Marrakesh Etiquette – all the DOs & DONTs
Marrakech is a perfect city for a longer weekend getaway. It’s known for hustle, chaos, strict rules, buzzy atmosphere and tons of overloading sensations coming from every corner. But it’s also a beautiful location filled with history, stunning gardens and delicious cuisine. As well as the perfect base to explore the surrounding areas. The key to spending beautiful, safe and relaxing time in Marrakesh is to keep open mind. And follow a few rules. Don’t worry: we have covered them all. Marrakesh etiquette will have no more secrets for you with this list of the city’s Do’s and Don’t’s.
Do smile and be positive towards locals. We learned on our trip, that a simple smile and being kind can really make a difference. There is a big chance you will get attacked or screamed at if you respond impolitely or aggressively.
If somebody asks you something or tries to sell you things you are not interested in, just reply “no, thank you” or “non, merci” with a smile and just carry on. The vendors will accept your refusal. On EACH of those situations, as we were walking away, they wished us good day and enjoyable time in Marrakesh.
Do dress modestly, keeping your shoulders and knees covered (specially solo women travellers). We have seen a lot of people dressed in shorts and tank tops, but we find it disrespectful. Fashion now gives us so many alternatives. You don’t need to cover yourself from top to bottom to be properly dressed. You will witness people being kinder and appreciative if you just wear a long dress and throw scarf on your shoulders (and it looks great on pictures!).
Do bargain while shopping in the Souk. Bargaining is just part of Marrakesh traditions & etiquette. Most vendors will start off with prices doubled or even higher. Know what you are willing to pay for the product and give a price lower than that. The vendor will lower his offer, and you will rase yours a bit. It will go on like this until you both arrive to conclusion satisfying both sites. We unfortunately always ended up paying more. At one point, we realised we were bargaining over 1 or 2 euros and we just gave up.
↬ Important : Do not begin price negotiation on something you are not really interested in. Vendor might feel offended if you resign half way through and might get aggressive.
Eat Moroccan food
Do try moroccan food while sitting in on of the rooftop cafes. Moroccan food is healthy as most things are stewed and boiled. It’s also made with fresh ingredients and is simply delicious.
↬ TIP : Check our post of restaurants and food in Marrakesh
Wander around on foot
Do explore Marrakesh by foot. The city centre where most attractions lie, is pretty small and easily reachable. To not get lost we suggest downloading maps.me– a free offline map application as google maps doesn’t work well in the small streets and is often misleading. I saved all the places we wanted to go to (sights, our riads, restaurants etc) prior to our arrival and we never got lost or had problem finding anything. maps.me works very well even in between of tiny souk alleys showing you exact location and the way. It relies only on the GPS and all you have to do is to download the map before hand.
The only time we had to use a taxi was going to Jardin Majorelle, as its located outside of Medina. It costed us 50 dirhams and its a fair price. Anywhere inside the Medina you should pay no more then 20-30DH. Taxi from/to the airport costs around 100 dirhams. Know the price and bargain with the taxi driver if you have to. Otherwise just walk away and find another cab.
Stay in Riads
Do stay in one of the beautiful riads of Medina. It will allow you to experience the real Marrakesh and you’ll be just walking distance to all of the main sites. That being say, there are many riads to pick from and choosing can be hard. So in order to inspire you a bit, we made a selection of our favorite accommodations in our blog post: Where to stay in Marrakesh.
Do take day trips outside of Marrakesh. 1-2 days to visit the city is enough. The natural beauty that lies outside of the gate, just a few hours drive is incredible. You can ride quads on Agafay Desert, hike in the Atlas Mountains or even visit a UNESCO heritage, set of many award winning movies in just a day trip from Marrakesh.
↬ Read : Best Day Trips From Marrakesh
Avoid relying on locals for directions
Don’t ask random people for directions, and don’t accept to be shown the way by kids or other people. There is a big chance that you will be asked for money after, or even that you will be lead to different location as a joke, or taken to ‚friends’ shop and persuaded to buy things. If you are lost (which for sure will happen) do not worry- in the Souk all the streets lead back to Jemaa El Fna square. If however you really cant find your way, ask a shop vendor.
Don’t support animal “slavery”
Don’t take pictures with the monkeys or snakes on the Jemaa El Fna square. Animals are treated terribly and once tourists stop being interested in those kind of attractions, they will stop. Also there is a big chance you will get pick pocketed while witnessing the snake dance show or holding a monkey.
Avoid trusting random people offering you guidance or tours in the streets
Don’t accept random guides to the tannery. You might be lead to an ambush and harassed until paying some money or led to some other place. Or they might make you pay double the price of the regular tour. If you’d like to see the tanners, order a tour with reliable agency
Don’t be alarmed by the fuzziness
Don’t be surprised by the craziness happening during both day and night on the Jemaa El Fna. The square is the main spot to visit for both locals and tourists. People will try to make you buy things or loudly promoting their products. Or they might just talk as they spending their days on the square and Moroccans tend to talk loud; it often seems like they are fighting. During the night you can try the food on food stalls that open just after sunset. The hygiene is questionable, but the food is delicious and really cheap.
Do not fear Ramadan period
Don’t be afraid to visit during Ramadan. It’s a beautiful and humble month, when people are more quiet and focused. All the touristic spots are open, including restaurants, and they serve food and drinks (non alcoholic). It does feel a bit weird knowing that those serving you restrain themselves from eating or drinking. (Especially as its really hot during Ramadan month- between May and June.) But locals do understand that we don’t share the same religion and don’t follow the same traditions. As long as you are respectful towards them, you won’t encounter any negativity. You can also ask questions about Ramadan. We found that each person we talked to was open and shared they own point of view on fasting.
Don’t drink alcohol
Don’t drink alcohol in public. It is illegal and punishable. You can find few bars and high end restaurants that serve alcohol, even during Ramadan. If you want to have a drink, just go to one of those.
Avoid unappropriated & public sign of affection
Don’t show affection in the public. Morocco is a conservative country in which religion is of the most importance to its people. It is not well seen for couples to kiss, or show affection publicly. However we held hands on a few occasions, like walking back from dinner and didn’t received any reaction. In Marrakesh it seems locals are getting more used to tourists’ behaviour, but out of respect we suggest to keep the affections within walls of your riad’s room. ?