Set against its backdrop of the Atlas mountains, Marrakech is a North African destination like few others, its souks, squares, historic buildings and displays of Islamic art accounting for much of its fascination and charm, as does the medina’s maze of narrow passageways concealing ‘hole-in-the-wall’ businesses of all kinds, artisanal workshops and, secreted away behind anonymous facades, some beautifully atmospheric riads.
To get the most out of a visit to Morocco’s tourism capital one should be aware of certain customs and basic facts of local life so, listed below, are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Marrakech.
What is the currency in Marrakech? The currency in Morocco is the Dirham. £1 sterling is approximately 13 Moroccan Dirhams (MAD) and €1 euro is approximately 11 Moroccan Dirhams. As tipping is widely practised it is as well to have a supply of change.
How much should I tip in Marrakech? This depends, of course, on the nature of the service provided. In restaurants and bars it is usual to tip around 10-12% or, for some small service, it might be 5 or 10 dirhams. (Individual tipping at Les Borjs de la Kasbah is not encouraged or expected although a tip box is available at Reception for this purpose and proceeds shared out among ALL non-management staff on a fortnightly basis). Tipping taxi drivers is not de rigueur although, as ever, it is up to you. Make sure the taxi you take has a functioning meter; many taxi drivers prefer to quote a fare rather than operate on a meter but this is illegal and, often, unnecessarily expensive.
How should I dress in Marrakech? In the centre of Marrakech, you can dress pretty much as you would at home. In many places women are still expected to display a significant degree of modesty compared with western norms so strapless tops and very brief shorts are generally frowned upon, especially in more rural areas and villages. As a rule, women are expected to keep their shoulders covered while shorts should be knee length. A degree of discretion and consideration for the sensibilities of local people is advised and appreciated.
Should I employ a guide in Marrakech? You can make your own way around the Medina, either aimlessly or with a guidebook (for example, the Marrakech rough guide), but we would recommend using a professional tour guide, especially if visiting time is limited. Les Borjs de la Kasbah can make recommendations from a small pool of experienced, qualified guides at the usual (reasonable) rates, typically 400 dh for half a day for one or two people, 250 dh pp for a small group.
Is alcohol available in Marrakech? Wines and spirits are widely available in Marrakech and throughout Morocco but are found most readily, as a rule, at hotels and international restaurants. Quite a number of smaller Moroccan restaurants are alcohol-free, especially those around the main square and close to larger mosques. The bar at Les Borjs de la Kasbah stocks all well known spirits as well as locally-produced beers and wines. You can even try one of the speciality house cocktails!
Is Marrakech safe at night? A question often asked although rarely is this an issue here. As in any other city common sense should prevail. The medina in Marrakech is probably safer than most European cities, although one should be aware of the occasional presence of handbag snatchers operating from motor scooters, mainly in Gueliz, the modern commercial quarter. A specialist Tourist Brigade Police force is responsible for the safety of tourists.
Is the water safe to drink in Marrakech? Thanks to the proximity of the Atlas Mountains and a rapidly improving infrastructure, safe, clean water is as much the norm in Marrakech as it is in the developed world. Although locals, including resident Europeans, drink the tap water without concern it is suggested that short stay tourist visitors stick to bottled water, using the tap for brushing teeth only.
What is the electrical voltage in Marrakech? As in the UK, Marrakech voltage is 220 volts, but with standard European 2 pin sockets.