- Airport – Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK)
- Currency – Moroccan Dirham
- Languages – Moroccan Arabic, French
- Population – 900,000
- GDP (Morocco) – $103 billion (59th overall)
Never Been to Morocco?
I visited Marrkech after exploring Tangier and Chefchaouen in the north and loved it! Just a short plane ride from tourist-filled European cities like Paris and Marbella lies one of Morocco’s most vibrant gems. Divided into the Medina (the old city) and the modern city (residential and commercial districts), the two sectors provide everything you need for an amazing travel experience, capturing aspects of antiquated souks and ruins while allowing those who desire a more modern feel to retreat to one of Marrakech’s 4 or 5-star spas and resorts. If you’re interested in visiting the golden temperate oasis, abundant with mouth-watering tagines, couscous, and chocolate covered pancakes, keep reading!
Note: this article uses the French “Marrakech” spelling. While Googling, you may want to search “Marrakesh” for additional results.
Prepare to take out those sunglasses for Marrakech! Given the sun-soaked hot weather, it’s recommended that you pack relatively light and breathable clothing, sunscreen, and head protection including hats or scarves. For all the women looking to explore this bustling city, take note to pack items that cover your arms and legs, as it’s culturally unacceptable to show large amounts of skin while exploring the city. To keep you cool and culturally sensitive, load up your suitcase with long, flowing dresses or skirts.
Marrakech’s peak tourist season is during their summertime, lasting from July to September. The streets will be packed and the temperature sky-high but if you don’t mind a little congestion and heat, the summertime might be for you. More budget-conscious travelers might prefer visiting during the spring (March through May) and fall (October through November) since hotels tend to be cheaper then. An added bonus: the temperatures are far milder during these months than any other time during the year.
Transportation from Airport
Marrakech-Menara Airport (RAK) to Downtown
- Approx. 8 miles from city center
- Transport Options
- Bus (Approx. $3 USD)
- Taxi ($10 – $20 USD)
If you’re not familiar with French or Moroccan Arabic, a travel dictionary or a phone travel app like Google Translate is a good idea! English is frequently spoken within hotels and other tourist destinations but it’s helpful to know a few phrases such as Assalamu Alaikum (an Arabic greeting for hello) or Shukraan (Arabic for Thank You). Helpful French phrases include Bonjour (hello) and Merci (thank you). Street signs are usually written in both Arabic and French.
When packing you should include a travel adapter for your electronics. Morocco’s power sockets are both type C and E (with a standard Voltage of 220 V and frequency of 50Hz), a camera to capture all the picturesque landscapes and handmade goods, in addition to a reusable water bottle and a bathing suit.
Marrakech uses the Moroccan Dirham (MAD) as its currency. It’s not recommended to carry large amounts of money with you while walking through the souks as it’s extremely crowded. But do remember to bring cash as a majority of places outside luxury hotels and restaurants won’t accept any forms of credit or debit card. Cash is key if you plan on picking up handmade chess boards, local nuts, and dried fruits, or would like to snap a shot of the monkeys and snakes (the handlers may request some change as compensation).
While many describe the Moroccan people as warm and welcoming, like anywhere you go there can be some bad apples. We recommend taking the following precautions:
- Be alert for verbal harassment, especially on the streets
- When leaving urban Morocco for more rural areas it is always advised to be accompanied by a group or guide
- As discussed above, dressing more conservatively is recommended
- It’s best to stick to bottled water
Explore the Medina
Once you arrive in Marrakech, take your time getting acquainted with the fast paced and noisy surroundings. A hassle–free way to get your bearings together is to hop on a guided tour of the city or to simply walk around. The Medina quarter includes local markets filled with fresh foods, fruits, teas, and handmade goods and is a popular must-see. Be prepared, however, as there are a few stalls you’ll find with counterfeit or cheaply made products trying to pass off as “handmade.”
Additional Sites to See
- Koutoubia Mosque
- Jemaa el-Fnaa
- Yves Saint Laurent’s house and Jardin Majorelle
- Ben Youssef Madrasa
Go for a Camel Ride!
If you’re interested in animals and exploring the wild side of Marrakech, camel rides are an absolute must! Just the act of trying to get on the camel will be one of your biggest highlights yet. You can also find monkeys at the medina, waiting patiently to sit on your shoulder and show you some tricks.
The food in Marrakech is incredible. The epitome of Moroccan cuisine, the Tagine is a dish consisting of a variety of seasoned vegetables and meats (vegetarian options are available) slow-cooked to perfection in a clay pot (the tagine) and eaten with bread or couscous. If you’re a fan of open grill roasted meats, then kebabs are for you. They’re cooked over coals, giving your choice of meat a subtle yet distinctive smokiness. Moroccan macaroons, a sweet delicacy borrowed from the French, can be found all over the city and are the perfect afternoon snack to keep you energized throughout your day of exploration.
None of these dishes would complete your meal without a beverage, or what the Moroccan’s call “orange juice that will make your tongue thank you.” Let me just say this outright, Morocco’s oranges are magical. If you go to the medina, hand 4 Dirham (50 cents approx.) to the orange–stand Vendor and you will receive the freshest and sweetest orange juice you’ve ever had. It’s so sweet you’ll be shocked to know there’s no added sugar – that’s how good Moroccan oranges are.
Although most Moroccans tend to eat their native food at home and international cuisines at restaurants, Al Fassia is one of the only Marrakech restaurants that locals will visit to eat authentic Moroccan food.
Located in the center of the Rahba Kedima spice market is Nomad, a newer restaurant known for its spice–filled salads, sides, and tagines.
Probably the most counter-intuitive place to eat but Marrakech’s gas stations serve some of the freshest and most flavorful dishes, for excellent prices as well.
Note: For adventurous eaters only!
Morocco’s Version of America’s Sonic – serving juicy camel burgers and date milkshakes.
Make sure to spend time exploring the streets of Marrakech and observing the craftsmen. You will find things like chessboards and chessmen being carved out of a tool controlled by the craftsman’s feet!
Driving through Morocco!
Check out this video driving from Tangier to Chefchaouen in Morocco (and make sure to set the quality to 1080p HD!)