– Follow me!!!
– But the taxi driver said to turn right…
– No no, your hotel is this way!
We look at each other, the taxi driver didn’t quite know where was the Riad but refused to let us go when we said we would find another driver and acted like he knew. Then dropped us here and told us to turn right at the end of this street. Now this tall man, dressed with a long dirty vest, came out of nowhere, literally grabbed the paper with the address of the Riad from our hands and started showing us the way to the left… It’s night time, the streets look insane, there aren’t shops or names in the streets, it looks like the taxi driver was wrong and we are lost in the middle of the Medina in Marrakech.
To make it worse, another man also decides to tell us the way, he walked very close to us and he smelled of alcohol.
We don’t know what to do, but one thing I know: this stranger is going to ask us for money in the end, so I hope he will take us to the right place to get his tip.
– But how far is it from here?
– 5 minutes. (He said),
So we followed him…
Over 5 minutes passed, still walking behind him, but we aren’t there yet. He said another 5 minutes. Ok then. And later on he said another 5 minutes again. It looks like we are walking in circles, so we decided to not follow him anymore. Uncertain on what to do we spot a blond couple and we rushed to ask them for help. A danish couple, very nice took us to their Riad nearby. The 2 man followed us. We entered the Riad and the receptionist is very nice and helped us. So he sent this boy to show us the way. He must have been no more than 13 years old.
When we stepped into the street again, the first man was still waiting for us! He insists to show us the way, even with us refusing and both him and the boy walked in front of us, kinda arguing. Less then 5 minutes later they turn into a dark narrow alleyway and eventually we arrive at this dead-end street, the Riad is here! In the end both man and boy asked us for money… we first refused, but they are very very persistent and the man is getting more stressed. We ended up giving some to get rid of them, it truly felt like being robbed.
When the Lady in our Riad finally opens the door to us, we felt relieved. She serves us mint tea and explained us how we can just ignore the beggars because they eventually go away. We then start to realize we weren’t prepared for this city at all!!
This was our, rather scary, first impression of Marrakech, but we were not defeated and soon we realize this city is truly amazing!
But if it’s your first time in Marrakech, here are some tips I wish I had been told or I had actually paid more attention, while preparing for this trip:
– If you plan to stay in the Medina, arrange someone from the Riad to pick you up at the airport, especially if you arrive after sunset. If you stay outside the Medina, the taxi should easily drop you at the door of your Riad. My mistake was that I didn’t realize most streets in the souks are closed to cars, so the taxis couldn’t drop us at the door.
– Don’t trust your memory to read maps: the streets look nothing like you imagine, there aren’t names and in most streets in the medina cars aren’t allowed. To be honest, even with a map in our hands we got lost in the market once.
– When you change money at the airport, make sure you have plenty of notes of 10 and 20Dh. Always carry some small change, in case you find yourself in such situation. Give the right amount of money to pay for the taxi, as the taxi driver didn’t give us change back.
– Ideally we shouldn’t give money away to beggars, including children and some websites even tell you how much is enough to give, because it’s the tourists that feed this costume of giving money away “just to get rid of them”, but it’s wrong, although I know it’s hard as they are soooooo persistent. I would be glad to tip someone that helped me. But they make it look like you have to pay them for the time they spent with you, even if you didn’t ask for help.
– Walk with confidence, even if you are lost. Don’t stare. If you hesitate you call for attention, if you carry a paper like a reservation from the Riad, you attract attention, well especially if you carry hand luggage and look lost.
Hope this will help 😉
More of Marrakech and details of the best road trip into the countryside coming soon! xx