Advice to my brother and his wife:
Just checked out the riad link you sent me. You’ve picked a good spot – walking distance to the main square and souks but also close to the good stuff outside the walls of the medina.
It will seem really loud when you arrive – don’t panic – once inside the walls of your riad the air conditioning will likely drown out prayer-o’clock (all through the day and night), cat fights and cockerels crowing at around 4 in the morning.
The Moroccon’s are pretty nice to their street cats btw and you may well find yourself on a cat safari rather than paying attention to the architecture which is initially stunning but gets pretty sameish after three days.
1) the spa (your riad has a gym but you want a full hammam and massage experience – trust me) http://www.lesbainsdemarrakech.com/
2) the souks (obviously – but visit them at night too and not just the main square souks – that’s when they become seriously part of another world)
3) the Jardin Majorelle (walking distance from your Riad)
4) Guelez plaza – the market there is generally better quality than the souks for clothing and fossils and the European shops offer a marked contrast after the first few days
5) Rue BabDoukalla market – you wont be able to avoid this actually as you’re living on top of it! It is amazing though – a real food market. Let me know if you’re brave enough to try the street food – my friends woudn’t let me as a female (this really does make a difference). Again – make sure you visit it at night too.
We also visited various palaces and the Saadiena tombs - all very nice (see photos when available) but pretty samey too… Spend your time doing the Atlas mountains, spa and other stuff and choose one or two of these but don’t push yourself too hard to do them all…
Do’s & Dont’s
DON’T: take photos willy nilly. The locals do not appreciate it. Always ask first and expect them to say no in the majority of cases. (I took the one above before finding this out – the embarassing way)
DO: barter hard and smile while doing so – a smile makes a HUGE difference
DON’T: underplay the male/female differences out there – they are more significant than we are used to.
DON’t: buy anything on day one. Take your time to aclimatise to the prices and variations on touristy rubbish – there’s a wide variety of quality and style and it’s really easy to buy something on day one then feel daft for doing so when you see ten million alternatives that are even nicer.
DO: buy your wife a traditional outfit to wear, plus headscarf if she can handle it- this also makes a difference to how you’re treated (by the Morrocans as well as your wife!)
DO: eat at the little restaurants around the square (the main ones in the middle are mad and can get really smokey – check the less obvious ones around the edge for some real Morrocan fair. Try rabbit and lemon tagine. Also the beef and prune one is a regular choice and is delicious!
DO: enjoy the posher restaurants – they are really swanky!
DON’T: expect to drink much alcohol – the wine is pretty awful and all alcohol is hugely expensive – try the banana juice instead (yummy and good for keeping gut bugs at bay). Avoid – the local mint tea if you can, it’s so sugary your teeth will fall out after one sip. But, do be aware that you can ask for it without sugar too! Also at the spa – you can ask for water instead of tea!
DO: prepare well for your trip home to ensure you don’t need to either eat or go to the toilet at the airport. You will need to fill out info. cards when both entering and exiting the country so do make sure you have a pen handy (this is a really annoying process!).
Important things noone thinks to tell you!
Be aware that when you leave Marrakesh: A) you will need to go through passport control at the Morrocan end (as mentioned) which takes ages and B) you MUST go through checkin and have your boarding card stamped. This is unnecessary unless you’re checking in at the UK end but VERY neccesarry even without luggage at the Morrocan end for some reason. I didn’t spot this requirement and would have ended up with the worst seats on the plane if my girlfriends hadn’t had luggage, had their’s stamped, and been able to go on ahead and hold a seat for me while I waited for an agent to come upstairs, harrang me for my stupidity and stamp the damn paper!! The same happened to four other female tourists in addition to me… (odd that not one man had made this same mistake??! Apparently!!) It is therefore pointless not checking in luggage so I would recommend paying for one bag at least and having the room to pack all the cheap fossils, linen dresses etc.
Also – if you’re really organised on your first day and find a tailor, it takes 3 days for them to make up suits, dresses to order! Don’t know about prices for these though….
I’d definitely go again and hope to get Ben out there one day. Do enjoy it! Take a French phrase book. In addition to this, two very useful Arabic words are: La! (no) and Chokran (thank you). XXX