There. I said it. I didn’t like Marrakech.
Now before you come at me with torches and pitchforks à la Gaston going after the Beast yelling, “but you’re a travel blogger!”, know that not every place visited is going to be a dream fantasyland. Also know that as for Morocco, I LOVE MOROCCO. Morocco as a whole could be one of my favorite places, I just didn’t care so much for Marrakech. Which is truly unfortunate because it’s pretty much the tourist epicenter.
(Before I go into detail, I’ll say that we didn’t visit other cities like Fez, Chefchaouen or Casablanca. We spent four days in Marrakech then hit the road to the Sahara so we spent more time in the towns east of the Atlas Mountains like Ouarzazate and Merzouga. You can read my tale of Morocco here.)
Here’s my rundown of why I didn’t care for Marrakech.
There is no rest
Once you leave the comfort and tranquility of your accommodation, most likely a riad in the Medina, your senses go haywire. And not always in a good way. The second, and I mean the second, you step outside the doors onto the street you are bombarded by locals who want to show you “the way” to wherever it is you are going. (“The way” possibly not even being correct; they occasionally misdirect you on purpose.) Even if you tell them a hundred times you know where you are going, they will follow you and insist you are in fact going the wrong way and that they will show you…always for a few dollars of course. It’s very hard to shake them off because I didn’t want to be rude, but I also just wanted to be left alone to walk with my husband in peace and enjoy the sights. That doesn’t happen.
Wherever you walk, locals will approach you to try and help show you somewhere or to try and sell you something. Now, don’t get me wrong and roll your eyes and say that happens at plenty of places around the world. Yes! It does! I’ve experienced plenty of it. Typically you can give a kind “no thank you” and be on your way, but not in Marrakech. I’ve never ever experienced the kind of…I’ll say it…harassment…by locals in my life. They actually get angry if you tell them no thanks or try and walk away faster. I had a child come up to me and try and sell me something or other, and I nicely told him that I didn’t want whatever it was and then I turned around. He actually said “fuck you” to me. He was about 10. Okay kid.
Another time, we were sitting at a restaurant overlooking the square. I was adjusting my camera settings at the same time a group of local teenagers were doing some kind of acrobatic performance and I suppose I happened to be pointing my camera in their general direction. After they were finished, which I hardly even noticed because I was playing with my camera, they came up to our table and demanded I give them money because I was filming them (not true). I told them no and they yelled at me.
This was constant.
The flipside: Your riad will always be a very welcome oasis after Marrakech days. It’s the perfect place to relax away from all that hustling.
It’s impossible to browse
The souks in Marrakech are something to behold. Everywhere I looked I saw something sparkly or velvety or leathery or just downright beautiful. I wanted to buy all the things….but I couldn’t because no one would leave me alone. You cannot just stroll around and look and touch and decide casually if you’d like to buy something. If you are walking through the souks and stalls, the second you make even the slightest eye contact with its owner you will basically be physically dragged into their shop with lots of “No buy! No buy! Just look!” and then eight seconds later “How much will you pay?”
Dude. I just want to look around.
I desperately wanted to buy soooo much more stuff but I didn’t because I don’t particularly like feeling attacked while I’m shopping. I did manage to grab a few lanterns, ceramics and hand carved wood things which I love, but it was a stressful experience getting them. Again, it’s not like this was my first rodeo with haggle shopping stalls, it was just more like an extreme sporting event than fun.
The flipside: No matter the stress, you will eventually walk away with something amazing. My lantern started at $45 and I got him down to like $15 or something insane like that.
The Djemaa El Fna is kind of sad
The Djemaa El Fna is the center square in the middle of the Medina. During the day it’s full of people with animals on chains and drugged up cobras. It is pretty upsetting. You can hear the hypnotic sounds of their flutes, but I didn’t want to go anywhere near it. Not because I was scared of the cobras, but I just didn’t want to see it and be forced to pay money to something so horrible. The same with the other animals. There are little monkeys on chains. I just stayed away.
The flipside: If you stay away from all the sad animals, you will find delicious orange juice stalls. Don’t miss!
There isn’t much to DO
Apart from shopping and eating and looking at things, I found there wasn’t much to do. There are a few museums and the Jardin Marjorelle is really gorgeous, but it’s really just a bunch of shopping and eating…and that’s even if you can get any shopping done with all the hassling. After a while, not only we were tired of just walking around, we were tired of being followed and pestered to death.
The flipside: What I wasn’t tired of, however, was all that eating. Morocco has some of the best food I’ve ever put in my mouth and mealtimes could never come around fast enough.
Basically, It was almost painful to have to leave our riad every day and once it was time to get our rental car and head for the Sahara, we were more than willing to go. I have a love/hate relationship with Marrakech. I’d maybe give it another shot, but I feel like I got everything out of the city I could and the experience itself probably isn’t going to change. I do want to go back to Morocco though and spend more time in the smaller desert towns we drove through, those seem more my vibe.
Have you been to Marrakech? What did you think? Do you think I’m out of my mind or totally right? Let me know in the comments!