Category Archives: FAQs – Marrakech-related

Tips for travellers to Marrakech

We’re often asked for advice on how best to enjoy Marrakech. So we’ve compiled a small guide letting you know:

Best place to go to see the real Marrakech
Best place to buy souvenirs
Average cost of a meal
What you should not miss
What tourists should absolutely not do
Full text on this link: http://riadsapphire.com/things-to-do-in-marrakech/

For more information, tips for a pleasant, FAQs about Marrakesh, health-related, good time of year to go to Marrakesh, look at our blog posts:

http://chic-riads-marrakech.com/category/faqs/

Marrakech_water seller_short film on Marrakech_Suki Mokcoussin-berberes sissimorocco marrakesh

 

Shopping, Haggling, Anti-Hassle Tips for Marrakech

Street scene in Marrakesh

Marrakech can be a culture shock for some – the almost medieval hustle and bustle of Marrakech is so completely different from what most travellers know that they often find themselves in situations to which they have no idea how to react. Here are a few tips:

Shopping in Marrakech

Shopping in Marrakech is an exceptionally unique experience. There are many beautiful items to be found: exotic Moroccan carpets, spices, textiles & yarn, metal ware, jewellery, woodwork and much more.


If you cannot face the bargaining experience, then please ask the riad for the name of an “Aladdin’s Cave” style shop, where there is no bargaining but loads of typical Moroccan trinkets and plenty of choice. It is vast, so expect to spend several hours there!

 

tassels in Marrakech, suqs, marketsbabouche slippers in Marrakesh market

 

Before hitting the souks read these few practical tips:

Haggling in Marrakech

Souks are a way of life in Morocco and you usually won’t have to go far to find one. You can get some great bargains, but you can also get ripped off! Remember that the Moroccans have a lot more experience than you when it comes to haggling. Carpet sellers or any souk holder, come to that, can be a total pain and you need to understand the rules to turn haggling into an enjoyable experience.

First, make sure you are in the right mood for some friendly haggling. If you’re not feeling energetic and positive, I’d leave it for another time. Best to do it when you’re fresh and can keep it fun. You don’t want to be growling at the end of the day when yet another merchant invites you into his store and you just want to be left alone.

Shopkeepers will normally set the initial asking price for an item several times higher to its potential selling price and you are expected to bargain every bit as hard as the shopkeeper! Otherwise, you will pay more than necessary and possibly purchase an item you don’t even want!

Be clear in your mind how much you would be prepared to pay – divide by 10 to quickly calculate the price in € and ask yourself if you would pay that amount in Europe for the item.

 

hats in place des epices, Marrakesh market

Do not point or show great enthusiasm (sometimes difficult!) but rather demonstrate indifference whether you buy or not. As a rule of thumb, offer at the most 1/3 of his price as your opening bid. If you end up paying half the original asking price, that’s about right. We have had clients who started off offering 10% of the initial asking price and ended up paying about a third – and got a great deal. They had been to India before and so had prior experience in what I’m told is a lot more rigorous market!

Stick to your gut instinct, be patient and pay only what you think is fair. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel you have reached your limit! This is, in fact, a great tactic as they usually come running after you and drop the price yet again!

You can mention that there are other places you want to check out before making a decision.

carpet market, rugs for sale in MarrakeshTea glasses for sale, Marrakesh markets

 

The trick is to treat the shopkeepers firmly but politely – here are a few useful phrases:

Useful Arabic phrases when haggling:

  • La! = No!
  • La, shukran! = No, thank you.
  • Mish eise hagga. = I don’t want anything.
  • If you’re getting on well with a Moroccan say “Al hamdu lillah” when either of you mentions something positive – which means “Praise God”.
  • Say “Inshallah” when referring to the future. You will find that this word is used in virtually every conversation.

Most merchants though can easily converse in several languages and call out to you as you pass in what they think is your language. And if you think you can converse in a language other than English to agree on negotiating tactics with your travelling partner, don’t be surprised if they start talking to you in that language!

Anti-hassle tips

 – Unless you are dying for a cup of tea while shopping or really want to buy something, turn down any offers of a cup of tea – this is the opening ritual for some tough bargaining and they have you as a captive audience. Westerners usually feel guilty if they don’t buy anything after having accepted some mint tea – so don’t fall into the trap to begin with!

Pastries in Marrakesh

– Don’t trust what young men on the street tell you and don’t tell them where you are staying. They sometimes deliberately tell you the wrong way!

– If they say they are the husband/wife/cousin/brother/sister of someone who works in the riad you’re staying in, don’t believe them and move on your way

– Be very clear and firm about your needs. If you show any indecision or vagueness they put on the pressure. All kinds of tricks are used to involve you in conversation – e.g. where are you from? Are you English, German, French etc…..

–  Best to remain polite, friendly but firm and walk on as if you know where you are going, even if you don’t.

 

sacks dried herbs, Marrakechmk3

Spices in Marrakech markets

 

10 must places to see in Marrakech

1. Place Jemaa el Fna’ – main square of Marrakesh
2. Ali ben Youssef Medersa (Madrassa) and Mosque
3. Musée de Marrakech
4. Koubba el Badiyyin
5. El Bahia Palace
6. Markets – the suqs
7. Majorelle Gardens and the Museum of Islamic Art
8. Saadian Tombs
9. Ramparts of Marrakesh
10. Palais Dar Si Said (Museum of Moroccan Arts)

1. Place Jemaa el Fna’ – the main square in Marrakesh

The Place Jemaa el Fna’ (or as transliterated from French Djemma el Fna) is really the heart of Marrakech. It is a large central square in the old city (Medina) and during the day it’s a perfect place to grab a freshly-squeezed orange juice and a handful of dates. At the end of the afternoon the Jemaa el Fna’ transforms into an entertainers paradise — if you’re into snake charming, juggling, music and that sort of thing. Snack stalls are replaced with stalls offering more substantial fare and the square comes alive with entertainment that hasn’t changed much since medieval times.

The Djemma el Fna is surrounded by cafe’s overlooking the square so you can just relax and watch the world go by if you’re tired of jostling the crowds below. Be prepared to be asked for money when you take photos of the performers and stop to watch the entertainment.

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2. Ali ben Youssef Madrassa (Medersa) and Mosque

The Madrassa (or Medersa as transliterated from French) was a Koranic school (the university of the day) built in the 16th century by the Saadians and could house up to 900 religious students. The architecture is beautifully preserved and you can explore the tiny rooms where the students used to live. The mosque is adjacent to the Madrassa.

benyoussef

 

3. Musée de Marrakech

A visit to the Madrassa ben Youssef can be combined with a trip to the museum, which is in a palace built in the late 19th century for Mehdi Mnebbi, a former Moroccan defense minister and ambassador to Britain. Post-independence, the palace was taken over by the state and gradually fell into disrepair before being privately restored and reopening in 1997 as the museum. The former palace now houses temporary contemporary art exhibitions (some pieces are for sale) in what were the palace kitchens, as well as permanent displays of traditional arts and crafts in what were the main hall and the now-restored hammam. The building’s centerpiece is a peaceful covered inner courtyard with a towering brass chandelier hung above a central fountain. There is a small cafe and a bookshop in the entrance courtyard.

chandelier-in-marrakech-museum-marrakech musee-de-marrakech

4. Koubba el Badiyyin

Across the square in front of the Ali ben Youssef mosque is the Koubba el Badiyyin, the sole surviving structure of the city’s Almoravid founders other than the mudbrick city walls.

A combined ticket gives same-day access to the Medersa, Museum, and Koubba el Badiyyin.

The Medersa, Musée de Marrakech and the Kouba el Badiyin is a 1-minute walk from Riad Chi-Chi.

koubba-el-baridiyin-marrakechalmoravides-dome-marrakech

5. El Bahia Palace

This palace is a wonderful example of the best of Moroccan architecture. There’s lots of detail, arches, light, engravings and what’s more it was built as a harem’s residence, which makes it even more interesting. The palace is open daily with a break for lunch although it is closed when the royal family visits.

bahia

6. The markets – the suqs

The suqs (or souqs) are basically undercover markets that sell everything from chickens to high-quality crafts. The suqs of Marrakech are considered to be among the best in Morocco, so if you like shopping and bargaining you’ll enjoy yourself tremendously. Even if you don’t like shopping, the souqs are a cultural experience you wouldn’t want to miss. Souqs are divided into small areas that specialize in a certain good or trade. The metal workers all have their little shops clustered together, as do the tailors, butchers, jewellers, wool dyers, spice merchants, carpet salesmen and so on.

The suqs are situated north of the Jemaa el Fna’ and finding your way around the narrow alleyways can be a bit tricky. Guides are plentiful in Marrakech, so you can always use those services, but getting lost in the chaos is also part of the fun. It’s often more interesting to peek in to souqs where local wares are being produced, than to be taken to yet another carpet shop by your guide. If you get lost, just ask for directions back to the Jemma el Fna’.

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7. Majorelle Gardens and the Musuem of Islamic Art

In the 1920’s, French artists Jacques and Louis Majorelle created a stunning garden in the middle of Marrakech’s new town. The Majorelle gardens are filled with color, plants of all shapes and sizes, flowers, fish ponds and perhaps the most pleasing aspect, tranquility. The designer Yves Saint Laurent now owns the gardens and has also built himself a house on the property. The building that gets most of the attention however is the bright blue and yellow building the Marjorelles used as their studio and which now houses the Museum of Islamic Art. This small museum includes some good examples of Moroccan tribal art, carpets, jeweler, and pottery.

The gardens and museum are open daily with a 2 hour lunch break from 12-2pm.

marjorelle-gardenjardin

8. Saadian Tombs

The Saadian dynasty ruled much of southern Morocco during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour created these tombs for himself and his family in the late 16th century, 66 of them are buried here. The tombs were sealed up rather than destroyed in the 17th century and were only re-discovered in 1917. Consequently they are beautifully preserved and the intricate mosaic is stunning. Despite being situated in the heart of the somewhat hectic old town (medina) the tombs are surrounded by a nice peaceful garden.

The tombs are open daily except Tuesday. It’s advisable to get there early and avoid the tour groups.

saadian-tombs-archsaadian-tombs-tileworkplasterwork-saadian-tombs

9. The Ramparts of Marrakech

The walls of the medina have been standing since the 13th century and make for a wonderful early morning stroll. Each gate is a work of art in themselves and the walls run for twelve miles. The Bab ed-Debbagh gate is the entry point for the tanneries and provides an excellent photo opportunity full of vivid colors from the dyes used. It is a little smelly though.

A great way to see the ramparts is to take a horse and carriage ride.  Late afternoon when you still want to see things but are tired, hire a carriage and ride in state around the ramparts.

marrakech-turreted-wallsmarrakech-city-wallsmarrakech-city-gate

10. Palais Dar Si Said (Museum of Moroccan Arts)

A palace and museum in one and well worth a visit. The palace is opulent and beautiful in itself with a lovely courtyard where you can relax and take some pictures. The museum’s displays are well laid out and include jewelery, costumes, ceramics, daggers and other artifacts. The museum is open daily with a couple of hours break for lunch.

musee-dar-si-said-marrakechdoorway-dar-si-saidbhou-dar-si-said-museum-marrakech

Are you wondering if Marrakech is worth a visit?

Marrakech city walls, the rampartsMorocco is a fascinating mix of Islamic, Arab, African and Berber cultures with the added dash of French culture. The people are very friendly and extremely hospitable. Throw in some pleasant cities, eye-boggling landscapes, colourful people, excellent beaches, good trekking, plenty of interesting shopping and there’s something for everyone.

Marrakech is a uniquely exotic short holiday destination offering an astonishing sensual profusion of colours, aromas, sounds, sights and sensations in a medieval atmosphere. Explore the souks, watch fire eaters and snake charmers in Jemaa-el-Fna, sample incredible food, dine on romantic rooftop restaurants, sip mint tea in elegant colonial-style cafes and generally soak up the atmosphere. Staying in a riad, the traditional Moroccan home with an inner courtyard, is the ideal way to experience the authentic Moroccan way of life without having to give up your creature comforts.

carpet market, rugs for sale in Marrakesh

You just have to experience the fantastic atmosphere in “La Place” Jemaa-el-Fna’, a world heritage site, with its vast array of food stalls offering you everything from freshly-pressed orange juice to freshly-cooked brochettes (skewered meat), quite apart from the snake charmers, storytellers, dancers, acrobats, fire-eaters and fortune-tellers. It attracts tourist and locals alike. As dusk falls, over 100 food stalls are set up and clouds of smoke drift over the square as the evening wears on. Wander around until you see something you like, then squeeze onto one of the benches. Bread and fingers are used instead of cutlery and orange juice is brought from one of the many juice stalls.

water carrier Marrakech Place Jemaa el Fna'

Surrounding “La Place” are also several restaurants and cafés, some with roof terraces overlooking the goings-on in the square.

Snake charmers, main square Marrakesh, Place Jemaa el Fna'

Other places to see include the Marjorelle Gardens, Jardin Menara, Jardin Agdal, Bahia Palace, El Badi Palace, Saadian Tombs, the Musée de Marrakech, Medersa Ben Youssef (Koranic School) and Museum Dar Si Said.

Having a hammam

Having a hammam in Marrakesh

Tips for vising a public hammam

What to wear or not wear in a hammam

What to take to the hammam

What to expect in the hammam

What no to do in the hammam

Scroll down for the answers …

No trip to Morocco is complete without having tried the typical Moroccan hammam.

Hammam means “spreader of warmth.” It is a bathing retreat that has its origins over a thousand years ago in Rome and is still found today in Morocco as well as Turkey and Spain. This detoxifying body treatment brings the whole body to a state of balance and well-being and leaves your skin as smooth as a baby’s bottom!

spa products, hammam, black soap, argan oil, mitt, riad ariha, marrakech

Guests often combine a visit to the hammam with a relaxing and energizing massage or other luxurious beauty treatments.

There is no better way to de-stress and de-tox than visiting the hammam. The floors and walls of the hammam are heated with steaming water running through pipes under the surface.

 

 

spa treatments, massages, riad ariha, marrakech

Enter the hammam naked (if you are in a private hammam) otherwise keep your panties on, fill up the basin with hot water and sit and absorb the heat, which will help relax your muscles. After about ten minutes, test the water and adjust to what is comfortable for your skin. Then use the containers to pour water over your head. Scoop up a palm-sized blob of black soap* (more a beautiful dark amber), and cover all your skin with the soap. Allow it to sink in for about ten minutes.

black soap used in hammam

Then use the exfoliating mitt to scrub the skin, stripping away all the dead skin cells. You can see the skin peel off you like tiny rolls of dirt. This exfoliation is both painful and pleasurable; it’s like a chemical peel without the chemicals.

Hammam_gloves_Marrakesh

Use plenty of hot water to rinse, leaving your body cleaner than you’ve ever been in your life, and your skin as smooth as silk. The water in the basin should be left clear. You use the cups or bucket to scoop up clean water and to throw over you. All used water thus falls directly on the floor to be evacuated through the floor drain.

There are bath robes to slip into when you leave the hammam and enter the relaxation area. It is recommended not to undertake strenuous activity after a hammam. Instead choose a relaxing activity, maybe even have a massage or other beauty treatment.

* Black soap has 100% natural ingredients from the olive tree. It removes impurities from the skin, while hydrating and nourishing. It does not foam but becomes a cream as soon as you add (warm) water to it. Your skin will feel super clean and soft. It is particularly recommended for dry skin and for the treatment of acne.

Hair care:
It gently cleanses, detangles and strengthens the hair by giving volume and brightness. It can be used like and instead of shampoo. Your hair will have more volume, a healthy shine and will be soft. Can be used on all types of hair.

Riad Sapphire and Spa has its own private hammam. Massages and other beauty treatments can be arranged.

 

spa in marrakesh_riad in Marrakech_riad sapphire
Riad Sapphire’s private hammam in our spa area
Tips for visiting a public hammam

Most Moroccan dwellings do not have their own bathroom so going to the hammam is a part of daily life. They are also incredibly cheap.

local_hammam_Marrakech

Hammams are also a great place to find out the latest gossip and even find future daughter’s-in-law. To visit a public hammam is a truly authentic Moroccan experience you won’t forget so quickly. It adds a colourful, humorous touch to your repertoire of “Moroccan” tales.

You can normally spot the hammam if you see a donkey cart piled high with sawdust waiting patiently, see a communal bakery nearby (they share the heating facilities) or people walking by with buckets full of toiletries. You may even smell it as burning the sawdust and wood gives off a pleasant, smoky smell.

What to wear or not wear in a hammam

To save you the embarrassment of not knowing whether to take all your clothes off or how else you are expected to behave, read on.

The tradition in Morocco doesn’t usually involve getting nude, with the exception of small children. Both men and women tend to wear only their underwear, go topless but leave the g-strings at home. Foreign women who insist on wearing their bras while bathing will look and feel ridiculous.

Bring something to cover your wet hair when you leave. Moroccans are convinced that the quickest way to catch a cold is a bare, wet head (even if it is 30°C outside), and if you don’t cover yourself on the way out, someone will do it for you and who knows what with!

What to take to the hammam

For a more authentic experience, first hit the souk to buy the traditional black soap or ghasoul and the exfoliating mitt, really a black scratchy glove called a “kiis”. Both cost next to nothing. Look for plastic buckets filled with sticky black goo – this is the “black soap”.

black_soap_souks_marrakesh

Also take what you normally use in the shower – shampoo, conditioner, razor, towels. If you plan to get scrubbed down by the hammam attendant (the highlight of any visit), be sure to take your black soap and “kiis”. Buy a small plastic bowl for dousing yourself with water inside the hammam.

If you’re a clean freak, bring a small plastic stool or mat to sit on to avoid placing your derriere directly on the hammam’s stone floor.

What to expect in the hammam

Women and men are segregated and usually have different times to visit the hammam.

hammam_scrub_Marrakech

Don’t expect anything luxurious – rose petals on the floor and fluffy bathrobes are not part of the real deal. There’s a small changing area near the entrance where you can hang your towel and clothes.

The baths consist of several rooms centered on large cisterns with gushing water. The further you venture into the hammam the closer you get to the wood fire and the hotter the water in the fountains gets. Everyone sits on the floor, against the walls, to bathe. Buckets are provided, but usually it’s up to you to collect the water from the hot and cold fountains and mixing them for the perfect temperature back in your area.

The hammam ceiling is usually domed and pierced with small holes to allow natural light to stream in. This has the added advantage of putting your body in a very flattering light!

hammam_domes

It’s not always as tranquil as it sounds, however, as mothers attempt to lather up their screaming children while gossiping at high volume.

The scrub-down experience is quite something – be prepared for one seriously abrasive massage. You lay down on the stone floor and the attendant will rub your skin until several layers peel off like strands of dirty spaghetti. You’ll be amazed and slightly put off by your own filth falling off your body. At the end you will feel like a new person and will literally leave in a new skin.

 

What not to do in the hammam

The hammam floors are slightly sloped for drainage, so spend a few seconds when you first arrive watching which way the water flows to make sure you don’t sit where all the dead skin is floating down!
Don’t take more than two buckets for water as other bathers consider this greedy and will give you dirty looks.

utensils_hammam_Marrakesh
If you decide to douse yourself with cold water at the end of your visit, be careful not to splash the people around you – a fierce verbal lashing is pretty much guaranteed if you give a fellow bather an unexpected icy shower.

This will be an unforgettable experience!

 

FAQs about Marrakech

Marrakech turreted walls, ramparts

 

Please scroll down for the answers.

Can I get alcohol in Marrakech?
Where can I smoke?
What languages are useful in Morocco?
How much should I tip in restaurants?
Should I tip a taxi driver?
What guidebook do you recommend?
Can I use my own mobile phone in Marrakech?
What is the best way to travel within Marrakech?
What is the best way to travel outside of Marrakech?
What is a shared taxi?
What’s the difference between a ‘petit’ and a ‘grand’ taxi?
How much do taxis cost?
Is it safe in the medina of Marrakech?
What if I’m approached by someone who says they work for the riad?
Will I get lost in the Medina?
I’d like to see more but I’m tired, what do I do?

Can I get alcohol in Marrakech?

Yes, alcohol is served in many restaurants, hotels and bars. There is no alcohol available in the cafés around the main square, but you will find more expensive restaurants that have an alcohol license and can serve alcohol.

In the new town of Guèliz there are several European style bars as well as a vibrant night club scene. Alcohol is also served indoors in some cafés like Café de La Poste.

Local Moroccan wines can be excellent and are much less expensive than those imported from France.

Where can I smoke?

Generally, restaurants and cafés all allow smoking. Some bars and restaurants may have smoking and non-smoking areas.

The only caveat is not to smoke in public during the month of Ramadan when the locals do not smoke during daylight hours.

In Riad Sapphire guests may smoke on the roof terrace. We ask guests to be respectful of the wishes of other guests.

How much should I tip in restaurants?

Tipping is common and expected for most services. A gratuity of 10% to 15% in restaurants is the norm for good service.

Should I tip a taxi driver?

If the driver has put on his meter, and it is say 9.80 dirhams, round up the fare to 10 dirhams. If he has not put on the meter, instead asking for a flat rate, there is no need to tip.

What guidebook do you recommend?

There are many excellent guides in print, amongst them:

guide – Morocco

Lonely Planet Marrakech Encounter

Sawday’s Special Places to Stay – Morocco

Time Out “Morocco – Perfect places to stay, eat & explore”

Footprint Africa “Marrakech, High Atlas & Essaouira” with popout map

Rough Guide – which has the best street map we’ve seen of the Marrakesh medina.

Another good one with street maps – not heavy to carry and with enough useful information is “Marrakesh Everyman CityMap Guides”.

Can I use my own mobile phone in Marrakesh?

You can use your own phone if it meets the following specs…

Uses GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile, purchased abroad, etc.)world-capable (quad-band, or dual band international)”unlocked” to accept any sim card from any carrier.

For more information on this, please try this site: http://www.rangeroamer.com/countries/Morocco.aspx

Another solution is to purchase a local SIM card which is not expensive. To find out more, try this site: http://www.telestial.com/view_product.php?ID=LSIM-MA01

Tip: The riad offers local pay-as-you-go cell phones to its guests so they can contact us if they need help. They are excellent for local calls. We charge a refundable deposit of 100dh for this service. Top-ups can be bought at any téléboutique for 20, 50 or 100 Dirhams. Téléboutiques are found all over the medina – they have blue and white signs so are easily recognizable.

What is the best way to travel within Marrakesh?

The best way of getting around Marrakech is on foot, especially in the Medina and the souks, where it is the only sensible option. However you will need transport to visit more distant Marrakech sights and to shuttle between the Medina and the new part of town. The best options are normally taxis, many of which can be shared.

taxis are plentiful, cheap and normally the most convenient way to visit Marrakech attractions outside the Medina.

What is the best way to travel outside of Marrakesh?

There are train connections to many cities in Morocco, e.g. Casablanca, Rabat, Tangiers. Where there is no rail connection, then SNCF (the state railway company) operates comfortable, air conditioned buses. This would apply to places like Essaouira and Agadir.

You can check the times of trains/buses on the website http://www.oncf.ma/ It is only in French and it is not currently possible to book online, but I think they’re working on it.

If you are travelling to small villages around Marrakech, then you have the option of private taxis, tour companies, shared taxis, local buses.

What is a shared taxi?

This is usually a grand old Mercedes with seating for 5 people. There are a couple of spots in Marrakech where they wait for passengers. Depending on the destination they are at:

Doukkala (for destinations outside of Marrakech including Asfi, Essaouira, Chechaoua, Al Jadida, Beni Mallal)

el Rab (also for destinations outside of Marrakech including Tahanoute, Imlil, Oukaimaiden, Moulay Ibrahim)

el M’aash towards the mellah, just south of the main square Jenaa el Fna’ (for within Marrakech).

The idea is for the driver to fill up his taxi and divide the fare amongst the 5 passengers. Once the taxi is full, you leave. If you don’t want to keep waiting, then you can pay for the remaining empty spots and off you go.

What’s a “petit” and a “grand” taxi?

There are two types of Marrakech taxis. Grand taxis are usually old Mercedes cars carrying up to six people for a fixed fare on specific routes and are allowed to go beyond the city limits. Many grand taxis start from Marrakech bus station, the Place Jemaa el Fna’ and the post office in the new town.

taxis can be hailed down, are smaller and can take up to 3 passengers.

Private taxis can be hired for city tours and excursions but would be more expensive.

How much do taxis cost?

Taxi drivers are supposed to put on their meters. Sometimes they don’t and just ask for a flat rate, 20 dirhams. Again, some have got lucky in the past, such that they sometimes increase this amount to 40 dirhams or even more, whatever they can get away with.

Taxis can charge 50% more at night.

If they have not put their meter on, then you can ask them to. Either they will do that (fares start at 1.70 dirhams during the day and 2.50 dirhams at night), or they will state simply that it does not work. At that point you have a choice to either agree on a fare or get another taxi—depends on if you’re in a hurry and if there are plenty of other empty taxis around and perhaps how hot you are!

Another tactic is to let the taxi driver take you to your destination, get out of the taxi and give him what you think is the correct fare. You need to have a fairly good idea of taxi fares to do this confidently. As a guideline, the taxi fare from the Medina to Guéliz is between 10 dirhams and 15 dirhams during the day. Add on 50% more at night. Compared to European taxi fares Moroccan taxis are really good value, so there is no need to haggle over 5 dirhams.

Around noon and late afternoon it is harder to find a taxi because either they are changing shift and are not interested in taking new fares, or because they are really busy. If you’re standing by the side of the road trying to flag down a taxi, they may stop and ask where you’re headed – if it’s in a direction they don’t want to go, they will say they can’t do it – especially if they already have a passenger in the car going somewhere else. So if they don’t stop, it’s not because they are being picky or don’t like tourists – in general they do, because they pay more! It’s because they are heading somewhere else or are going off shift.

Remember that, at the end of the day, a taxi driver may take home between 50 and 100 dirhams, as he has to pay the holder of the license, and the owner of the taxi if he doesn’t own it, and most don’t seem to own their own taxis. In addition, he has to pay for gas and repairs.

It is not required to tip taxi drivers, but if you’re paying according to the meter, it is nice to round up the amount.

If you take a taxi for a day’s excursion, again it is not really required to pay a tip in addition to the rate for the day. It’s entirely up to you.

Is it safe in the medina of Marrakech?

The medina (old city) is generally very safe, probably safer than many European cities. As the small alleyways can be confusing, we recommend that you ask our gardien to accompany you until you know the way yourself—one time is usually enough for you to orient yourself.

From the Place (main square Jemaa al Fna’) at night, we recommend that you get a taxi back and then you have just a short walk back to the riad.

To prevent problems the City of Marrakech has a Brigade touristique with a main office in the square, Jemaa el Fna’.

What if I’m approached by someone saying they work for you?

We would not allow anyone to do this – so you can be sure if it happens that it is not true. It is a ploy to get you to go with them and thereby earn some money. Good idea to take a photo of them if you have a camera on you, so we can identify them and take action.

Will I get lost in the medina?

Very probably, but that is part of the fun. Everyone finds their way back. The best way to orient yourself is to have a map – we provide you with a city map upon your arrival and give you a small orientation session – and then you memorize where one area is in relation to another. There is no point in trying to follow street names – there are too many, often they are not signed and if they are, they may be in Arabic only, not even the locals know all the street names.

For instance, if you are going to the main square, Place Jemaa el Fna’, you will see that it is south of us, so you keep going in a southerly direction. There will be a couple of zig-zags along the way because of the lay of the buildings, but you resume your southerly path and you eventually come to the square. I would warn you though that your attention will be constantly diverted with all the wares on offer in the small stores.

If you think you’re lost, a good rule-of-thumb is to follow where most people are going as they will likely be searching for a main thoroughfare. Once you get there, you can re-orient yourself.

If you need to ask directions, we always advise guests to ask either a lady or a shopkeeper as they will unlikely be inclined to follow you and ask for some ‘tip’ for having shown the way. It’s not always a great idea to stand in the middle of the street studying a street map because you will be quickly met with several offers to ‘help’ you.

Pedestrians generally use the right-hand side of the small street, so that bikes, mopeds use the centre.

If you have time, and you’re on holiday so hopefully you do, then just wander – that’s part of the charm of the medina.

I’d like to see more but I’m tired, what do I do?

You can take a tour by horse and carriage, known by the French word ‘calèche’. It’s a great way to leisurely look at the surroundings without getting tired. You can tell the driver where you would like to go – the ramparts (recommended), the various parks (jardins), the Menara garden [the driver will wait for you as you go to look at the summer house and the gardens], the new town of Guèliz, even the Palmeraie.

You can find the calèches at the main square, Place Jemaa el Fna’, or near big hotels in the new town, outside the Majorelle gardens and various other places around the square and Guèliz.

FAQS on Marrakech, Riads, Morocco

loggia and arcade_riad in Marrakesh_riad sapphire and spa
upper floor arcade in Riad Sapphire, Marrakesh

Riad Sapphire and Spa has compiled of list of frequently-asked questions that clients have asked us in the past.

Just click on the question to bring up the answer.

We will be constantly updating our information – divided into country-related (Morocco), city-related (Marrakech), riad-related (Riad Sapphire and Spa), health-related, and emergency numbers. If you would like to add a question, please write us an e-mail at riadsapphire@gmail.com Please click on underlined headings or the relevant sidebar tab to be taken to the answers.
Can I buy Moroccan money outside the country? Do I need a visa? How do you pronounce Ouarzazate? Ditto for Essaouira? What is the dialing code for Morocco and Marrakech? What is the electrical voltage? What languages are useful in Morocco?
Can I get alcohol in Marrakech? Where can I smoke? What languages are useful in Morocco? How much should I tip in restaurants? Should I tip a taxi driver? What guidebook do you recommend? Can I use my own mobile phone in Marrakech? What is the best way to travel within Marrakech? What is the best way to travel outside of Marrakech? What is a shared taxi? What’s the difference between a ‘petit’ and a ‘grand’ taxi? How much do taxis cost? Is it safe in the medina of Marrakech? What if I’m approached by someone who says they work for the riad? Will I get lost in the Medina? I’d like to see more but I’m tired, what do I do?
What are check-in and check-out times in the riad? How far is Marrakech airport from the riad? Can friends stay over in a riad in Marrakech? Can I do laundry in the riad? Should I tip the riad staff? Can I smoke in the riad?
Do I need any vaccinations before arriving? Any health tips? Is it safe to eat at the food stalls in the main square? Is it safe to drink the water in Marrakesh? What happens if I get sick?

Emergency numbers that we hope you will not need. What happens if my passport is lost?

Tips for a pleasant stay in Marrakesh

marjorelle gardens, Marrakech, Yves St. Laurent

What to wear

Check the temperature for the time of year you are arriving in Marrakech so that you bring the correct clothing. For the months from November to March it is also advisable to take a rain jacket, as it can rain.

In the hot summer months wearing light, loose, cotton clothing is advised. A hat or turban is a must to protect the head against the heat and sun.

In autumn and spring a light jacket or fleece is recommended; the evenings can be quite cool. Although it may be sunny and warm during the day, evenings are often cool requiring a wrap or jacket.

In winter, warm clothing is a must.

If you are going to the desert during the winter months, please note that the temperatures drop considerably and you will need winter layers to stay warm at night and early in the mornin1215-1g.

 

Dress Code

While Morocco welcomes all visitors, it is an Islamic country and following cultural standards of modesty is advisable to prevent problems during your stay.

Wearing short skirts, short pants, and tight clothing is not recommended – especially in small towns and rural areas. Legs and shoulders are considered private body parts in Morocco and should be kept covered.

So as not to get hassled, we advise women travelling on their own to dress modestly. You will see tourists wearing all kinds of skimpy outfits and it is tolerated, but it is easier to do if you’re in a group.

Safety

Marrakech is generally safe and violent crime is not considered a major problem.

Pick-pocketing can occur, so it is best to follow common sense travel safety tips such as keeping your valuables in a safe place and travelling in groups. Dress conservatively and respect the local culture to avoid problems.

The government is very keen to promote tourism and have introduced plain-clothes policeman who patrol the souks and tourist places. This has certainly reduced the harassment which, at one stage, had reached ridiculous levels.

Guides offering their services should display an official badge issued by the local authorities. The riad is happy to arrange an official guide, where you can be sure that the guide is properly trained and registered.

There will, however, be a lot of people trying to part you from your money. Street hustlers and scam artists posing as guides, as well as harassment of women are all common, but in fact are more irritating than a real safety concern. Please read our tips on how to deal with this.

General tips for getting around Marrakesh

main market, Marrakech medina, MarrakeshThe best way of getting around Marrakech is on foot, especially in the Medina and the souks, where it is the only sensible option. However you will need transport to visit more distant Marrakech sights and to shuttle between the Medina and the new part of town. The best options are normally taxis, many of which can be shared.

The medina (old city) is generally very safe. As the small alleyways can be confusing, we recommend that you ask our gardien to accompany you until you know the way yourself.

From the Place (main square Jemaa al Fna’) at night, we recommend that you get a taxi back and then you have just a short walk back to the riad.

Please also ask to use the cellphone available for clients (returnable deposit of 100 dirhams) so you can easily call us if necessary. If you cannot find the riad or if you are returning from an evening out and would like someone to accompany you please call the riad and a member of staff will come and collect you.

Taxis

petit taxi, MarrakechGrand taxi in Marrakesh

Marrakech taxis are plentiful, cheap and normally the most convenient way to visit Marrakech attractions outside the Medina. There are two types of Marrakech taxis. Grand taxis are usually old Mercedes cars carrying up to six people for a fixed fare on specific routes. Many grand taxis start from Marrakech bus station, Jemaa el Fna’ and the post office in the new town. Petit taxis can be hailed down, are smaller, more expensive, and go anywhere. Taxis can be hired for city tours and excursions. Limousines can be hired for longer tours.

Taxi drivers are supposed to put on their meters. Sometimes they don’t and just ask for a flat rate, 20 dirhams. Again, some have got lucky in the past, such that they sometimes increase this amount to 40 dirhams or even more. In general, taxis can charge 50% more at night.

If they have not put their meter on, then you can ask them to. Either they will do that (fares start at 1.70 dirhams during the day and 2.50 dirhams at night), or they will state simply that it does not work. At that point you have a choice to either agree on a fare or get another taxi—depends on if you’re in a hurry and if there are plenty of other empty taxis around and perhaps how hot you are!

Another tactic is to let the taxi driver take you to your destination, get out of the taxi and give him what you think is the correct fare. You need to have a fairly good idea of taxi fares to do this confidently. As a guideline, the taxi fare from the Medina to Guéliz is between 10 dirhams and 15 dirhams during the day. Add on 50% more at night. Compared to European taxi fares Moroccan taxis are really good value, so there is no need to haggle over 5 dirhams.

Around noon and late afternoon it is harder to find a taxi because either they are changing shift and are not interested in taking new fares, or because they are really busy. If you’re standing by the side of the road trying to flag down a taxi, they may stop and ask where you’re headed – if it’s in a direction they don’t want to go, they will say they can’t do it – especially if they already have a passenger in the car going somewhere else. So if they don’t stop, it’s not because they are being picky or don’t like tourists – in general they do, because they pay more! It’s because they are heading somewhere else or are going off shift.

Remember that, at the end of the day, a taxi driver may take home between 50 and 100 dirhams, as he has to pay the holder of the licence, and the owner of the taxi if he doesn’t own it, and most don’t seem to own their own taxis. In addition, he has to pay for gas and repairs.

It is not required to tip taxi drivers, but if you’re paying according to the meter, it is nice to round up the amount.

If you take a taxi for a day’s excursion, again it is not really required to pay a tip in addition to the rate for the day. It’s entirely up to you.

Moped & Bicycle

Mopeds are a popular way of getting around Marrakech but not for the faint-hearted. Bicycles are easy to hire and are allowed in the Medina.

Horse-drawn carriage

Horse and carriage, Marrakesh, caleche, Marrakech

Romantic calèches are a good way of getting around Marrakech. They have space for five people. The carriage should have a sign with the fare written on it. If there is no set fare you will have to agree the price before setting off. Expect to pay around Dh 80 per hour. Find Marrakech horse-drawn carriages at El Badi’a Palace, Koutoubia Mosque, Jemaa el Fna’ and the classier Marrakech hotels.

Buses

Marrakech buses are frequent and very cheap but not especially attractive for getting around Marrakech as they are often crowded. The number 1 links the Medina and the new town.

Tourist bus

Sightseeing bus, red, double-decker, Marrakesh

There is a red, double-decker bus that you can get on and off. You can buy tickets for 24 hours and cost 75 dh for children, 145 dh for adults. There is also a 48-hour option that costs 95 dh for children and 190 dh for adults. You can get to all the main sightseeing places, Menara Gardens, Saadian tombs, Bahia palace, Guèliz, the new town, Marjorelle Gardens, the Palmeraie and of course, the famous Place Jemaa el Fna’.

Walking around, crossing the road

You may find yourself standing at the side of the road wanting to get to the other side and wondering how you’re going to do it and arrive in one piece the other side. It’s a good idea to tag alongside Moroccans – but if you’re not comfortable with that because they seem to putting themselves in the path of a car, then here’s what to do.

Look for a gap in traffic, then start walking into the road. Keep going slowly. Motorcyles, mopeds, bikes will move around you. So be predictable and keep going rather than stepping back or suddenly standing still unless, of course, the situation requires it! You will find that the cars slow down and even stop, leaving you space to cross.

Kids are very keen to offer their services, particularly if they realise that you are lost. If you are happy for them to show you the way, then only pay them a few dirhams – max 10 dirhams, if they really did a good job.

If you don’t want them to show you the way, behave as if you know the way (even if you don’t) and walk on purposely. Remember that we are happy to provide you with a mobile phone in case you do get lost, so that you can ring the riad for someone to collect you.

What should I watch out for?

Marrakech main square, Place Jemaa el Fna' , food stalls, night in MarrakeshMarakkech is not for the faint-hearted! It is a culture shock! At times you feel as though you have gone back in time by 500 years and got lost in the maze of tiny alleyways! It is fascinating – but, on the other hand, if you prefer to stay in a pristine environment, then the Medina of Marrakech is not for you.

Morning in the medina of Marrakesh
Morning in the medina of Marrakesh

Over 250.000 people (not counting the tourists!) live in the Medina, the old town, so it is not surprising that the streets and alleyways are crowded! Even though the locals clean the streets every morning they quickly become dirty during the course of the day with mopeds, cycles, donkey carts and locals going about their business (not to mention the tourists!). Children usually play in the quieter streets.

Marrakech has wonderful aromas in the spice market but back on the streets the aroma is more from the mopeds speeding by.

Simple things like crossing the road can seem scary until you know the Moroccan “highway code” – read our tips on crossing the road.

The dark alleyways can seem intimidating at first, and for some, finding your way can be a nightmare. Don’t worry, everyone gets lost in the Medina! In fact, the souks are not large and once you have found your bearings you find that it is not as difficult as you first thought.

Although local people are friendly, it sometimes seems that every male over 7 years old wants to be either your guide or take you to his brother’s shop. If you are happy for them to show you the way, then only pay them 3 – 5 dirhams – max 10 dirhams, if they really did a good job. If you don’t want them to show you the way, behave as if you know the way (even if you don’t) and walk on purposely.

If you want to ask the way then ask a woman or a shopkeeper – they are unlikely to tag along with you and pester you.

We are happy to provide you with a mobile phone during your stay, so that if you do get completely lost all you have to do is ring the riad and someone will come to collect you.

You are in an Islamic country, so be prepared to hear the first call for prayer at around 5am! If you are a heavy sleeper it is no problem. If not, we recommend bringing ear-plugs!

Speaking French is not essential, but your school French could prove extremely useful.

Some salesmen can be aggressive, but read our tips on how to deal with this!

Women on their own can be harassed – again, read our tips on how to deal with this!