9 Secrets of Marrakech

on August 1, 2016

I can’t believe I haven’t written about our time in Marrakech more?! The colorful souks, the thrill of bargaining, the sweet and lazy mint tea, the dusty air filled with sounds of Arabic and French, late night chats with our Riad host Yassine, the never ending road winding through the Atlas Mountains… Well I’m finally ready to let out the top 9 secrets of Marrakech that we learned in our week traveling there!

**This post is now available as an app! Download it through GPS My City here for free, with the option to upgrade it with GPS**

And I promise, you won’t find Marrakech tips like this in any other blog post – from the best smoothies to the food stalls you won’t get food poisoning from to the cheapest place to exchange money, I’m spilling it all…

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.
1. Always Pretend You Know What You’re Doing (AKA Get a Good Map)

Definitely ask your hotel/Riad/hostel hosts for advice! We would’ve been lost (literally) without it. I’m including some of our best tips from the map in this post! 

BIG general tip: if you get lost, KEEP WALKING. Find a side alley and stop and get your map/app out there. If you even slightly look lost, I guarantee a bunch of young Moroccan boys will come up to you and try to “direct” you – to their stall where they will either expect to be paid or have you buy something. Just take a deep breath, say no thank you (“la chokran” in Arabic!), and embrace that you will get lost (it’s not a bad thing!).

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

2. Price Check at L’ensemble Artisanal

If you want to buy anything in the souks (huge haggling shopping stalls – it’s a must) then you need to go to L’ensemble Artisanal first. L’ensemble Artisanal is a government sponsored artisan workshop with fixed prices.

The trick is to visit L’ensemble Artisanal first to judge how much things should cost – that way when you shop in the souks you will know if someone is cheating you (20 dirhams for a bottle in L’ensemble Artisanal and 120 dirhams for the same bottle in the souks is your cue to BARGAIN). Plus, L’ensemble Artisanal is right next to the Cyber Park, which has free wifi!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

3. Smoothies

These smoothies from the souks made our time in Marrakech. (Is that weird?)  They were so good. I’m drooling. Right now.

We discovered this stall by fluke – after noticing a massive crowd of locals queuing for smoothies we thought it must be good! For just 5 dirhams (like 50p) these are the cheapest and BEST smoothies of my life…it’s really tucked away so I took a screenshot of the stall’s location on my phone, (good thinking Sarah), and we went back almost every day for at least one smoothie!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

^^Look for Riad Alkaderi and the stall is right there!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.
Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech. ^ pure bliss?!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.  ^ you know it’s good when there’s a crowd of locals like this!!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

^^guzzling.




 

4. Money exchange

Morocco has a closed currency – which means you cannot obtain Dirhams before your visit, and they do their best to stop you from taking Dirhams out of the country (so don’t exchange more money than you need!). So where you exchange your money can be a conundrum. As per the advice of our Riad hosts, the best place in Marrakech to exchange currency (no commission, best rates) is Hotel Ali, near Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Address: Rue Moulay Ismail, Marrakech, Morocco

 Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

5. Day trips: Don’t Buy Them in the Souks!

While in Marrakech, you’ve got to take some day trips! This thriving city can be claustrophobic so I recommend getting out of it when you can – but don’t be overwhelmed by the vendors trying to sell you day trips in the souk! We booked ahead of time with I Go Morocco, a genuine Moroccan company (not some European transplant – this is the real authentic experience!). We visited both Ouzoud Waterfall and did an overnight trip in the Sahara desert. The people on our excursions who’d bought the trip in the souks paid a lot more than we did by booking online! So if you’re not confident in your bargaining skills, book ahead of time with I Go Morocco.

Read about our trip to Ouzoud Waterfall here! This is the closest excursion and can be done in one day.

Ouzoud Waterfalls, Morocco

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

6. Best Food Stalls…(for not getting food poisoning)

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the hugely busy main square of Marrakech – it’s basically a collection of food stalls with a ring of craft stalls around that, and then of course a few dudes with giant snakes or chained monkeys who will defo come harass you if you’re not careful. If you spend the day in this area of town it’s worth it to eat lunch/dinner at the food stalls – but the problem with street food is FOOD POISONING. Be careful! Our Riad host recommended these stalls for their quality (non-poisoning quality…), and assured us that he wasn’t just recommending them because he knew them personally:

1, 14 (fish), 25, 74 (soup).

You can see the stall number on the tent above each stall!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

7. Best Restaurants

During the week we ate at a lot of restaurants, but these were our favorites, most also recommended by our Riad hosts who live in Marrakech! They’re all reasonably priced.

Souk Kafe – located in the north entrance to the Souks, cozy and pretty quiet. Really tasty food for a good price.  You need to get the specialty tangia here – they cook this for over 24 hours and you can’t find it elsewhere.

Marrakech Henna Art Cafe – a cute cafe south of Jemaa el’Fnaa. This is the best/safest place to get henna done as well! The women who do henna here are true artists and get fair pay, and the quality of the henna won’t burn or infect your skin.

 Cafe Arabe (sunset) – a great view of the sunset.

 Cafe des Epices – tall restaurant in a more open area of the souks – has really good sandwhiches if you’re getting sick of tagine!

Kozybar – a fancy-ish bar near the spice market. Good view from the top, we really liked the salad tasting plate.

 Taj’in Darna – truly underrated restaurant! We ate here three times. It’s incredibly cheap for how good the food is – right next to Jemaa el-Fnaa and a minaret so you can listen to the call to prayer while you eat dinner and people watch the busy square.

 Amal Women’s Training Center – so good it’s getting it’s own section! Best rated Marrakech restaurant on tripadvisor, this restaurant is also a charity training center for disadvantaged women. And the food is out of this world.

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

8. Take a Cooking Class at Amal Women’s Training Center

After eating quadruple an elephant’s body weight in tagine this week, we both really wanted to take a cooking class!  We absolutely loved our morning at Amal’s – for 250 dirhams (about £20) you get to learn how to cook a Moroccan dish of your choice, which includes the ingredients, instruction, experience, and of course lunch! This is way cheaper than you’ll find at a Riad or hotel – and all the proceeds go straight back to helping the Marrakech women’s community. Just book ahead of time on their website!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

9. Get a Traditional Hammam

You’ve probably heard of hammam if you’re planning a trip to Marrakech. Basically, it involves eucalyptus black soap, steam rooms, and then being scrubbed down so all the soap/dead skin comes off. It’s incredible! Gross, but incredible!

There are lots of public baths in Marrakech where the locals go. However, this isn’t very relaxing and I have a thing with public bathrooms so I opted for the spa experience…Our Riad recommended Les Bains de l’Alhambra for the best quality/reasonably priced hammam treatment. It’s definitely a step up from the local baths, but also a lot more expensive. Still, I had an amazing treatment (I did the hammam/massage duo treatment) and I do feel that I got my money’s worth.

If you don’t want to go to the public baths, this is probably the next most authentic place you can go. Les Bains de l’Alhambra is difficult to find…look around the corner at the start of the alley for the door!

Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

^^The Spa doorway…if you get lost!

That’s it my darlings! I don’t know about you, but I’m saving this post for my next trip to Marrakech so I can bee-line it to the smoothies! Thank you to Angie, Jessi, Emma and Nanob for hosting this month’s travel link up on the theme “lessons learnt while traveling” – these are my favorite off the beaten path tips from Marrakech – I hope you enjoyed!!

Have you ever been to Marrakech? What are your best travel tips?

Sarah xx

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Top 9 Secrets of Marrakech - best tips for Marrakech - off the beaten path Marrakech.

 




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