Our great friends Nicko and Melissa travelled to Marrakech for 2 weeks visiting Taghazout, Imsouane, Sidi Kaouki, Essaouira, Fez and Chefchaouen. Morocco has always been on our hit list (and yours too we're sure) so we asked them to share their valuable tips for best experiencing this magical country.
Do your research…..
Before buying any big items such as carpets, poufs and silverware do your research. Seasoned buyers have dedicated blogs for the do’s and don’ts and of course, trusty Tripadvisor. Like any souks (markets) there are rip offs and genuine sellers. After doing one rug tour (highly recommended) I learnt exactly what I was looking for and tugged away on carpets as though I knew what I was talking about even though I still didn’t have much of an idea.
The bartering game….
It's in their culture to barter everything. It's exciting and can also be very exhausting after a day of it. It's all a game in the souks and you’ve just got to get onboard with it. Being careful not to offend the seller I usually started the bid just above halfway and worked from there. Leaving deals and not giving in to the ‘I can’t believe you just offered that’ laugh is all part of it. I had men following me continuing the bids for minutes. Have some fun, a hand shake after a good barter is pretty satisfying.
Moroccan cuisines & drinks….
Marrakech had the best restaurants out of all the places we visited. Get involved with the local cuisines – tagines (clay crock pot cooked meals), pastillas (savoury pies dusted with sugar), mint tea (‘Moroccan whisky’), overloads of couscous and of course Msemen (crispy Moroccan pancakes). Don’t expect to be eating clean and lean, but for the veggies you will always find an option on the menu. You will struggle to find alcohol, but if you are dying for a drink head to the hotels or more touristy spots to quench the thirst.
Taxis are an easy way to get around the cities. Always agree on a price before jumping in. If you plan on going to the coast, which I highly recommend, get yourself a cheap rental in Marrakech and do the drive out, it's a constant stunning change of scenery. Ride buses from city to city and a short flight from Marrakech gets you to Fez. Be sure to book your buses at least 2 days in advance.
Religion, language & culture….
Take time to speak to locals and learn about the religion and where the languages spoken derived from. French, Arabic, Berber, Spanish, English... you’ll hear it all. I learnt about the Berber ladies of the desert, the fasting of Ramedan and the religions. Be open minded and respectful.
Get out of the cities and experience what’s around them as well as in them. Morocco is known for its markets and old towns but there are also some impressive waterfalls, hikes, springs and dunes around. A hot air balloon over the Atlas Mountains was a huge treat for my 30th. If you can afford it - do it! Enjoy a Hammam, staying in a 5 star Riad, getting out to the desert, riding a camel and surfing some beautiful waves along the coast. Take a tour in a city to get your bearings, visit the tanneries in Fez and make sure you have energy for the markets, don’t go tired!
For the female traveller...
To save yourself harassment and unwanted stares from the local men, leave the cute mini numbers at home. Always carry a scarf to cover the shoulders when you need to. Some woman only show their eyes whilst others wear head scarfs. It’s common in their religion for the woman to always have legs and arms covered, you get a fair idea when you’ve gone too risky.
All photos by Melissa Vranjes