A few weeks ago I visited the beautiful city of Marrakech and since it was my first time visiting a Muslim country, I had many questions regarding pretty much everything. What clothes to bring, what foods to eat, where to visit and so on.
Most of these questions are commonly asked before a trip, but due to Morocco’s rich and diverse history of Arabs and Berbers with influence by France and Spain, the answers weren’t as obvious. I wanted to make sure my friends and I were as respectful as possible to the local customs and be able to explore as much as we could.
So now that I am back from my trip I can answer all of these questions and help you prepare for your trip.
Packing and planning your luggage is definitely the most important aspect of getting ready for Morocco. Before my trip, I talked to several people who had been there previously and received lots of mixed advice. One explained that tourists should dress conservatively, while another said it is completely acceptable to wear shorts and spaghetti strap tops since Marrakech is more modern and acclimated to (many) tourists.
I chose to follow the cultural dress code and wear long flow-y dresses and skirts which are also the ideal clothes to wear on long days of exploring a new city. If there was an outfit that didn’t fit the code, for example, something strapless, I would just add a jacket on top and be ready to go shopping at the souks.
It is important for visitors to dress politely especially when visiting mosques and other religious monuments.
As for wearing a hijab, it is completely acceptable not to wear one.
2. FOOD & DRINKS
As I mentioned before, Morocco has had a lot of influence from other countries, which has splendidly made Moroccan food one of the richest and most delicious cuisines in the world. Not only is it accessible to every culinary group with vegan, vegetarian, halal, fish and meat dishes served in basically every local restaurant but it is also served as a three-course meal. Allowing visitors to try different dishes in just one meal!
The first is a selection of tapas, whereas just like the Spanish, it consists of several small dishes – usually vegetable and fruit based with lots of aubergines, tomatoes, olives and prunes. The second course is the main dish with heavenly authentic dishes such as Tajine, a stew or soup with a protein base of chicken, beef or lamb accompanied by saucy fruits like peach or couscous. Finally, the sweets are usually served as a variety platter usually including baklava, Briouat and Sfenj. Along with a cup of tea, of course. 😉
Other savoury dishes to try are brochette (skewers), Bissara, Tangia, b’stilla and kefta.
As part of Moroccan culture, alcohol is hard to find, but with many different types of teas and fresh juices to try, you will definitely not miss it at all.
Maghrebi mint tea aka Moroccan mint tea, aka atay, is the drink to have in the city and it actually goes well with any meal.
If you are staying at an Airbnb and have a kitchen in your house, I would highly recommend buying groceries at the supermarket and try cooking a local meal yourself. While shopping, you’ll be amazed by how various and fresh all products there are. The tomatoes and avocados were larger than my hand.
On top of how delicious everything is, the prices are even better!
Shopping for goods and souvenirs at the souks (outdoor markets) is much more than just buying handmade goods. Unless you go to a high-end place, there isn’t a price you can’t bargain in Marrakech. Rather it is to decrease the price of something you want to buy or to get extra monitoring for your rented car.
The key to a successful bargain is to be friendly and bold with the person you are negotiating with. Becoming friends with that person can go a long way, they will remember you and will recommend other places owned by friends and family with good prices. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t speak any French or Arabic. Many sellers speak English and even Spanish, Italian, Dutch and international body language. You’ll be able to agree on a good price without a language problem.
Personally, I don’t like to bargain at all and I feel terrible decreasing the price of something that is so beautifully handmade but being young and at the beginning of my career, I definitely can’t afford to. Luckily, I had someone who is comfortable bargaining. So make sure to bring someone with you who does like to bargain and has your back.
Treat people the way you want to be treated. Talk to people the way you want to be talked to. Respect is earned, not given.Hussein Nishah
4. VISITING OTHER CITIES FROM MARRAKECH
My original plan for this trip was to stay in Marrakech and take a day trip to the desert and maybe even to the Chefchaouen, the majestic blue city. However, I soon realised that both of these destinations were quite far from Marrakech with at least a 3-hour car trip and with so much to explore in Marrakech already, my friends and I decided to stay in the capital instead.
Although Marrakech is a subtropical semi-desert country, the temperature drops significantly at night. So no matter which season you go, make sure to bring long sleeved pyjamas and cosy clothes to lounge in your riad at night.
In February when I visited, the weather varied a lot during the week. Some days were warm enough to take a swim and other days the sky was just a haze. But since it was winter, getting away from the heavy snow back home was refreshing.
The best seasons to visit Marrakech are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October) when the tickets are cheaper and the weather is perfectly balanced.
In conclusion, these are the main tips you need to know in order to get ready for your Moroccan adventure! Let us know what was your favourite part of your trip in the comments below!