Have just returned from a four night stay in Marrakech with my 24 year old daughter. May I firstly give a great big thank you to the people who regularly give their time and effort to this site, who pass on their knowledge and experience - it is much appreciated by us all and my advice to anyone visiting Marrakech is to take the time to read over the many questions and answers on here, like I did and you actually gain an idea of what to expect.
I grinned to myself at the airport as I walked straight past the lengthy queue to exchange money and headed to the one after bag reclaim, then told my daughter 'outside the doors to the left we find the no 19 bus'. However, before the bus actually arrived we were approached by a man trying to persuade us to get a taxi as the bus would take us the long way round - after a 5 minute debate I said if you can do a taxi for the 60dhs the same as the bus will cost us then fair enough - so he did -bargain.
What I wasn't prepared for is the chaos on the roads and each journey left me traumatised.
The fist morning after a quick look around the Government ran shop to get an idea of prices, as we walked towards the square we were joined by Abdul, who explained that as the square would be quiet we would be better off entering the souks from the other end. He insisted that he wasn't a guide and wanted no payment, but ended up showing us places over the next half hour that we wouldn't have probably seen on our own, and we realised he actually probably was a guide so I gave him 50dhs - I had no idea if it was a fair price or an insult but thats what it was worth to me, and that was pretty much how the rest of our shopping went, we decided how much we would be happy to pay for something based on somewhere like Camden Market. One big tip I will pass on is that I wrote a conversion rate on the back of my hand so could easily work out the actual cost in ££s and found that a big help. After a few minutes of smiley banter you then decide on your 'best price' ( this was the price I had decided before I even asked how much?) we put the item down on more than one occasion and walked away but they soon shouted us back and mostly paid the price I wanted. If I was happy and he was happy it doesn't really matter if I could have gone lower. I feel like we got some brilliant bargains - beautiful leather boots £28 lovely tote bag £23 shoes £8 purse £8 silk scarf £6 goatskin tea light holders £5 and so the list goes on...
Regarding the attitude toward us - To be honest I was open minded, but as we were two bright blonde haired females without a 'man' and we did actually stand out like a sore thumb, I was expecting some sort of dirty looks, comments or stares. I can honestly say I have never met such a friendly bunch of shopkeepers in my life. We seemed to say non merci every two seconds but as we were polite and smiled at them, that was the reaction we got back 'No problem madam welcome to Morocco maybe tomorrow?' At one point we had wandered down the same alley 3 times in half an hour, and they were laughing at us, but not in a nasty way - we never once felt uncomfortable or leered at in any way at all and we asked directions to a couple of places and everyone seemed happy to help. Don't get me wrong you get people all the time offering to show you to different places or to help you because you look lost, but just smile and say non merci we are just walking up here and they leave you alone ( if you know what to expect its not intimidating)
Do learn a couple of French words - most menus were totally in French and a couple of taxi drivers didn't recognise our hotel so I said Gare (French for train as we were next to the train station)
The Henna Ladies were a different matter, walking around with a ten inch syringe full of ink - not so much to me but to my daughter, who had to firmly say non merci a few times, and on one occasion actually grabbed her hand and started to squeeze the ink and we both gave her a shove - not for the faint hearted but you do have to be firm.
We stayed in a hotel but wished we had stayed in a riad, I was just a bit nervous about finding it on our own.
The highlight for me was sitting on the rooftop terrace at Cafe Arabe having lunch, overlooking the Atlas Mountains and the rooftops of the souks so relaxed listening to yoga type music. We were in earshot of four mosques which all happened to call to prayer at the same time - I'm not religious at all but it actually brought a lump to my throat.
Im sorry if i'm rambling on and if no one is actually interested but i'm boring all my friends and family now ha ha.
The next time I vist I will stay in a beautiful riad and will once again wander those wonderful little Alladins caves full of twinking lanterns, leather, pottery and the spicey aromas that surround you.
I for one carn't wait.