Marakkech 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.
If you want to experience life in the Medina, then staying in a riad is the ideal way to do this. The medina is chaotic, colourful and exciting! It is also noisy, dusty and hectic – all happening in the narrow streets and alleyways, so getting back to a peaceful haven is more than welcome.
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!