DO & SEE: MARRAKECH
First and foremost, DO get lost. The streets are alive and wailing to be wandered in Marrakech but be sure to buy extra data for GPS, study map-reading beforehand or bring pockets full of breadcrumbs with you because you will inevitably get lost. It's the best way to discover the city! Find a visible or popular point of interest near your starting destination so that no matter where you end up and how little English those around you speak, you will eventually get pointed back in the direction of where you came.
DO get henna. If you're a sucker for pretty things and pushy people like me, you will get haggled into it within your first fifteen minutes in the main square and you will pay too much money for it but you will LOVE it more than you care about those other things so sit your tush down on a bucket and go elaborate or go home. Of course, for the rest of your trip, the entire city will know you're a tourist so if you commit to henna on day one, get your poker face ready because you will have to negotiate your way through the rest of the trip.
DO stay at a ryad instead of a chain hotel. The unique, intricate and elaborate designs of these breathtaking boutique bed and breakfasts make for a totally one-of-a-kind Moroccan stay. It's also well worth tripping around to SEE other ryads where you can enjoy meals, drinks or a traditional hammam.
DO try a hammam. It's weird and hot and slimy and at the time feels like very mild torture but it's incredibly cleansing for the mind, body and skin. You'll feel cleaner than you thought was physically possible. I highly recommend the spa at Riad Elisa...a full traditional hammam, tea and one hour massage only costs 90 USD.
DO take a cooking class. The food in Marrakech is simply delicious. Most dishes are comprised of vegetables, meat, and bread but the array of herbs and spices that go into each dish make the cuisine anything but basic. With influences from native Berber, Arab, Jewish, and French cultures, it is no wonder the flavors are so interesting. Famous for their complex combinations of sweet and spicy, your taste buds will tingle with recipes that you can take home from your travel destination. I recommend La Maison Arabe for a stunning backdrop to your cultural culinary enlightenment.
SEE a local berber village. The Berbers are North Africa's native culture and many Berber descendants live in villages that function very traditionally to this day. Large families live together in homes they have built, thriving and surviving off of the land and the crops and livestock they have grown. If you are invited into a Berber home, definitely DO drink the tea and biscuits they offer. They're delicious and it is impolite to decline their offerings. I recommend an ATV or camel ride that stops by a Berber village along the journey. It's a very cool, authentic experience you won't forget!
SEE the souks. It goes without saying that you absolutely must DO a lot of shopping but just seeing the chaos and colors alone is an adventure. The banter, bartering, and bustling never seems to stop in the souks and you must have your wits about you, never dallying for too long or you will get roped into a deal you didn't even know you were a part of.
A few quick DON'Ts for shopping in the souks:
- DON'T look remotely interested in anything you want to buy.
- DON'T settle for anything more than half of the initial price you are told. You can usually get whatever it is for less than half of the initial "price tag".
- DON'T buy something from the first stall you see it in because you will see the same thing ten times in the next ten seconds if you continue walking. Find the best price and the right salesman to get your hard earned dollar.
- DON'T buy anything without touching it. Ornately embellished pottery may be clay wrapped in painted tin foil, beautiful tanned leather may be glorified plastic, antique silver may be cheap aluminum. DON'T let your eyes trick you into buying something off the shelf that gets put straight into a bag because looks can be deceiving. Smoke and mirrors is the name of the game in a souk but that's a big part of the fun!
Marrakech is by far one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places I've ever had the fortune of traveling to and our short time there was so well spent. If it wasn't already on your bucket list of places to go, hope you've added it after reading this!