Marrakech is a fragrant and active city filled with spice, diversity and life. Although not the most authentic Moroccan destination by far, it still provides insight into the personality of the country, but accompanied with some modern tourist conveniences. Spend your days trying to barter endlessly in the vibrant souks, drinking tea in secluded cafes and rooftops, and exploring the cultural delights present in the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. The backpacking scene in Marrakech is good too, with many intriguing travel stories being shared over a rooftop shisha or pot of mint tea under the shining North African stars.
Orange juice in the main square to keep hydrated during the sweltering summer weather
WHERE TO GO
- Jemaa el-Fnaa is the eclectic main square which transforms into a night market when the sun sets. In the evenings a thick plume of fragrant cooking smoke hangs over the square, adding to the atmosphere. See snake charmers, basket weavers and Henna tattooists at work; but keep your belongings safe and remember that everything has a price!
- The souks are rambling and packed with goods separated into some distinct areas. Try and head away from the main square to get more authentic goods and less designer knock-off stalls.
- Morocco is famous for its leather, so check out the tanneries in Marrakech. Just make sure if you go in with a guide to negotiate a price before you enter – and prepare for a lot of “this is my cousin’s/brother’s/father’s leather shop… please have a look… very cheap”. There are better times to visit, like when the leather is being dyed and the pools are many different colours.
The main square of Marrakech is full of life and colour
Exploring the souks can be an assault on the senses – and I loved every moment!
WHERE TO STAY
Hostel Waka Waka
This hostel is one of the best that we stayed at during our entire trip! The owner Hussein is an absolute legend and will welcome you to his hostel with pots of Moroccan mint tea and plenty of friendliness. Featuring many dorm rooms and a serene rooftop chill out area, Hostel Waka Waka is an incredibly affordable place to stay (we got dorm beds for under $4AUD) with one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had. Although the lack of air conditioning could be testing in the summer months, this place was still a haven of friendship and relaxation in the bustling city of Marrakech.
The rooftop at Hostel Waka Waka where some wonderful nights were had
WHAT TO EAT
Not as cheap as the rest of Morocco, but you can definitely find hearty meals for what would be considered a bargain in many other countries! In the souk-ridden city of Marrakech, there is not a lot of point giving specific eatery addresses as they will be near-impossible to find. Just remember that bartering is key unless there is a set menu price – sometimes restaurants will offer up to 10x the actual price, and if you just accept it, that’s what you’ll get.
Make sure to confirm the prices of everything that is handed to your table because often things will look free (leaving your stingy backpacker heart singing with joy)… only to discover in a heated discussion with the restaurant manager, that they are not free. Try out the night markets in the main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa and look for the stalls with locals in them. Order some local specialties like tajine, couscous and other slow-cooked delicacies.
HOW TO GET AROUND
- Walking: can be tiring in the heat but is the only way to get around the medina
- Driving: grand or petit taxis can be used to get around larger distances
- Horse and Cart: avoid – these are classic tourist traps
Hostels in Marrakech are great places for chatting and meeting some other backpackers. Generally, hostels in this city don’t mind if you bring guests up for the festivities as long as they don’t stay the night. There are nightclubs in Marrakech, but they are generally frequented by the seedier folk… nights are better spent with a few beers on a rooftop.
Remember, alcohol is not common or appreciated in Morocco. If you want a drink, you will have to go to one of the bigger supermarkets outside of the old town, and unlike the cheapness of everything else in Morocco, alcohol remains at normal European prices. Drunkenness is definitely frowned upon and should really be avoided.