. 

Also, and this will be mostly true for white European races, you will find that you are going to be considerably taller that the local population and in addition to your European dress, you will be an obvious target for street hustlers.

Uncommon and brave hand holding
If you are travelling as a 'male/female' couple be very aware of how you are perceived by the locals as shows of public affection will result in clear signs of disapproval. 

This is commonly shown by drivers beeping their horns as they drive past you in the street, but in extreme cases you may be assaulted. 

With that in mind, avoid holding hands, avoid embracing and definitely avoid kissing.

 I had to learn this lesson the hard way after an old lady jumped up from a public bench, hissing and flapping her hands in a highly agitate manner at me and the future Mrs Eade. 

Why? Because we had our arms around each other as we walked along the street!

Getting around Marrakech

The city walls of Marrakesh
All roads lead to the ancient walled city of Marrakech, and to be fair, if you are reasonably fit you can probably walk to most of the tourist areas - just make sure that you have a decent map.

Of course, once you get to the Djemaa el-Fnaa there is a step-change of activity and so be aware of pick pockets, pushy sales men, and beggars etc.

If you are walking everywhere, make sure that you are extremely careful when crossing the main roads - otherwise you will probably be be run over. 

If the task of crossing a 'more-mental- than-usual stretch of tarmac looks particularly dangerous then wait for a local to cross and shadow them like a bitch.

It makes sense to make sure that he is between you and the on-coming traffic - oh and be sure you keep up. There are no prizes for being second.


Grand taxis - Mercedes. Petit taxi - small French things
If you choose to get around by taxi, the you need to be aware that there are two types of taxi. 

The petit taxi - normally some type of small hatchback, the maximum number of passengers is three, and sometimes you need to share with other passengers.

For Grand Taxis - regular Mercedes Taxis, there are no meters so negotiate you fee before you enter the Grand Taxi. If you can't negotiate, always ask to use the meter otherwise you are just contributing to a culture of ripping off people. Of course, in most cases taxi drivers will refuse to take you if you insist on using the meter.

Bear in mind that taxi drivers will also try to rip you off. For example, they won't have change, they will almost always go the long way round, and they will hustle you to charge for everything such as bags. You don't need to pay for extras, so be strong and don't do it.

Where to go in Marrakech

Majorelle gardens - this photo is part of my personal collection
1. The Djemaa el Fna. This is one of the most famous squares in all of Africa and is the centre of city activity and trade.

It has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985.

2. Koutoubia Mosque, also known as Kutubiyya Mosque, Jami' al-Kutubiyah, Kutubiyyin Mosque, and Mosque of the Booksellers.

It is the largest mosque in the city, located in the southwest medina quarter of Marrakesh aside the square.

3. Majorelle Gardens. Located on Av Yacoub el Mansour, it was at one time the home of the landscape painter, Jacques Majorelle.

The designer, Yves Saint Laurent, bought and restored the property. It is the jewel of Marrakesh and one of the most stunning gardens I have every been to - and I have been to soooooo many!

The Souks. Buyer beware!
4. The Souks. Marrakesh has the largest traditional Berber market in Morocco and the image of the city is closely associated with its souks.

They are disorientating honeycomb of intricately connected alleyways, comprising of stalls and shops that range from tiny kiosks to scruffy store-fronts that open into glittering Aladdin's Caves once you're inside. You will find an awful lot of cr*p for sale, a far cry from the traditional crafts of old. Haggling is still a very important part of trade in the souks.

Be aware that whatever you are looking at will be either an antique or part of the vendors 'personal collection' - this is just a way to justify a higher price. They even tried this 'trick' with the blessed David Attenborough - how dare they, I can't believe the gall of these people!

5. The Saadian Tombs. These were built in the 16th century as a mausoleum to bury many Saadian rulers and entertainers. It was lost for many years until the French rediscovered it in 1917 using aerial photographs.

Do's and Don't's

Have you washed your hands?
Don't be fooled by someone who says that they recognise you from the hotel you are staying at and make out that they are happy to act as an unpaid guide. They are not. Fob them off, first by asking which hotel would that be, and then walk away briskly once they start babbling. 

Secondly, if you do use their services they too will  deliberately use taxis to go the long way round to anywhere you want, and then take a cut of the pre-arranged exorbitant fare. They will also take you to shop, restaurants etc and take another cut from the owners from whatever you spend. if you do not spend enough the owners may not be as welcoming as you first thought.

Don't give you camera to anyone who say '...you give me your camera and I will take a photo for you..', you will not get you camera back unless you give some money over.

Don't walk around drinking booze - this really does not go down well in a Muslim country.

How much to get back my camera - 10 dirams?
Don't get food poisoning. Only eat chips or any other food that has been properly stewed - like the national dish. That would be tagines. Disinfect all switches, handles etc in your hotel room before you start touching things. Take disinfectant wipes with you everywhere. I lasted 6 days without getting the dreaded belly - beat that.

Don't drink tap water - even when cleaning your teeth. Always use bottled water and make sure the cap is sealed before opening.

Don't behave in an affectionate manner to your partner in restaurants - you may never get served.

Don't be afraid to say 'NOOOOOOO', and walk off like a diva.

Do look where you are walking - especially at night as you will regularly find lifted paving slabs and gaping great holes in the ground.

Do wash your hands, take anti-bacterial had wash and toilet paper - especially the toilet paper, you will find out why if you ignore that one. Remember that the dreaded belly can strike without warning.

Do be confident and forceful when dealing with locals.

Do check your change when buying anything with cash.

For related articles click onto:
MARRAKECH: Marjorelle Gardens
MARRAKECH: The Saadian Tombs
MOROCCO: Marrakech
MOROCCO: The Jemaa el-Fnaa
SPAIN: Valencia
Images care of http://www.magicmorocco.com/marrakech_morocco.html and http://sharrett.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/morocco.html andhttp://middle-aged-diva.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/people-of-morocco.html and http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=21494 and http://www.venere.com/blog/eating-in-marrakech/

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