Confined within the historic walls is a labyrinth of alleys ready be explored, every new turn revealing a different trader displaying his talent, enticing your attention with mystical wonders.
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You’ll find a few remaining snake charmers, once traditional healers of snakebites these skilled craftsmen were revered for their talents and praised by governments for promoting tourism and providing a constant source of poisonous venoms for antivenin production. Now classed as little more than beggars and outlaws in many countries, snakecharmers face great difficulty in not only sourcing the rare species, now endangered due to rapid deforestation and urbanisation, but also due to demysitifcation surrounding the practise and the spreading knowledge that the charmers remove the fangs of the snakes or even sew their mouths shut in order to protect themselves.
Scared of the cobras and vipers dancing rhythmically to the pungi? Continue on your journey of erotic sensory overload to the tanneries where the smell of drying leather will overwhelm even the spice souks. Take a tour of these small establishments and watch the three-stage process in real time. If the thought of wandering through basins of bird excrement doesn’t tickle your fancy, don’t worry. The magicians, street artists, palm readers, henna artists have plenty to offer and the endless souks will have you leaving with a full stomach and satisfied vendors.
If olives are your thing, there’s a whole souk dedicated to the art, or perhaps wander through the potter’s souk to pick up beautifully curated tagines so try out the recipes you’ve learnt at one of the many excellent local cooking classes. There are so many treasures to be found, it is difficult to put into words, make sure you’re ready to barter, don’t worry its normal here. Whatever price they say start at 1/3 and have a final price in your head you won’t go over. Even if you like something, if the price is too high don’t be afraid to walk away, the majority of vendors will soon be running after you matching your offer. Bartering may be normal, but it is no excuse to be rude. If you happily engage in friendly banter with the merchants you might even score an invitation to a local celebration, making new friends as you go.
Get a spot of mint tea but don’t fall into the tourist trap of the square, hidden down some alleys behind the kaftans you’ll find stone arches leading to a grandmas back yard ready to serve you fresh authentic mint tea. You might even find some Khobz baking over a log fire in the corner.
Be sure to try the local food from market restaurant number 14, they serve on perfectly cooked fresh seafood and aubergine dips on bench seating amongst the locals. Don’t miss the wonderful baby sole. Do be warned, the vendors may bring you extra dishes but these are not complimentary, if you accept them be prepared to pay a price.
Back in the ordered chaos of the medina after rambling through the exotic collection of cherry bags and terracotta ceramics from Saharan traders find escape after trying some herbalist black magic in one of the secluded luxury Riads right within the narrow passageways. Complete with intricate detailing and courtside pools you are sure to find your little piece of paradise in the heart of Marrakech.
WHERE TO STAY?
Equity point hostel Marrakech will be one of the coolest hostels you will ever stay in. It is a small oasis with excellent staff and perfect for relaxation in the common areas and at £11 a night you can’t beat it.
A personal favourite of mine is hostel Riad Marrakech rouge. The quirky interior keeps you entertained for hours and with excellent reviews dorm beds from just £9 will leave you with plenty dirhams spare for more of the wonderful cuisine.
From just £39 a night Riad Marrakiss has a wonderful roof top terrace in which you can relax away from the bustle of the city passing through ancient stone archways to your private room complete with original fireplace.
If luxury is what you’re after, Dar Darma Riad provides excellent suites and apartments for £195 per night with carved wooden doors and hand painted ceilings this place will transform you to a time of Egyptian Pharaohs.
SAHARAN DESSERT CAMPING
It is always great to have the thrill of arranging an adventure yourself rather than going with a tour agency, however if you would like to, there are plenty of options available in Marrakech and the smaller villages near to Erg Chebbi.
A lot of the two night tours will take you here but be warned you’ll have almost 10 hours to travel each way in a very beaten up, non-air-conditioned mini bus.
If you can make your way to Merzouga alone, you’ll find lots of locals vying for your attention offering camels rides and 4×4 drives deep into the dunes for unparalleled star-gazing. Shop around for your guide, that way you’ll get the most out of your adventure and will happily leave a sizeable tip. The smaller setups (max 6 people) tend to be more expensive and less comfortable than the larger permanent camps but theres choice to suit every personality. If time is not a problem and you find yourself here in the winter months why not try a fifteen-night expedition by camel; if isolation is your thing, this is the Baptism of Solitude.
We highly recommend visiting this cultural capital and despite what other sources will tell you it is generally a very safe destination. There is a small military presence who look out for the tourists but beware of pickpockets in the central areas. It’s advisable to wear modest attire in order to avoid unwanted stares but generally the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. Ensure to tip 5-10% at larger establishments and agree of a fee before entering taxis or agreeing to have a tour guide otherwise things can turn nasty when they want to charge an extortionate fee at the end.
It’s a simple pace of life, one I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
What to know more about the wonders Morocco has to offer?
Check out our post on Taghazout, the Moroccan coastal surf town & subscribe to our email list for update on all future posts.