Food stalls at Jemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakech, Morocco

Why You’ll Love (And Hate) Marrakech

As a photographer, there are few more exhilarating places in Morocco (and maybe the world) than Marrakech. A bustling city painted entirely in a smoky orange-pink colors, filled with lively souks and vendor stalls, Marrakech is exactly what you expect Morocco to look and, at least initially, feel like.

It’s also an amazing city for gastronomy, whether you sit down to enjoy a traditional Moroccan couscous or tajine, and whether you wash it down with sugar-sweet mint tea, or by smoking hookah in one of the many bars in Jemaa el-Finaa square.

On the other hand, Marrakech can be a stressful place to travelโ€”and not just because so many of the locals seem so intent on scamming you.

“The quality of life there isn’t good,” my Moroccan friend Waleed explained to me, when I asked him why he avoided going to Marrakech whenever possible. “The government limits new construction to maintain an ‘authentic’ feel, which keeps people poor and their standard of living low.”

This is also, I assume, why so many Marrakech residents seem to harbor disdain for tourists, which seethes out through their mouths, even as they’re putting on smiles and trying to peddle their goods and services. In some cases this even manifests itself in harassment or violence, particularly toward female tourists, particularly blonde ones.

I don’t have a lot else to say about Marrakech, other than to conclude that I believe the negatives are almost equal to the positives. I do believe, quite firmly, that you should visit Marrakech if your travels take you to Morroco, if only to come to your own conclusions about the city.

In the meantime, enjoy some of my favorite photos I took in Marrakech!

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Leave Your Daily Hell   Filed under: Morocco

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is the author of 722 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

elissa December 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Marrakech was certainly not a city I’d return to, despite my love of Morocco and it’s lovely people. My reasoning for that are the exact reasons you wrote about, you were dead on the money with each point you made! In most Moroccan cities I found that simply ignoring the aggressive locals usually worked well. Sometimes they may follow and yell but, in general, it would cease in good time. In Marrakech (and Fes too, but Fes was a brutality all it’s own that I won’t even start on in a comment lol) I felt a constant stalking presence that made even US military men (that I met in Rabat) feel uncomfortable. It’s sad to me, because I understand WHY they push tourists so hard, but no amount of excuses can make up for how they treat the them there.

An option that I exercised was getting a hotel room in the New City. They have shops with super friendly, and not pushy, owners and there is a general feeling of safety. One still has to be careful of course, but it is more laid back. The hotels in the new city also have pools – usually – which is not allowed inside the Medina due to mud brick buildings that would be damaged in the unfortunate event of a leaking pool. In the Marrakech heat a pool is a lovely oasis. Basically, the medina is a must see, but non-locals may be more comfortable spending time/sleeping outside of it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Robert Schrader December 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Thanks for the reply to my post! I am glad I wasn’t alone in feeling that way. I didn’t get to explore the new city, sadly.

marci February 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm

OK, this wasn’t the idealized version of Marrakech I’d hoped for, but this one is probably a lot more realistic and accepting/understanding this will probably help make sure I am not let down if I do visit! Thanks for your insight, I look forward to reading your travels!

Neil @packsandbunks May 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm

No way!? That guy seriously said ‘Fuck your mother’ … that is shocking!

I went last December (2011) and cant say I experienced anything like that. My girlfriend had women grab her and try draw henna(?) on her once or twice, but that was the worst it got. We stayed in a local Riad and loved it. A long weekend was enough though.

Robert Schrader May 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Interesting! I have to say I was surprised, given Morocco’s reputation as a liberal Muslim country. Glad your luck wasn’t the same as mine!

traveller January 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm

there are buses in marrakech. alsa.ma/en/marrakech for route info.
i’ve also found fes to be just as bad with the touts. sort of ruins the experience.

John April 6, 2013 at 9:29 am

Straight up – Marrakech is an ugly crap hole with nothing other than markets and merchants selling crap you don’t need. Spare me this “diversity” BS, the only two cities in Morocco worth visiting are Casablanca and Rabat, the former being a metropolis and the latter being a good looking city. But in all honestly, it’s good to go to Marrakech, Fes or Meknes to see something different but don’t expect anything out of it other than a giant market of hustlers.

Abdelkrim Elmachraa May 6, 2013 at 6:15 am

Sorry John , You seem to be a business minded person !! Apart from the Hassan2 mosque there is nothing worthy of seeing is casablanca ! same goes for rabat .they are both modern cities !! Money seems to pravail in your mind !! Tourism is about seeing things you don’t have in your own country ! You must have had a bad experience in Marrakech that let you hate it !! sorry then !

tudorescu karina daniela October 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

I’ve been to Marrakech twice and I felt really safe. Been to LA once and I feared for my life. Small differences between the Moroccan and US hustlers:
the Moroccans just insult you, the US ones insult you and threaten you to death

Kkaebsong. June 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm

I’m Moroccan, and I live in Marrakech, and I’d like to say that most of the things that you said here are completely true. However, you had some facts wrong. There ARE buses in Marrakech, lots of them, actually. However, they’re always full to the brim with people.
Also, you said that you went out to discover the “real” city, and was annoyed by hagglers and tourists alike. I’d just like to say that if that was the case, then you were nowhere near the real city. ๐Ÿ™‚ Although I doubt that the real city, the way I mean it at least, is something you wished to see.

Robert Schrader June 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

How do you know? I love to discover “real” things hehehe.

Kkaebsong. June 20, 2014 at 8:06 am

Well because it’s not so much like the medina. It’s more modern and people seem to only like Marrakech because it feels like they’ve traveled back in time. But Marrakech, if you leave the medina, is not old fashioned. Most of the shops in the medina don’t exist at all in the rest of the city.

Robert Schrader June 23, 2014 at 8:03 am

I bet not! In a way, I guess the medina only exists for tourists.

Travel & Lust June 25, 2014 at 3:36 am

Hi Robert, thank you for sharing your personal experience on Marrakech! We will take in account your experience and do an itinerary based on some of your information when we get the chance to visit. However, our team at Travel&Lust did have the chance to see Fez, Meknes, Moulay Idriss, Volubilis etc. and had such an amazing experience! Hardly anyone ‘bothered’ us and we actually got some amazing deals! We fell in love with Fez (Fes) and can not wait to be back!!!

Guest859 July 26, 2014 at 2:30 am

This is a well written article. I had similar experiences when I was traveling. Morocco has some nice places to visit and beautiful sites to see. Although you will be so on guard of people trying to take advantage of you, that it will hurt your overall experience. Majority of Moroccans are friendly people. The Moroccans that you are having money transactions with are usually the bad ones. I felt that many people see you as a walking ATM and if they didn’t get the most money they could from you, it was their loss. There were multiple occasions that I was over charged on items in my bill. After three weeks backpacking in Morocco I suggest to everyone that is wanting to visit only go for a week or on a guided tour. Also visit Turkey before going to Morocco. Its a beautiful country with even more to offer. You will also be less on your guard of people trying to rip you off. I understand that people will try to scam tourist everywhere but in morocco it is very prevalent. Morocco can be a fun place to travel but only for a limited time. Marrakech, Essaouira, Rabat and Fez are the cities to visit. Be respectful and understanding even a little Arabic goes a long way.

Robert Schrader July 26, 2014 at 8:19 am

Thanks for your comment, Guest!

Saharawi fighting for freedom August 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Tourists Urged to Boycott Morocco about western sahara occupier

Mouad El Kortbi September 20, 2014 at 6:56 am

I totally desagree, I’m from Casablanca and there is nothing to see here. But I can say that people from Casablanca and rabat prefer to see other cities in morocco like tanger, agadir , ifran or tetuan rather than marrakesh or fes

Robert Schrader September 22, 2014 at 7:33 am

Yes, in Casablanca there is only this huge mosque!

Mouad El Kortbi September 24, 2014 at 5:43 am

Yeah just Hassan 2 mosque and Houbbouss it’s only a half day visit for tourists

James on six continents October 12, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Robert, your experiences and insights about Morocco are very helpful. I do think that what you describe in Marrakech is true of so many places around the globe where tourist hustlers undermine many well-meaning and engaging locals. Egypt was no different; nor was Cambodia: never without a hand in your face asking for $$ for nothing- perhaps not always as harshly as you depict it here, but I appreciate your approach to challenge the challenge of traveling in such places rather than just shitting on it like some in this blog (John). The truth is that the challenges of these places are exactly what makes the experience exciting to explore. Otherwise (John), just get a fucking room at the Hyatt and take a rooftop bus ride above it all so you can watch the locals like fish in a tank. But then again, you can have that same sort of experience visiting a place on the internet, don’t you think? Maybe you (John) and the locals will be better off.

Robert Schrader October 13, 2014 at 6:58 am

Zing.

AnExMoroccanResident October 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Morocco is an Islamist trap, where an Infidel is seen as scum at best. Please do not go there. It is a Hell.

AnExMoroccanResident October 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I’ve just read comments by Moroccans – please ignore them. They are so stupid they would be hard-pressed to tell your their name. Oh, and if you are female, please DO NOT MARRY THEM. They may say they love you but it’s your passport they really love.

AnExMoroccanResident October 22, 2014 at 2:21 pm

And if you doubt what I say… ask them about the universe? Who was Einstein? What is the square root of sixteen? What is hygiene? What is a virus? What is… toilet paper? You wouldn’t believe how stupid these people really are. Ignorant too! Oh… and don’t shake hands with any. You wouldn’t believe what I have witnessed.

AnExMoroccanResident October 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Read my book, An Alien War, on Amazon books. You will learn a lot. You will be shocked, as I was when I moved there.

AnExMoroccanResident October 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm

The King (M6) is about the only guy in the country who wants to move forward. The rest are thieves at best. Corruption is rife. Including the police and government officials. You have no idea.

AnExMoroccanResident October 22, 2014 at 2:33 pm

My last blog is to say the UK FCO will not help you if you are in trouble. Have a look at their web site. It’s full of let-out clauses. They are the real scum. They are only good for Garden Parties for sycophants and social climbers, of which there are many. I was invited (it’s a long story) but refused due to me being an honest hard-working guy. I bought a freezer instead.

AnExMoroccanResident October 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm

And if you do not read any more blogs from me then I can only guess I’ve been beheaded by an Islamist from London. Please learn this religion is EVIL.

Robert Schrader October 23, 2014 at 8:36 am

Eek!

Alex Bellink November 22, 2014 at 2:14 am

“Before I begin this section, allow me to say that Moroccan people are generally extremely friendly and treat Western tourists appropriately”, I hate to say this but I find this statement completely inaccurate. Every single Moroccan who appeared to be friendly always had a reason for being “nice”…. he just wanted money. In a Moroccan’s eyes, Westerners are nothing but walking dollar signs.

“This being said, I experienced and witnessed inappropriate actions and words from Moroccans on more than a few occasions” Now this is a statement that I can agree with. In my time in Morocco I was ripped off, lied to, sexually abused, and made to feel as if I was not even a human being. I was in the country for nearly a month, yet I only met two Moroccans who were genuine and not out for my money, and they were owners of the hotels I was already staying in.

Kim March 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm

Are you serious? Stores in LA threaten you to death?? I’ve been living here for over ten years and most of the things here has price tag and there’s no haggle.

You should stay there, call the police, and file police report for threatening. You can Yelp them as well, business relies on Yelp to stay in business nowadays.

Robert Schrader March 9, 2015 at 9:37 am

Right? Seems a little extreme.

sam March 20, 2015 at 12:22 pm

this is all true , such a shame , beautiful city but uncivilised people

Mark Leitch October 19, 2015 at 1:28 am

Exmorrocanresident hi, just looked but can’t find your book on Amazon! Just bought a property here so interested to see what you wrote. I love the place
.

marrakesh desert tours April 5, 2016 at 4:42 pm

I did the overnight camping trip in the Sahara with my family whith http://www.marrakesh-desert-tours.com/

and it was a fantastic experience! The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. Mohamed was great to deal with when booking the tour and went out of his way to help us. We had a slight hiccup with a collection from the airport and Mohamed got straight in his car and came to our hotel to make sure everything was ok. The camel ride in the desert was a truly unique experience. When we first got to the camels the sun was already down so the ride was a little scary as you couldn’t see where we were going, but the return ride in the morning was amazing! The campsite is clean and the food was delicious. The staff at the camp were lovely and told us some great stories about growing up as nomads in the desert. The highlight was waking up in the desert and watching the sunrise over a hill. This tour was a great cultural adventure!

Toheed April 17, 2016 at 9:08 pm

Hi, everyone hope this might help anyone who wants to visit Marrakech!!! It’s my first and LAST TIME in Morroco and will never ever recommend it to anyone. I had a fight with one lady for no reason. You find lots of beggar who harass tourist for money not only that if you inquire about any time and than you don’t buy it so they get mad on you ( in short don’t go close to anything cause than you have to buy it other wise they swear at you). Most worse someone steal ยฃ700 from my apartment and when I went down to police station they said it’s not enough money to make a report!!!

Robert Schrader May 2, 2016 at 7:00 am

๐Ÿ™

Belbo July 30, 2016 at 3:56 am

Thanks a lot for sharing with us this Morocco Tours informations about things to do in Marrakech ๐Ÿ™‚

Morocco Excursions September 20, 2016 at 9:48 am

Marrakech is one of the most famous cities of Morocco, but its good to visit it for one or to days then its better to join one of the Morocco desert tours to Merzouga desert, Day trip to Essaouira or something diffrent then the noisy Marrakech.

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