Newbie Advice for Marrakech/Morocco?
Replies: 13 - Last Post: Jun 13, 2012 1:01 PM Last Post By: Truman13
Jun 2, 2012 10:25 PM
I'm an 18 year old guy from Australia. I have done a bit of travelling but only with family.
I'm going to Morocco for 2 weeks by myself in June/July.
I will spend my 4 days in Marakech, then bus to the coast for 4 days in Essaouira, then bus back to Marrakech for an week long Busabout tour.
Does anyone have any advice, day to day tips, key packing tips etc that could help a first time solo traveller out?
In Marakech I'll be staying here: http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g293734-d610690-Reviews-Riad_Jomana-Marrakech_Marrakech_Tensift_El_Haouz_Region.html
I've heard it's quite easy to get lost/tricked/hassled etc so am trying to be as prepared as possible.
Thank you very much for any help
Jun 2, 2012 11:11 PM
1Hi there fellow Aussie!
Sounds like a perfect trip. The forum topics are good for advice on some of your individual questions.
I spend a lot of time in Marrakech and a bit of time in Essaouira so I can help you with some ideas. It will be getting pretty hot in Marrakech by July so be prepared for that. Sunscreen, a hat etc. You can swim and surf in Essaouira and the night life is great for someone your age in both places.
Not sure where you've travelled to but unlike Asia, Morocco is not the least bit interested in your Australian dollars. Euros are good or use the ATM's that are everywhere in Marrakech and Essaouira. They can be touchy too though. Make sure you're all set for overseas withdrawals by your bank.
Like any new country it can be easy to get lost so make sure you have a map with you and a card/details of your accomodation so people, like taxis etc can help you if you are in strife or lost. Marrakech has tourist police but they can be a bit hard to find.
In general Moroccans are pretty helpful and are happy to discover your Australian not American. Sorry Americans!
If you've been to Bali, like any decent Australian, in particular Kuta, anything Morocco has in the way of hassling tourists will seem a breeze! The main problem areas are , as always , the touristy spots. Just be friendly, or firm if the need arises and you'll be fine.
I have written a blog about Marrakech which you might find helpful too. It's more from a female perspective but still it details things to do and see etc. Enjoy your trip and feel free to ask more questions. I can talk about Marrakech all day!
Edited by: ethelfleda
Jun 2, 2012 11:31 PM
Jun 3, 2012 2:56 AM
3Sam, I just want to reiterate what hotsytotsy29 said:
Get Moroccan dirhams from the many ATM machines, using your bank debit card, starting from when you land. Before you leave home, be sure to inform your bank that you will be using the card in Morocco, otherwise you run the risk of having transactions blocked.
Jun 3, 2012 7:32 AM
4Best thing you can do is get a Morocco travel guide published by LP or Rough Guide and study it/them before you leave. Yes it will be hot. And yes do as david says re using ATMs and notifying your bank.
Jun 8, 2012 6:56 AM
Jun 8, 2012 3:32 PM
This trip is clearly going to be a pretty big deal for you, so I thought I would put down a few ideas on how to get the most out of your time in Marrakech, as that's the place I know best.
The first & most important consideration is the huge cultural difference between Morocco, as a traditional muslim country, and all "westernised" countries including your own. In Morocco, family is the most important thing in almost everyone's lives; older people are therefore accorded deference; parents treated with huge respect and teenagers are not the centre of everyone's attention-in fact the majority of boys, especially, will be working at least part time. Do not even think about trying to engage a local girl in conversation when you are on your own, or indeed at any time, unless you are certain that you have been "officially" invited to do so (by a male member of her family) Photos of your own family & home are always of interest/curiosity, so have a couple with you.
If you wish to 'blend in' rather than 'stand out', do not bother to pack short shorts or singlets/vests; you will never see Moroccan youths wearing them. Long trousers & t-shirts with a short sleeve are the order of the day. Many of the local boys, whilst looking very well groomed, will have bought theirs from second hand markets, where the stock emanates from Europe.
Remember that the very fact that you are in their country and at such a young age, tells Moroccan boys that you are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams- in a place where 200 Euros a month is considered a reasonable salary, with which to support an entire extended family. This means that gratuitous wielding of the latest i-phone/pad may, at best, seem boastful and at worst draw unwelcome attention of people intent on separating you from it/them (although Morocco does have a low crime rate) Also, don't even think about 'just taking' someone's photo without permission. In Djemma al Fnaa, some people make their living solely out of having their photo taken & they get very angry if you try to get away without paying. Re women, do not take any photographs of them without their express permission (which is very unlikely to be forthcoming)
If you would like to try to connect with local guys of your age, you are in luck, as they, of all of the population, are most likely to have some fluency in English - but if you have some knowledge of french, that will be of a good deal more use with much of the rest of the population.
The best way to connect is not necessarily, as you might think, through music: arab-influenced cultures share a completely different music and TV scene to our own, BUT football is a different matter all together! Moroccan boys love football & follow all of the major European teams (especially Barcelona, for some reason) You could therefore do worse than pack a couple of football shirts, wearing one as a 'conversation opener' eg in cafes, hanging around Djemma al Fnaa - then using the other (+ football shorts!) to see if you can get a game on the public pitches, which are just outside the Medina walls, and which are full of boys letting off steam at the beginning or end of the day. Few of them will have come across many Aussie boys before and will almost invariably be open & friendly towards you.
The boys at your riad will also be happy to take you under their wing, if you ask for help or guidance- but a recent 'crackdown' by Marrakech authorities means that they are banned from acting as your 'guide', unless they are qualified to do so. Trying to cheat the 'system' can land them an immediate 2 week jail sentence, so please don't try to coerce anyone in to do something they say they cannot.
One place they should be able to take you to, however, is the local public 'hammam' - think Roman Baths, but not so grand. All (male) human life will be there - I certainly find the female ones really interesting & friendly.
A place they will defintely not take you to is, however, the mosque. Unusually, Morocco bans all non muslims from its mosques.
Finally, make sure you carry a card with you, inscribed in arabic & european script with the full address & telephone number of your riad. You are almost bound to get lost on more than one occasion - just always take your bearings from the Djemma al Fnaa square & you won't go far wrong.
Have a great time!
Edited by: Truman13
Jun 8, 2012 4:31 PM
7I disagree with much of the advice given above, including:
--Taking photos (including of women) is generally fine, except perhaps in some small rural villages. Locals are usted to tourists snapping photos--just shoot quickly and move on, don't make a big production of it. Taking photos of anyone in the Jemaa' el-Fna is fine; don't pay anyone except the colorful water sellers and the obnoxious snake charmers, who make their living this way.
--Engaging local girls in conversation is fine; just don't push it if they object.
--If you ask a local guy for help he likely will expect a tip and may guide you to a shop where he will get a sales commission.
--English will work just fine most everywhere, but yes a bit of French may help. Beware guys who "just want to practice their English" by talking to you...just another scam trying to get you to their favorite shop.
--Re music, many locals love western-style music
--The only mosque open to non-Muslims is in Casablanca.
Jun 9, 2012 2:13 AM
8.... we may be just talking to ourselves, Sam seems to be gone or has writers block.
Truman's advice is good in my opinion, on the thorny issue of talking to the opposite sex, much depends on the situation you find yourself in. If talking to a stranger is inappropriate the Moroccan will know whether to engage or not assuming they are mature enough, hopefully Sam knows how to behave if the Moroccan is vulnerable.
Photographing people going about their normal daily business just because they are in a public place is bad manners, its quite a different matter talking a shot from a distance and not behaving like a sneak.
Truman's advice in dress-code is good, tourists are seen walking around in under-ware, lobster coloured from the sun, quite stupid looking. Right again about not boastfully flashing expensive stuff giving the impression they have more money than sense.
The issue of family interdependence is well dealt with, how families manage on merger income, its not uncommon to find children working at very young ages contributing, and well qualified students doing menial jobs just to keep heads above water.
The mention of football as a way to make contact/friends is good advice. To an Australian we should mention we are talking about Soccer, and for sure this is a great way to make friends, with the European Champions currently on, Moroccan's are glued to the televisions for the next 3 weeks, a lot of them have little else to do.
Jun 9, 2012 8:19 AM
9I dread to think what would happen if tourists are ever banned from photographing people in public places...the economy would suffer drastically. For many of us, taking photos is one of the chief reasons we visit other countries.
But I should have mentioned: never photograph police officers or any type of military facility.
Jun 11, 2012 4:08 PM
Jun 12, 2012 12:49 AM
11Sam, you have the advantage of being young and resilient. You will learn quickly. Wear a smile, remain relaxed but alert, and you will have a good time in Morocco.
Getting lost in the medina can be great fun!
Edited by: daviddaoud
Jun 12, 2012 5:29 AM
Jun 13, 2012 1:01 PM
Someone as friendly & open minded as you will have a great time - don't listen to the nay-sayers who imply that everyone is out to rob or traduce you.
Trust your instincts as you would at home & you will be fine.
I write this sitting in Marrakech, having taken an emergency decision last weekend, to escape the UK's current unremittingly grey skies for a few days
Do let us know how it was for you on your return!
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