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Terrance Talks Travel:

The Quirky Tourist Guide to Marrakesh

Terrance Zepke


Copyright © 2018 by Terrance Zepke

All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, magnetic, and photographic including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher. No patent liability is assumed with respect to the use of the information contained herein. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

All queries should be directed to: www.safaripublishing.net.

For more about the author, visit www.terrancezepke.com and www.terrancetalkstravel.com.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Zepke, Terrance

Terrance Talks Travel: The Quirky Tourist Guide to Marrakesh

1. Travel-Morocco. 2. Adventure Travel. 3. Marrakesh. 4. Marrakech. 5. Travel-Middle East. Travel-North Africa. 7. Marrakesh Guidebook. 9. The Medina-Djemaa El-Fna. 10. Marrakesh Attractions. 11. Sahara Desert. 12. Casablanca. 13. Fez. I. Title.

First edition


CONTENTS

Introduction

Getting There & Getting Around

Fast Facts

Terrance’s Top Ten Picks

Touristy Things to See & Do

Best of Marrakesh

About Accommodations

About Marrakesh

Annual Events & Average Temps

How to Pack

Titles by Terrance


INTRODUCTION

Recently, Marrakesh has become a favorite destination for adventure travelers and backpackers. Adventure travelers are thrilled at all there is to see and do in and around this ancient city. Backpackers love how far their dollars and euros will go.

I was trying to think of how to describe to Marrakesh in this introduction when I was overwhelmed with all the things that popped into my head.

That’s because Marrakesh is an eclectic mix of ancient cultures, arts, architecture, and adventure. It is a bustling, thriving, frenetic place filled with fortune tellers, snake charmers, storytellers, henna ladies, colorful souks, singular hammams and riads, extraordinary mosques, remarkable museums, distinctive gardens, huge palm groves, and much more!

Marrakesh is one of the oldest and most charming cities in Morocco. It is my favorite city. Casablanca was disappointing. It was just another big city with lots of high rises. It was not at all what I was expecting. Fes was all right, but it is also a city that’s a bit too big, and its claim to fame is all its foul-smelling tanneries.

But Marrakesh is just right. Its 1,000 years of history includes epic battles, empires, imperialism, sultans, sharifs, harems, sheikhs, and Berbers. With its Arab and North Africa influences, Marrakesh is the best of Morocco. And it is the perfect place for the quirky traveler.

You will explore royal tombs, picturesque palaces, ancient ruins, and historic medinas. But Marrakesh is not about tours and tourist attractions. While it has plenty of these things, it’s about the senses. You will smell many aromas, including exotic spices and dyes. You will see chaotic medinas, narrow alleys and labyrinths full of colorful souks, donkey carts, tuk tuks, and young men racing through town on scooters. You will hear the call of prayer and vendors begging you to come see their wares. You will feel welcome and a bit awestruck in Marrakesh.

Read on to discover some amazing adventures, exciting experiences, and intriguing places. Get ready for a Moroccan adventure of a lifetime…

FYI: Marrakesh is the English spelling while Marrakech is the accepted French spelling. France once conquered Morocco, so that influence is still prevalent throughout Morocco, especially in Marrakesh. More than half of the population speaks French and many signs are written in French. Their outstanding infrastructure is largely thanks to France. French colonization had a big, positive impact on the Kingdom of Morocco.


GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND

Morocco is located in northern Africa. Border countries include Algeria, Spain, and Western Sahara.

DISTANCE FROM MARRAKESH TO…

Sydney, Australia=11,238 miles

Johannesburg, South Africa=7,581 miles

Delhi (India)=6,385 miles

Lima, Peru=5,481 miles

New York City, New York=3,643 miles

Cairo, Egypt=3,043 miles

London, England=1,879 miles

Paris, France=1,596 miles

Lisbon, Spain=816 miles

By Air

There are many airlines that offer international flights into Marrakesh. However, British Airways, Ryanair, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, and EasyJet offer the most flights. The lowest fares are typically found on EasyJet and Ryanair. They fly into Marrakech-Menara Airport. The airport is ten to fifteen minutes from the center of Marrakesh. You will need a passport and will have to fill out an embarkation card to present upon arrival, but no visas are required. http://www.onda.ma/en/Our-Airports/Marrakech-Ménara-Airport.

For airport transfers, the bus or a taxi is the best way to go. The bus is very cheap and the taxi is a fixed fare for the two-mile ride from the airport to Old Town.

FYI: Watch your step. There are donkeys, carriages, vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, and scooters everywhere in the city. Use caution when crossing the street!

By Land

If you’re planning on driving to Marrakesh, that is a viable option. It is about a six-hour drive from Fez or 2 ½ hours from Casablanca. It is fairly easy and safe to navigate all of Morocco except for within the city limits of Fez where driving and parking is a challenge. That said, driving rules in Morocco are loose, to say the least. The lines dictating lanes mean very little. People drive fast and seemingly reckless. Honking means many things, such as getting ready to pass you, in the process of passing you, you’re not going fast enough (you will also be aggressively tailgated), or any number of other reasons. Watch out for donkeys, camels, and goats crossing the road or on the road. As you enter a town, be aware that locals often congregate on or close to the road. They seem oblivious to traffic. Be prepared for delays and some road chaos and you’ll be fine. Oh, and you need to be able to drive a manual (stick shift), as there are few automatics in Morocco. Technically, you need an International Driver’s License to drive in Morocco, but no one asks to see it, including the police and rental car agencies. However, if you want to be on the safe side, you can get one through AAA. And just like in the U.S., there are speed traps, so pay attention to other drivers and you’ll quickly learn when and where to slow down. You could simply go the speed limit consistently, but you will probably get run over if you do so!

More Options

Morocco is less than ten miles south of Spain. High speed ferries rip across the Strait of Gibraltar to reach Tangier, Morocco in less than thirty minutes. From there, you can take a train, bus, or car to Marrakesh. https://www.frs.es/en/

FYI: Tangier is the oldest city in Morocco.

The trains are operated by ONCF. They have routes to all the major cities, including Marrakesh. You can choose first or second class tickets. Second class tickets are cheap, so this is a great option. https://www.oncf.ma/en/

If traveling by train from London, Paris, or Madrid, here is what you can expect:

London to Paris by Eurostar (train)→Paris to Madrid by Trainhotel Elipsos (train)→Madrid to Algeciras by Altaria (train)→Ferry from Algeciras to Tangier→Tangier to Marrakech by Tangier-Marrakech Night Express (train)

Trains run frequently from Casablanca to Marrakech. It is a three-hour trip and the cost is nominal.

GETTING AROUND

Buses are widely available and cheap. The bus stations are centrally located in the heart of Marrakesh. They offer routes all over Marrakesh and throughout Morocco. These are privately operated buses while Supratours are city buses. https://www.marrakechairporttransfer.com/ctm-bus-station-marrakech/

Taxis are a good option in Marrakesh, so long as you know a few things beforehand. First, there are two types of cabs: Petit and Grand. Always negotiate the price before getting into a Grand Taxi. Always insist on the cabbie starting the meter in a Petit Taxi. Petit taxis are best for getting around Marrakesh, while Grand Taxis are good for day trips and airport transfers.

Horse-drawn carriages are also available. You will find them waiting for tourists all along Jemaa el Fna.

Rental cars are available at the airport.

By foot. Even if you utilize buses and taxis, you will be walking a lot. Wear good walking shoes!


Documentation

Tourist visas are not required for Morocco (except for residents of South Africa) unless you plan to stay for more than ninety days. Passports must be valid for six months from the date of entry into the country. Since requirements can always change, it is best to check to make sure you don’t need a visa, http://www.moroccanconsulate.com/visa.cfm. You must also show your return ticket or ticket to your next destination. Upon arrival at the airport you should receive a stamp in your passport. Make sure that you get this stamp because it can be hard to leave Morocco without proof of entry. For some reason, the stamps do not get entered on occasion.

An International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever is required if you are coming from an infected area within the last five days.

About Money…

It’s best to convert money at the exchange bureaus in the airport for no or low fees. There are some bureaus in the city center, but it is best for convenience sake to exchange at the airport. There are some ATMS and bureaus near the main square, but disreputable people keep an eye on these places and will come up to you after you have completed your transaction and offer to guide you or take you somewhere. Carry only what you think you’ll need each day. Don’t pull out your money on the street. Have a bit of money (Moroccan Dirhams) handy to pull out if you buy something, but keep the rest secure elsewhere on your person or with your traveling companion. You will need lots of small bills or coins for tipping, which is expected everywhere. Be sure to spend all your dirhams as it is illegal to take the currency out of the country.

FYI: Be advised that Pickpockets are prevalent in Marrakesh and Fez. Keep most of your money and documents in a hotel safe or similar. Wear a money belt and pay attention when walking the streets, especially in crowded places.

Be warned that when taking photos, everyone expects a tip, especially in the Jemaa el Fna. You must ask permission first (“Mumkin nkhod tsowera?”, which means May I take a picture?) and pay $1 for the photo. Some will haggle for $2 or more, but stand your ground. You need to work out the price before you take the photo.

Don’t pick up anything in the stalls unless you want to buy it. The Moroccan attitude is “You touch it, you buy it.” You will be pursued if you put it down and walk away. If you are interested, point to the item and ask how much. Say no thank you (“La Shokran”) if you don’t want the item and walk away.


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