My traveler’s guide for Marrakech, Morocco, with tips and tricks for riads, shops, restaurants and sights.

Marrakech Morocco Travelers’ Guide

Keeping my words: experiencing one of the Five Pillars of Islam

(for a few days only)

I am not a religious person. Yet, I like to describe myself as a spiritual and above all a curious person. 

What does it mean concretely? 

Well when an estimate 1,8 Billions Muslim people are joining forces for prayer, self-reflection and community, in short to experience a holly month, I think it is worth for every one, especially if you are invited by Muslim friends, to join, even for a few days. 

It had been on our to-do list with my Friend Nabil for several years, that I would come to Morocco for the holy celebrations. Yet, due to the reasons mentioned in a previous article (here), this project had been postponed again and again. 

Witnessing my friend’s relationship to Islam, which is something very personal of course, I like to think that he has a very pure practice of Islam. A practice that he then uses for conducting is business and personal life. And this is quite inspiring to be honest. 

Hence, and let’s get not carried away but when I had the chance to experience it this year, I made sure I would be there for the beginnings of the Ramadan. 

Gentle initiation 

So no, I didn’t fast rigorously as the Muslims do. And yes, I had my breakfast after sunrise. Well only shortly after 😉 

And yes, I couldn’t help but having some fluids during the day. Cause it’s not easy in hot weather.  

But yet, I still did my best not eat during the day. And of course to be in the best conditions for self-reflection. 

At the end, for the little I know about the religion, Islam teaches you not to be perfect, but to be the best version of yourself. 

Ultimately, I think that is the one thing everyone should be striving for, no matter the religious beliefs. 

And of course I had the blessing of being invited at my friend’s mum place for Iftar. This is the moment of the day when they break the fast after sunset. 

Gentle initiation 

So no, I didn’t fast rigorously as the Muslims do. And yes, I had my breakfast after sunrise. Well only shortly after ? 

And yes, I couldn’t help but having some fluids during the day. Cause it’s not easy in hot weather.  

But yet, I still did my best not eat during the day. And of course to be in the best conditions to self-reflect. 

At the end, for the little I know about the religion, Islam teaches you not to be perfect, but to be the best version of yourself. 

Ultimately, I think that is the one thing everyone should be striving for, no matter the religious beliefs. 

And of course I had the blessing of being invited at my friend’s mum place for Iftar. This is the moment of the day when they break the fast after sunset. 

Those social gatherings, in family, are also a big part of the Ramadan. And feeling part of his family brought great joy, as if the countless hours we’ve spent on the phone for Cruizador were just an extension of our relationship.

And during the day? 

Well I also took the opportunity to visit the Medersa Ali Ben Yousef, which is a former Koranic school. 

This is a place I came across a long time ago after seeing an awarded picture in the National Geographic Magazine. But it was closed for renovation for several years. 

So after making sure it was newly opened for public, this was on the top of my must-see list. 

Actually I briefly went when I arrived in Marrakech, before heading to Essaouira. But it was overcrowded.

Impossible to take decent pictures. Well I could snap a few as you probably now me by now. But none from the central courtyard. 

So this time, I made extra sure to go for the opening. And it didn’t disappoint, even though I wished I had taken not only my prime 35mm but also a my wide angle (10-24mm), to grasp the full magnitude of the Medersa. 

However, the handiness of the recent iPhones is that they can, to a certain extent, and in good light conditions, fill this vacuum by providing several lenses options, a.o. an ultra wide angle. 

On top, my camera, a FujiFilm X-T1, dates from way way back (2015). So the processor has aged quite a bit. And the camera is a bit running behind when it comes to process HDR pictures. 

Spoiler alert, I have purchased the younger brother! And I am very excited to be testing it during a next trip down under. 

And this is where the newest smartphones come handy. Especially in critical set-ups, in difficult conditions when you have a mix of strong lights and shadows. And you do not have a long time to take the picture as someone could just walk by and ruine the composition 😉

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Click to enlarge

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Going back to familiar places

Additionally, I went back to two sights I particularly like, ie. The Palais Bahia and the Secret Garden. 

The latter is aptly named, as it is, I think, overlooked by most tourists. 

The Palais El Badi, on the other hand, is a victim of its own success and is often overrun by tourists and Instagram influencers. 

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide
In a world where you can be anything, be an influencer!

Well not to the extent of the Jardin Majorelle, which is definitely an Influencers’ heaven 😉

Bahia Palace

We can’t blame them, though, as it’s true that the place is magnificent and has something magical about it. It’s cool and the sound of the water from the fountains scattered around contributes to a certain tranquillity. Unfortunately, this tranquillity is disturbed by a minority of visitors who have little regard for others who would just like to enjoy the beauty of the place. 

Long story short, I still could take a few nice pictures. For the others, I think I’m going to need to use those new AI-powered editing software that allow you to suppress elements from a picture by clicking on a button 😉 

But again, my aim when I take picture is to show it as it is and not to take the perfect picture. Yet, I still want to give it a twist by bestowing a certain sense of magnitude and beauty. 

I hope you see it this way too. And will enjoy my own perspective on this place.

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Marrakech Travelers’ guide: where to stay, eat or shop?

Here again, endless possibilities. This time, I had to move quite a bit as many of the Riads were fully booked. Sometime, I could squeeze a night here or there. But not for several nights in a raw. A bit annoying I agree. But again, that is the consequence of my way of traveling. That is, not planning a lot in advance. But just booking the first 1 or two nights and then swimming with the mood/flow.

Yet, if I had to give you a few pointers, I really really liked the Riad Al Rimal. Probably one if not the most luxurious one I evere stayed at. Finest decoration, very attentive personal, delicious breakfast. You’ll be up for a treat. On top great location, just a few steps from the square Jemaa El Fnaa

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Otherwise, I liked very much the Riad Odema and Spa, where I stayed the first time I came to Marrakech. However, this Riad boasts only a few rooms and is often full. So you really have to book in advanced. On top, it is a bit trickier to find.

A feast for the taste buds

When it comes to food/drinks, well there are also tons of possibilities. You’ll not be disappointed by the Terrasse des Epices, if you enjoy a bit more international crowds. Yet beware that the only two times I got scammed/pickpocketed in Marrakech were at night on my way to this Restaurant. So watch out your belongings (more in a later paragraph).

Note also that there is a Café des Epices, located directly on Rhaba Kedima square (spices square). Also very nice for a lunch or a coffee/tea. But not related to the Terrasse des Epices. If I remember correctly it is co-owned by the same people managing the Jardin and the Nomad.

Coffee Break @ Cafe des Epices

I ate twice at Un Déjeuner à Marrakech, which offers a great roof-top, a delicious menu and great patisseries.

Otherwise I like the Nomad Restaurant, and the Jardin, which is located in a courtyard with trees, a fountain, etc. So very quite and peaceful, especially to relax from the fizzing of the Medina. And apparently, the Foundouk is also quite famous.

Last but not least, Shatto is also a must-see. The house boasts a concept store, where local designers enjoy more visibility and a roof-top bar/restaurant. Definitely worth visiting, even if it’s just for a drink.

For drinks/ Moroccan tea

I like the roof top of the Café de France (great view over the square). The Salama, just around the corner, is also quite nice for evening/late night drinks.

And for a Mint Tea with a great view over the Medina, have a look at Kafé Fnaque Berbere. I haven’t eaten there but for a Mint Tea, overlooking the souks, it is perfect.

Tea Time @ Kafé Fnaque

Marrakech Travelers’ guide: fancy some shopping?

Marrakech is definitely a great place to shop. The local scene boasts great upcoming designers, but not only. So whether you’re on the hunt for crafts, clothing, spices, etc. you’ll find something to your liking.

If you shop in the souks/Medina, you’ll have to negotiate. And here I do not want to give you a tutorial on this.

If you shop in more trendy shops, there is a little room for negotiation, as always and as every where, and not only in Morocco I mean, also in our countries. Yet, do not expect to drop the price by 2 or 3 or more, like in smaller shops in the Medina.

So here are a few recommandations to make your stay smooth and sweet, like a Moroccan Mint Tea 🙂

For Berbere/Touareg jewelry:

Everything happens in the Foundouk El Ourzazi, mainly on the first floor.

Go to Mohamed Ettari, who’s running the Fibule le Sud de Sahara. Very friendly, not a push-over, and on top, his family is still crafting the gems. He will explain you what everything means, how it’s made, etc.

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide
Mohamed, from the Fibule le Sud du Sahara

I also conducted great business Bari Mohamed at the Boutique Bel Hadj. Here you pay by the gram mostly. He accepts credit cards.

For clothing/accessories

For women, you’ll find great pieces at Hanout Boutique. Most of their products are unique pieces and they supply also the King Mohammed’s wife.

The Italo-Moroccan Sarah Maj has also a shop in Marrakech. A bit more classic if you ask me but definitely good quality.

Located directly on the first floor of the Restaurant Le Jardin, the shop of the eponym Norya Ayron offer dresses, accessories that have seduced big names like Sharon Stone or Maggie Gyllenhaal.

As previously mentioned, Shatto also has a concept store, both for men/women.

Otherwise, The Different Concept Store is also worth visiting. Previously known as Max & Jan, two Belgo-Swiss designers, who decided to part ways for some reasons that Max told me unofficially. This place boasts great products: furniture, clothing, accessories. So yes this place is mentioned in the Lonely Planet. And if you’re looking for it, you’ll see only the new name 😉

And note that they also have a cafe/restaurant.

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide
Restaurant @ Different Concept Store

For furnitures, home appliances, spices, etc. here you’ll have to look out by yourself. There are tiny shops everywhere. Thought, for Argan products, I really liked Arganino, located next door from the Terrasse des Epices.

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Marrakech Travelers’ guide: any scam to be worried of?

You do not have to be worried. There are not violent thefts in Marrakech, as the Moroccan government really protects tourists. Yet the two main scams in Marrakech, as unfortunately, Google Maps doesn’t really work well in the Medina, due to the number of tiny streets.

The first one is a local telling offering to escort you to the place you want to go. First as a friendly gesture to help a tourist in need. But then they will ask you for an outrageous amount of money, like 100 or 200 dirhams. When this is what you pay to get a cab from the Airport to Jema El-Fnaa squre.

The second one, at night, they will tell you that you can go further in this direction as the door is closed at night. Then they will offer you again to escort you to where you need to go. And ask again an outrageous amount of money.

I thought I was smart enough to avoid both. But unfortunately, one of the door was closed. But there was a second street I could have taken. Yet, that local sneaky teenager got me confused and this is when the trap closed on me 🙂

As I had kind of anticipated that possibility, I had prepare some coins in my pocket. So when the guy got me to the Terrasse des Epices, or like 50m away from it -they always avoid being too much exposed- he started to negotiate. First he wanted 200, then 100. I gave him like 50 dirhams, which already way too much.

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Beware of over-friendly locals in the Medina…especially at night

He kept negotiating but I stayed firm. So he realized there was no chance he would get more from me…willingly. And this is when they switch for the pickpocket trick. They first shake your hand, then kind of hug you and obviously, this is how they search for your belongings.

Fortunately for me, I had all my valuables in closed pockets in my shirt. So he realized he wouldn’t get anything like this either.

So he shook my hand a second time, but this time with both hands. And I should have realized. But then he just left and walked very fast in the opposite direction.

I thought, well, weird but maybe he’s a bit lunatic 🙂

So I went up the stairs to the roof-top where the restaurant is located. But something kept me wondering about this sudden change of attitude…. And then, I realized that one of my silver bracelet had disappeared

It could have been worst I agree. And let’s say I learnt something that day 😉

And again, don’t be worried and overly cautious because of the bad behavior of a few. Moroccan people are, in the vaste majority, very helpful, welcoming and kind. And I have been scammed in many countries, also in Europe

So I will leave you here for now with the picture gallery. And see you for my last post of the Moroccan Trip. I have curated a selection of the best sunsets I could catch in Essaouira. Click -> here <-

Picture gallery

Marrakech Morocco Traveler Guide

Marrakech Morocco Tourist Guide