Thursday, February 21, 2013

your ultimate guide to marrakech

I PROMISED to make you guys a guide, so that you are prepared for a great adventure. So instead of blabbing on about unimportant details, I'm getting straight to it:

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PREPARATIONS

- Buy a guide (book) and read it though. It's always a good idea when traveling to a foreign country.
- Buy a map.
- If you plan on staying more than three months, you have to get a visa (not the card, noob). No. You have to get a visa in order to stay in Morocco for more than three months. Anything LESS than three months -- well, then you don't have to apply for one.

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ARRIVAL

- When arriving, keep in mind that you have to get though immigration. It might take a while. Have your passport and address through your stay ready.
- Exchange money. The currency is called Dirham, but it's closed - meaning that you can only exchange to Dirham once in the country.
- Get ready for noise, shouting and dirt along with horses, donkeys, cats, dogs, scooters and cars....

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INFO

- Marrakech can be divided into "two" cities. The new and the old. Fairly simple. To get from one to another, count on grabbing a cab.
- They speak Arabic and French (as it was once a French colony). Most people speak English fairly well, too.
- Bargain every single price they offer you. Example: Salesman wants 100 Dirham. You offer 40 or maybe even 30 -- depending on what you are purchasing. You end somewhere around 60. Nothing more. EVER. They know that you're a tourist. When bargaining, be firm but smile and have a friendly attitude. This gets you FAR.
- If they steal in Marocco, they get punished badly. It's frowned upon to steal other people's properties, but that doesn't mean you have to flash all your jewelry. 
- When you see women walking around with needles filled with red fluid... Don't worry. It isn't blood (like I thought.) It's henna. I didn't try it, but I'm sure they're good at it.
- One of the most sacred places in Islam is placed in Marrakech: The Medina. Many muslims pilgrimage to this place - so keep in mind, that you are in a very sacred place to some people.
- Don't wear hot-pants or show your cleavage. Wear pants and a long sleeved shirt and always keep a big scarf with you - some places require that you cover up your shoulders and hair. Either way... Believe me: You will get tired of the long stares and the comments, so you will want to cover yourself up.
- Drinking water from the tap is a no-go. Only drink bottled water.

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PLACES TO GO

1. Le Grand Café de la Poste - really great food for really great prices. A very big restaurant, beautifully decorated and super, super elegant and chic. Eating here may be expensive compared to eating in the old city, but compared to European prices... It's really cheap. GO there.
Address: Boulevard el Mansour Eddahbi, Marrakech

2. Comptoir - also really great food but slightly more pricy. Still, it's cheap for European standards. A huge, old brasserie turned into a chic restaurant with belly dancers at 10 and up-to-date clubbing music after 12. AMAZING experience. Oh... And get the chocolate fondant. It's best I've had in my life. I swear. And I have had... A LOT.
Address: Avenue Echouhada, Marrakech

3. Cafe des Épices - a great little café situated in the souk, where you can find a slightly more quiet and calm atmosphere. Also, you will find other tourists coming here, if you want a bit more of a homy touch. It's not a café in a classic sense - you sit outside on stools in the sun and eat a nice sandwich (the kefta one is really great).
By night it supposedly opens up a great rooftop terrasse, but we never got that far. Next time!
Address: Derb Rahba Lakdima, Marrakech

4. Jardin Majorelle - an amazing garden maintained by Yves Saint Laurent (well, now he's dead) and his partner Pierre Bergé. Read about it in this blog-post.
Address: Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech

5. Les Bains de Marrakech - for the ULTIMATE hammam-experience. I wrote all about it in this blog-post.
Address: 2 Derb Sedra, Bab Agnaou, KasbahMarrakech

6. Riad le Jardin d'Abdou - the hotel we stayed in for the first couple of days. Pictures and descriptions here and here
When we return to Marrakech, we will DEFINITELY stay there. This hotel is placed in the old city (the Medina, to be specific) just like Café des Épices, Jardin Majorelle and Les Bains de Marrakech.
Address: Arset Bel Baraka 2 & 3 Derb Makina, Marrakech

7. Hotel La Mamounia - UN-BE-LIEVEABLE. Hotel. Luxury. Wow.
No, really. I'm not recommending this because I will come back to stay for several nights. I won't. Because we can't afford it. But I am quite sure, that you can pay a certain amount of money to be able to lie by the pool the entire day, although you're not a guest at the hotel. Fairly sure, yes. You can also pay to have breakfast there.
And THAT, my friends, I am coming back for (the pool-hanging). I really, really am.
Photos and descriptions here.
Address: Avenue Bab Jdid, 40 040 Marrakech


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EAT & DRINK

- Cous cous (the best of your life for sure)
- Kefta (a meatball sorta thing)
- Orange juice in the souk (but beware: evidently, they put tap water into it). We had no problems with our stomachs, and we drank freshly squeezed orange juice every day. Four Dirham (0,30€).
- Briouates - a pastry (not dessert) thing filled with different stuff like chicken, goat cheese or something else, wrapped in dough. They are AMAZING. Anywhere I had them, they were great. Moroccan specialty!

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All there is left to say is: ENJOY. And contact me if you have any other questions!

Much love and gros bisous
Thea






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