A veritable hub of entertainment, the main square of Marrakech never fails to leave an impression but many other aspects of this historic city have changed little since medieval times. The sights, sounds and even smells of the place are likely to stay with you forever.
Moroccans are famous for their hospitality and most will delight in helping tourists on their way but here are some basic tips:
* Learn a little Arabic. A little effort goes a long way (and will certainly boost your bartering skills). ‘Es salaam alaykum’ – hello or, literally, ‘peace be upon you’. ‘Afak’ – please (if you’re talking to a woman it’s ‘Afik’, to a group, ‘Afakum’). Finally, ‘Shukran bezzef’ – thank you very much.
* Carry some loose change. Tipping is an integral part of Moroccan culture and certainly helps in all sorts of situations. Tipping between 5% and 10% of a restaurant bill is the norm. Also tip taxis, guides and small boys (5 or 10 dirhams) who offer their services for helping you find your way out of the complex maze of streets in the old parts of town.
* Barter. Bargaining in Souks is also an integral part of local culture. When tempted to make a purchase, simply ignore the starting price and come in at something like 50% of what is asked. When that is declined, as it will be, go to 70%, perhaps, but if the trader doesn’t budge then just make to walk away. The chances are you’ll be called back and offered the price you wanted. Most sellers will be surprised if you fail to enter into the spirit of the bartering game.
* Accept Mint Tea. If you are offered a glass of sweet mint tea by a loca,l or more probably, tradesperson in Marrakech (not least in carpet emporiums) it is polite to accept. The correct protocol is to be seated and to slurp the tea to show your enjoyment - the process should last at least 10 minutes.
* Riad. Stay in a Riad in Marrakech, a characterful courtyard house built around an internal garden with all its windows looking inward. Les Borjs de la Kasbah is one such, actually five ’dars’ (small townhouses) and 2 riads combined, although this is essentially a hotel, with all the services you’d expect, including 25 staff, a bar, restaurant, spa and pool, albeit very much in the style of a traditional riad.
* Take a Grand Taxi. ‘Grand taxis’ (almost always Mercs) are a great way of getting around Marrakech but you may have to be prepared to share it with up to five others. Alternatively, you can buy the extra spaces for yourself. A cheaper option is the Petit Taxi, usually a small Renault. A taxi ride into the centre of town would normally be in the region of 20 – 30 dirhams.
* Use official tour guides. Don’t engage a faux guide (false guide) to visit the town, i.e those who approach you with offers of a guided tour. Official guides never solicit business in the way. You can book one through a local tourist office or hotel.
You can book Les Borjs de la Kasbah by clicking on the link: luxury Riad in Marrakech .