I wanted to give an honest review of our time there and what we learnt. We found good and bad things about Marrakech so for anyone about to go I hope this can help to manage your expectations and give some helpful tips. This holiday was a learning curve. I don’t want to say it was a bad holiday, as it wasn’t, but we definitely didn’t make the most of the Internet and plan our trip effectively. In contrast to my rose tinted first 24 hours in Marrakech, here’s my honest review of the city after a seven day stay. I hope this will be helpful for anyone planning to go as I wish I read more before booking our trip.
So on the plane home I wrote a little pro’s vs cons list for our stay. I’m going to group them in two’s.
- Food – Moroccan food is undoubtedly delicious. I like how clean and fuss free it is, whilst also being hearty and delicious. Before our trip I don’t think I had tried a tajine, and I never thought I liked olives, but after being presented with them at every restaurant we visited, I’m now a convert. I also developed a love for the understated tajine, even buying myself one in the hope of recreating a tajine de poulet aux olives et citron confit! Mmm!
- Architecture – I loved visiting the old and historic buildings in the city, steeped in Islamic history and incredible colours and details.
- Pollution – this was much worse than I was expecting. There is a lot of dirt on the roads and cars/motorbikes everywhere. After day three outside in the busy streets my lungs weren’t feeling healthy. This may have been a factor of why both H & I came down with colds on day 5 and are still ill now, seven days later.
- Prices fluctuating and hidden charges – we didn’t like how on the first day we bought water for 15 dirhams, then at restaurants paid anywhere between 30- 50 dirhams for water, and on the last day we bought from a small shop for 6 dirhams. The same, if not worse, goes for prices in the market, restaurants and excursion fees. There is no middle mark and you don’t know what the honest price is for what you’re purchasing. We were also stung with ‘tourist tax’ when checking out of the hotel and then told that we had to pay quite a lot for both airport transfers which wasn’t mentioned beforehand.
- However, our Riad and the staff were great. We stayed in a beautiful small riad called Dar Crystal, a short walk from the main square in the medina. I can’t thanks the staff, Nabyl, Zakaria and Bruno enough for going out of their way to host us and help us explore the city. However, H & I realised this trip that our attitude of ‘booking the cheapest but mostly highly rated B&B on TripAdvisor’ has outgrown us and isn’t the best method for us anymore. For our next trip we will be looking for more uniqueness in our accommodation. We agreed that we would rather pay more in terms of comfort, facilities and entertainment for a more memorable experience.
- Colours – I loved the red washed alleyways, the colours of the Berber rugs hanging from shopfronts, the colours of the tajines and crockery and the gorgeous tiles inside most buildings. Sometimes London can seem so Grey compared to more exotic cities.
- Honesty of sellers – similarly to the point above. The market sellers will mark up their prices about 3x more for tourists. Never accept the first price they offer you. When we went to Essaouira we found the market sellers asked for a much more reasonable price, resulting in a good deal when you have haggled a little further.
- Motorbikes everywhere – this got on my nerves a little by the end of the trip. When you leave the main square and sound and wander within the medina streets you have to move out of the way literally every minute for a motorbike to go past – and then breathe in the fumes from the exhaust. There isn’t a concept of right of way or pedestrians only.
- Things you can buy are good quality – we bought home a classic tajine, silver tea set including a silver plate, teapot and tea glasses. If I had more spending money I could have bought so much from Morocco. I think the quality of their souvenirs are very good in my book. It’s just a shame that my hubby decided to use it without curing it overnight – cracking it in half.
- Excursions to Essaouira and Ourika valley. We went on two excursions on consecutive days and they really helped us break up our trip. After for days in Marrakech we were clawing at the walls of our riad and wanting some fresh air. I loved Essaouria and would recommend it! It has such old charm and the people are much calmer and honest than in Marrakech!
- Hassle – I didn’t mind it at the start but as the trip progressed I didn’t appreciate being asked at every shop front to look inside or being given a hard sell if I looked at something for more than a minute.
- Cleanliness – Marrakech isn’t the cleanest city, and with no fresh air and a lot of pollution it doesn’t smell great when there are skips full of rubbish, hot people everywhere and animal faeces on the roads. On the last day, when we were both sick with colds trying to find somewhere to eat, I wished I had a Chinese style mask for my face.
- Culture – I liked hearing the azzan playing out over the city numerous times in the day, hearing the bread sellers walking the street in the morning calling out their fresh bread and I liked seeing all the trinkets everywhere reminding us we were in historic Morocco.
- Scenery – it takes quite a lot to beat the view of a 200 year old mosque and walking down the narrow red washed streets that remain quite untouched. The Berber villages in the mountains and the bright blue walls and giant cacti at the Majorelle Gardens are not sights you forget easily.So there you have my very honest view of Marrakech. It’s a beautiful city for a day or two, but After that I began to feel that for every positive there was also unfortunately a negative.. I’m going to be posting a more concise ’10 things I learnt in Marrakech’ this weekend so please check that out too!
Take care, K