Morocco: The feel of Marrakesh
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Why would you choose a few days in Marrakesh instead of Paris, Vienna or London? Many things would answer but the one most important is: for the culture, highly different from the European one, for the pleasure of walking in 30 degrees weather in March and for the services that are cheaper than what you find in major European cities. It is just as accessible for Europeans as other EU cities, meaning there is no need to obtain a visa if your stay is less than 90 days.
Marrakesh:How and when to visit
The ideal time to visit is October – but not during Ramadan- although it is a great year-round destination.
As mentioned before, costs are generally low and their local currency is dirham, where one is the equivalent of 0.25 Euros. Card acceptance is not very high, even if the property has card procession they will prefer to say they don’t. On hindsight, most properties have wi-fi at decent speeds, even if some recommend purchasing a local SIM card.
Passport control is slightly more rigorous and i will go into details so that anyone can avoid a misunderstanding and start their holiday. You have to fill out a flyer with details about your flight, your stay (including address); the authorities are very strict about this formality and you cannot speak English to many of them, so make sure you wrote everything. Once they finished evaluating the information, they stamp your passport that you will have to show at one more control, and then your are clear to pickup your luggage. Remember at departure you have to do the same thing, so reserve an extra 20-50 minutes for this action depending on the time of your flight.
Transfer: It is indicated that you exchange the equivalent of 150 dirhams at the airport for taxi to the center. A bus service is also available for 30 dirhams/ person and it has wi-fi (you have to ask the driver for password). It is ideal because you can start a navigation app to your hotel from the bus. You can later get around towards other cities with a variety of transport options such as Morocco train lines (French built), long distance buses that are operated both publicly and privately or taxis: Petit-taxi (small cab) or grand-taxi (large).
Your stay and expectations in Marrakesh
If you plan to visit Marrakesh you will notice from the start “Riad” accommodation. It is the traditional Morocco residence and they all have an interior garden or court. They do not seem like much from the outside, especially since there are no windows that lead to the exterior; everything is focused on the interior, with a square shape distribution and all the rooms having a view to the inside garden. This provides intimacy and heat protection that you will be very thankful for.
The most noticeable thing from the start is the chaotic traffic, scooters everywhere, barely any crosswalks or any form or organization of the road to be fair. It felt as the bus was always close to crashing another item on the road, but somehow never did. Fair warning if you plan to rent a car, you will see no mercy from Marrakesh drivers. Later learned that some locals leave their cars in parking lots before entering the city’s heart, the new town.
In the souk (equivalent of bazaar) you will feel assaulted by locals trying to sell you their services and products. The truth is the Morocco locals are very friendly people, some start by saying you don’t have to buy anything and it feels like most take pride in showing off their traditional products. You will see many things that you cannot guess the purpose for, such as a small round clay appearances piece – It’s a lipstick! A hand-sized chunk of white stone – it’s a deodorant! Vendors patiently explain what everything is for, where it comes from, even if you ask about every item and end up not buying anything, they will at least be happy they could share part of their culture. The jewelry sellers will always tell you from which part of the country a piece is, how the women make them with their bare hands and that they would exchange their work for electronics, things they need.
Parks are like taken out from a fairy tale, each tree and bush is perfectly maintained; you have to admire the great attention to details of these people, they have a unique sense for decor. They understand that a home or building must not only be grand or luxurious, it must have beauty – embroidery, flowing water, plants, trees, mosaics, minutious models, just take a look at this door.
Also prepare your tastebuds for delicious, fresh orange juices; completely different from the sour taste we are used to, oranges from Morocco are sweet and have just the right amount of sour to calm your thirst. Don’t be shy to try any other fresh juices, there is nothing that could disappoint you.
The city is a mix of old and new, traditional and modern, luxury and bargain. Some people were covered in the traditional djellaba and others dress in a more European way. Some women are veiled from head to toe and you might feel that short shorts were not a good idea; worry not as they are used to tourists and are well aware there are other cultures. As there are many concerns for safety, know that Marrakesh is very safe due to the strictness of authorities. Female travelers will be relieved to see that local men merely look and often admire from a distance when they view a pretty sight. There is also a good nightlife in the New Town, if you are looking for that sort of fun.
All these wonderful things made me decide to add Marrakesh to my revisit list, especially since I have met smart people that made it their new home. Sure, most streets are dirty and smelly, the people are chaotic, traffic is a mess, there are no glass skyscrapers, but, it gives a great vibe of beauty and friendliness.