This is probably the most photo/text-heavy post I've done in a while, but I really wanted to share my experience in Marrakech with you all. This post will provide travel tips and honest advice based on my own experiences; you're definitely welcome to add yours in the comments! I also understand that my experience doesn't represent everyone else's, you're perfectly welcome to disagree with my advice, but this is just based on my visit.
The best way I can describe the Souks would be to imagine Camden market, only 4 times the size and with very insistent shop owners. You literally cannot browse anywhere. This was the aspect that I found the most frustrating, every time you step into a shop or stall to browse, the shop owner has pounced and is giving you the full spiel on his products; they are extremely persistent and it can be difficult to make a quick exit. This ended up putting me off completely, I was reluctant to even look in shops for fear of not being able to get away for another 20 minutes! I think my best advice would be to have an idea in your head of what you want to get and browse from the main pathway as best as you can, then, when you see what you're looking for, go into the stall and bargain hard! They do enjoy upping the prices for tourists...
This was probably the thing I was most worried about, especially being a white, very pale, blonde female, I thought I would stick out like a sore thumb. I had heard so many stories from various people about the amount of harassment, grabbing and heckling I might be faced with in the city centre, but honestly, this was entirely unfounded.
I'm not sure I would like to have been travelling around on my own, but on the whole I received absolutely no comments on my hair colour and was not grabbed or harassed once. I do think people exaggerate the extent to which this occurs in Marrakech, after all, it's a city dependent on tourism and you really don't have to worry about standing out.
The only thing I would say, is be firm with shop owners and locals. If they're giving you their spiel on products or where is best to go, just say 'no' firmly and walk away, otherwise there is absolutely nothing stopping them and you won't get away. Don't be shy about interrupting and being firm, if you're not interested, just say so and make sure you stand your ground.
Places of Interest
The Marrakech Museum is a beautiful building, although the entry is expensive and the actual things the museum houses were a bit disappointing, a lot of the small rooms were just left entirely empty! It is a cool place to visit though for traditional Moroccan tiling and design.
As mentioned in my previous post, I also really recommend the Henna Café for safe and expertly done henna. I wouldn't recommend getting it done in the Souks or main square and at least here you can eat pastries and play with their turtles whilst you have it done!
One final note, don't bother with the Menara Gardens. Our guidebook painted it out to be an idyllic picnic setting and what we actually discovered was laughably different. It's essentially a concrete pool with a very worn looking building and dry muddy park areas...not exactly the beautiful gardens we were expecting.
(The Ozoud Waterfall and Atlas Mountains)
This was by far the highlight of the holiday for me! As you can probably tell from the photos, Joe and I booked an excursion to the Ozoud Waterfall and both of us loved it. The whole day cost us around £100 for the 2 of us and included a 3 hour bus ride to and from the mountains, the tour guide, a boat trip and food. The tour guide we had was absolutely fab and we would've been totally lost without him. He led us from the bottom of the waterfall up and back down again, stopping at all of the most picturesque spots so we could all get photos. At the bottom of the waterfall we all stopped for 30min and had a swim in the water, which was lined with the most 'Pinterest' beds and cushions I've seen (see photo)! We then continued on our hike before reaching the top for lunch overlooking the waterfall and a boat ride (I say boat, it was essentially a DIY raft with chairs and fake flowers stuck on top, once again, see photo). Upon reaching the top of the waterfall we were greeted by wild monkeys that we were able to feed with peanuts that the tour guide had kindly brought with him, it was so cool seeing them so close and I would love to do this kind of trip again!
Trust no local!
This was the hardest thing about the whole holiday for Joe and I, we just couldn't get over how much the local shop owners, taxi drivers and even some citizens lied to us when we were clearly vulnerable and lost. We had a number of experiences in which locals misled us about directions so that we'd go back towards their business, or where they would give us directions and then demand money. One guy even caused so much of a scene because we only offered him a small amount of money for showing us something only a short distance from where we were, that other locals then got involved and began threatening myself and my boyfriend, as Joe dropped some money by accident, the guy just snatched it and ran. It's safe to say that this then put a downer on both of our moods for the rest of the day.
We also had taxi drivers tell us certain places were closed when they weren't, and then drove us to their family shop 15 minutes away from where we'd actually asked to go. We essentially had to rely on our own instincts and a map, which in the labyrinth of the Souks wasn't always easy. It was very difficult to accept that we literally couldn't trust anyone, not even taxis, which in the UK are just accepted as a safe last-resort if you're really, truly lost.
On the whole, although I really enjoyed the holiday and I'm glad I can tick Marrakech of my bucket list, I don't think I'd go again.
Have you ever been to Marrakech? As always, leave your comments below!
Love Ellen xx