Morocco is a vibrant and beautiful country. It’s one of the closest African countries to travel to from the UK, with no time difference, meaning no jet lag, that’s always a bonus! Arriving into Marrakesh Menara airport you start to get the feel for the place, there’s a buzz around and you immediately feel welcomed into the city…. later to possibly be identified as the Moroccan hassle!
I loved my time in Morocco and would definitely visit again. This is a guide for anyone travelling to there to give you a bit of a heads up on what to expect from Marrakech, especially if you happen to be a solo female traveller.
Arriving into Marrakesh
From Marrakesh airport, the majority of people jump in taxis but I opt for the airport bus (number 19). My first chance to try out my Arabic/French – both which are pretty rubbish but hey the driver lets me on. He’s really helpful and waves at me when we arrive at the main medina, near where my hostel is. I love that part of travelling, I’ve only been in the country less than half an hour and already the locals are being friendly and helpful.
Becky’s Tip – I later found taxi negotiations could be a bit of a pain so I would recommend buying the return bus ticket so you have a stress free departure and cheaper if you’re travelling solo (Dh30 single or Dh50 return)*
Exploring the Souks – be prepared to get lost…. very lost!
There’s nothing more exciting than arriving in a new destination and wandering off to explore your new surroundings. If you are going to do this in Marrakesh, be prepared, you will get seriously hassled, as a solo female I literally could not walk a step with someone trying to entice me into their stall “Come look at this… your shoes are so pretty (they weren’t)… I like your dress…. where are you from”. I’m a polite person but after a day in Marrakesh, sadly I ended up adopting the walk fast option just to escape.
Becky’s Tip – Always take a bottle of water, look for the signs back to the Jemaa el Fna square (I didn’t spot these the first time), walk confidently, I promise you will make it out!
A 24 hour buzz in the famous Jemaa el Fna Square – the main medina
For me the Jemaa el Fna Square is a combination of things I love and things I hate. The atmosphere and buzz around the place is absolutely amazing, not to mention the fresh orange juice stalls, which for some reason there are over 20 all competing against each other. I visited the same one each day, I don’t think he remembered me but I like to think I was a loyal customer for 3 days ha ha!
Amongst the crowds of people selling various products and services there are sadly a few things I really hated. It’s common in the medina to dress monkeys up in outfits to pose for photos. I just can’t bear seeing things like this, even worse is watching tourists handing over money, encouraging it to continue. It’s the same with the cobras, which have been drugged to perform, I just don’t agree with it and it saddens me when I see so many people still lining up for photos :(.
No photos are free in Marrakesh, as I found out after these guys insisted (I must have said no thanks about 5 times) I take their photo and then demanded money.
Becky’s Tip – Just walk and smile or failing that run…. ha ha only joking 🙂
Nightlife in the main medina
At night the Jemaa el Fna Square comes to life (even more); metal stands are transformed into food stalls with numbers against them all selling pretty similar food. It’s mainly BBQ style but there are huge menus to choose a range of different things from. It’s great to wander around to decide where you want to eat but some of the Moroccans can start to get a bit annoyed if you don’t pick their stall and I found some even a bit aggressive.”Come here eat my food, no you can eat more, you are too skinny you need more food……”. Arhhh chill guys!
Becky’s Tip – If you’ve already eaten still be expected to be hassled just as much, so maybe best to just avoid!
There is storytelling and musicians playing all in little groups over the medina at night, some with huge crowds and some with just a few. I preferred the smaller groups, they made you feel welcome and part of the group, some of the larger groups came round asking for money, even when you had only just arrived. There’s no filming or photography so be prepared to be told to stop if you try…. better still just enjoy the entertainment!
Becky’s Tip – Take some small change with you so you can tip the artists/musicians that you love because they don’t offer change if you only have large notes!
Stepping away from the Marrakech madness at Jardin Majorelle
Jardin Marjorelle is a beautiful garden hidden behind a wall from the main road, it’s about 40 minutes walk from the main medina, entrance fee is Dh70*. It is a real treat once you step inside, huge bamboo towering above you as soon as you enter. As you carelessly wander around Jardin Marjorelle you forget all about the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh life outside the walls. Inside there’s also a Berber museum (which you can pay extra to visit) and a café so you can take your time and spend a few hours there relaxing.
On reflection from my time travelling in Morocco, like any big city Marrakesh was a great place to visit and experience. For me though, there were other places to explore and it’s one of the reasons after summitting Mount Toubkal in the Atlas Mountain, instead of spending my last 3 days in Marrakesh , I jumped on a bus and visited a gorgeous place called Essaouira on the coast and experienced my first Moroccan Spa or Hamman.
Are you visiting Marrakesh or have you already been? What was your experience like? Tell me about in the comments below and share any more tips for solo travellers or ask me any more questions.
*Prices correct at time of writing February 2017.