A Girl's Guide to Marrakech, Morocco

september 5, 2019

Marrakech is paradise and chaos. A little place where heaven and hell meet. The red city - one of passion, of fire, of decadence, of dirt. This city requires constant vigilance from all the senses to process the beautiful, insane, fragrant, loud, and colorful details screaming for your attention on display in the streets and in the souls of its residents. But rest assured, calm awaits in the form of impeccable service and opulent furnishings upon your return to the riad, a traditional house in the medina. Indulge yourself with a cool dip in the pool, refreshing sip of mint tea, or luxurious lounge on the roof. You deserve it after conquering the wild streets of Marrakech.

​See // Do

​EAT // dRINK

In the Medina...

 

In the new town...

  • Amal (cafe that employs disadvantaged women)

  • La Mamounia (famous hotel with ritzy dining options)

  • Katsura (sushi)

For Night Life...

  • Lotus Club (cabaret and cocktails)

  • Epicurien (great live band, located inside the casino)

  • Rodamon Riad (international, youthful, casual drinking spot in an upscale hostel)

Stay // Sleep

You basically have two options: stay in some sort of riad (traditional house) in the Medina OR stay in a more western style hotel/resort in the new town or on the outskirts of Marrakech. There are options for every budget in both places. For short trips, I recommend staying in the medina to make the most of the energy of Marrakech. For longer stays, why not spend half your trip in the medina and half relaxing at a resort? Here are some options:

$ Riad Rodamon (hostel and privates with a unique aesthetic and pool)

$$ Riad Alma Mouassine (adorable and traditional riad in a safe part of the medina)

$$$ Riad BE (medina), Riad Elisa (medina), Sofitel (new town near nightlife)

$$$$ El Fenn (art focused luxury on the edge of the medina)

$$$$$ La Mamounia - Famous, but overrated in my opinion, if you’re going to splurge, I would say El Fenn. BUT this is located closer to nightlife, so stay here if that’s the priority.

Getting There // Getting Around

From the airport to your lodging, I highly recommend pre-booking travel with your riad or hotel. You will most likely get the best rate this way, as the cab drivers will 100% try to rip you off. Generally expect to pay 100 dirhams during the day and 200 dirhams at night. There are also buses, but I’m not familiar with the routes or availability.

Within the medina, walking is really the only option, although it is very very easy to get lost. Even with the confusion and dead ends, it’s best to appear confident and sure of your path to avoid unwanted attention. If you accept directions from a stranger, they will demand money.

To get around the new town, one can walk, but distances are much greater here than in the medina, so cabs are the best option. Again, be ready to negotiate the fair. You should be paying 20-50 dirhams to get around town for the most part.

*A note on safety*

As you can see from above, I can’t say enough positive things about Marrakech. At the same time, unfortunately, I have several negative things to say. I have traveled alone extensively, often enough in places that are deemed unsafe for solo female travelers. Overall, the universe has kept me safe and protected, which I am grateful for, but I have not walked away completely unscathed. Marrakech stands out as one of those places that left some unfortunate memories. Here’s some things to look out for:

  1. I was physically sexually assaulted here. In broad daylight. This isn’t the first time I’ve been groped (or worse) abroad or even in my own country, but I personally experienced a more intense sexually corrupt culture here that breeds both verbal and physical assault. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, as I nearly always had my knees, shoulders, and chest covered. 

  2. An extremely well-traveled male friend of mine was robbed twice in one day - within hours of his arrival, both in daylight. First he was pickpocketed and then was held up in a corner of the medina by a group of young men who demanded he empty his wallet. 

  3. It often felt like I was being blatantly ripped off by pretty much every vendor, salesperson, and even in some restaurants. Do your best to negotiate and double check the bill at other points of sale and service.

  4. Everyday I thanked god I didn’t die being ran over by a scooter or car. The drivers here are ruthless and do not follow any sort of protocol that gives pedestrians the right of way. Even crosswalks double as execution zones. Look both ways and keep eyes in the back of your head at all times.

  5. The animal abuse was incredibly disturbing. Sickly cats with all kinds of infections and open wounds roam the streets. Reptiles, birds, and rodents are kept packed in cages in the high sun and heat. Vendors will convince tourists to purchase the animals in order to “set them free” until they, no doubt, catch them again to repeat the vicious cycle. Horses in carriages are abused, as are other animals forced to perform for someone’s instagram feed.

  6. Unfortunately, beggars are also, abound, often with small children. I recommend supporting a local charity, such as Amal, instead of directly giving money to beggars. However, if you feel so inclined (I did once or twice), definitely extend a hand with a few Moroccan notes.

The above is a very small part of my experience. I really hate to share negativity, especially as these sorts of things happen all over, not just in Morocco. However, I do think it’s important for people to be aware of the risks for personal safety. Stay present and vigilant, and I promise you will have an amazing stay in Marrakech.