Oh Marrakesh, you were far too good to me. In fact, my only regret is that I didn’t stay longer. When we originally planned our backpack trip, Marrakesh was not even in our realm of places to go to. But after we recognized how cheap we could get there from Spain, we could not NOT go. Unfortunately, the cheap flight prices come with a downfall– a limited amount of time. You see, our flight arrived late Sunday night and left early on Tuesday morning. So if you made the same mistake as we did, here’s a crash course for you to optimize your time in this North African country with rich arabic culture and remnants of French colonization.
#1) First and foremost, if you book a bed at Dream Kasbah hostel, you’ve already made your trip unforgettablee. Prior to arriving to the hostel, the receptionist sent us an email offering to pick us up in a taxi, informing us of the excursions in the area, and asking if there was anything else we needed to further accommodate us.
Oh & did I mention that it costs only $5 a night?!
Dream Kasbah’s staff is incredibly friendly. They offered free cooking classes, a traditional family styled Moroccan dinner, and organized excursions outside of the city.
#2) Heckle at the Marts. But don’t get crazy. If you’re searching for the most cost efficient souvenirs, the market in the town center is your golden ticket. The key- always
set your bidding price for less than half of the listed price. At first, the vendors will pretend to be shocked and probably shrug you off. Give them about two minutes until the real bartering gets going. The vendors know that you can get the same exact stuff from the neighbor at the mart next door. So, be smart and be careful but most of all- have fun. We meandered throughout these marts for about four hours analyzing the intricate artwork and detailed items.
#3) Drink anything with mint. Morocco is known for it’s surplus amount of mint. And believe me when I tell you, as soon as the minty sensation tantalizes your nose, you’ll be desperately seeking a taste. I highly suggest indulging in one of these virgin orange mint mojitos. If it’s not blazing hot (which is very unlikely), you could opt to purchase a mint tea, which is equally delicious.
#4) While we’re on the topic of food… BUY MOROCCAN CANDIES. These nutty-caramel-candy-pastry-magic-goodness is served by the pound and is extremely dangerous for anyone with a sweet tooth like mine. But I must warn you– the candies from the market may look a tad sketchy. In fact, bees are typically swarming around and on them… but in the wise words of the moroccan candy man, “the more bees, the better they must taste.”
#5) Get a henna. But avoid the main market square. Instead, try to venture deep within the vendors and find an “inside job.” Typically, the hennas will be way more detailed and cost way less. Make sure you set the price before they start doing the henna. Also– if it is above $5 it probably isn’t worth it.
#6) Ride a camel. If you want.If you don’t- then don’t. I know people feel indifferent about this topic. And whether or not you agree with the practice or not, camel riding is a huge commonality in northern africa dating back to prehistoric times. The ability for these creatures to retain water in the Saharan heat enabled them to be prime candidates for transporting back in the day. Happy humping.
Dream Kasbah organized our whole entire outing for around $15. The camel ride lasted about 20 minutes and to be honest- it wasn’t the most comfortable ride in the world (especially for the boys).
#7) If you don’t want to ride a camel, just hang out with them. Every animal enjoys a little tender loving care.
#8) Visit a mosque. Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country. Therefore, unique gorgeous mosques surround Marrakesh. While we were there, Ramadan was going on and we were able to witness store keepers and shop owners leave their stores/spots as soon as they sounded for the call to prayer.
#9) Grab a bite or drink from a rooftop restaurant. You’re going to want to cool off
somewhere or possibly grab a drink. Try to find somewhere with an aerial view to soak in all of the heckling, snake charmers, monkey, donkey riders, and street performers.
General guidelines and tips:
- Stay covered. Chest, shoulders, and even legs. Even though the sun will be blazing, respect the culture, find some cute flowy pants, and blend in.
- Refrain from heavy drinking. Most places won’t even offer alcohol.
- Do not be alarmed when store keepers or shop owners are yelling at you to come over or trying to get your attention.
- You touch it- you buy it. That goes for almost everything. Even if a man throws a monkey or snake on you… You’ll have to pay some sort of fee afterwards
- During Ramadan, the party starts at night but most people will be dragging throughout the day. If a kid comes up to you and begs for food, it probably isn’t because he’s poor but rather because he’s trying to secretly cheat during Ramadan.
- Always set a base price. Shake on the price before you ever follow through with anything. That goes for taxis, clothes, food… ANYTHING
- Be cautious of where you are taking pictures. In the marketplace, or super touristy areas, you’ll be fine but try to avoid snapping pics when you’re in more desolate areas.