Enjoy the Beauty and Hospitality of Marrakech

Hi all ! We just came back from our fantastic 5 day trip to Marrakech in the mid of April, 2019. What makes Marrakech attractive is the beauty and uniqueness of the city with its riads, traditional market / souk alleys, delicious Moroccan food, historical and cultural sites, and the hospitality of the locals.  It is a very recommended destination to be put on your bucket list.  We’d like to share some tips and information based on our recent Marrakech trip that hopefully could be useful for your future reference.

Walking down the alleys in Marrakech

Entry without visa for many nationalities 

Morocco allows passport holders of many countries to visit without visa.  For example Indonesian passport holders can enter and stay up to 90 days in Morocco (see the reference here).  We needed to fill up an immigration card.  Just so you know, it took us quite a long time at the queue at the airport immigration, it was around 1.5 hours after we landed, and 45 minutes before we flew out of Marrakech.

Drone is banned

Currently drones are banned in Morocco.  Bringing a drone without declaring it will result in the drone being seized by customs and you will not be able to get it back.  If you declare it to the customs, the drone will be held by customs while you are in country, and you will be able to collect it prior to leaving Morocco (read more reference here).  We just knew about this rule when we landed and read a notice in front of the customs lane, hence we reluctantly  declared and handed our drone to them.  As we collected our drone back after 3 days, we had to pay 201 Dh as penalty (around 20 Euro), but the good thing was we managed to get it back.

Getting Moroccon Dirham

Bringing cash (Euro / USD) when travelling to Morocco is the best and recommended.  However withdrawing money from ATM is actually quite easy and practical.  From our experience, the exchange rate of withdrawing from ATM was slightly lower at around 10.2 Dh per Euro compared to the money exchange at around 10.6 Dh per Euro (April 2019).  ATM machine could dispense up to 2000 Dh each time.  You will find ATM at the airport and also quite several in the city.  If you want to exchange cash, note that the exchange rate is better in the city than at the airport.  Avoid buying Dirham with credit card or debit card at the airport, as from our experience we were charged around 10% of the Dirham amount that we bought.

Enough for the tips, now let’s see the interesting things in Marrakech!

Staying in Riad

Enjoy the luxury and royalty of the riad.

If you want to experience the real stay in Morocco, choose to stay in a riad than a hotel.  A riad is a traditional Moroccan luxury house with an open garden and yard in the middle of the house.  The word “riad” is originated from Arabic that means garden.  A riad is different from a hotel or house, as has less than 12 rooms, but has more than 4 rooms (the house with less than 4 rooms is called a dar). There are a lot of choices of riads in Marrakech medina surrounding Jama El Fna Square.  We stayed for 4 nights at Riad Casa Lalla.  We took a riad arranged taxi from the airport until Jama El Fna Square, and there was a riad arranged porter that picked our baggages and guided us to the riad that was around 3 minutes of walking through the souk alleys.   From outside, the riad looked like a fort with the big door, however as we entered inside the feeling was turned to luxury traditional  Moroccan house, with the beautiful and enchanting architecture.  The hospitality of riad was started with a glass of warm mint tea.  There is roof top in the riad where we could relax.  In the morning, the riad served quite a big portion of breakfast for each person, and a different menu every day.  The riad staffs were very friendly and helpful.  We also felt very safe staying here, probably as the riad was built, isolated from outside with high walls.

Big room in riad with big bath room

Big breakfast with varied menu

Enjoy The Sunset at Cafe Rooftop around Jama El Fna Square

Jama El Fna Square is the center of medina with many stalls mainly selling dry fruits, orange juice, jewellery, and many folklore entertainment from locals such as snake charmers and traditional music.  During the night the square gets even more crowded.  Such a scene like this is best to be enjoyed just before sunset from the rooftops of several cafes located in the surrounding the square.

Jama El Fna Square prior to sunset
Atmosphere of Jama El Fna Square during the night

Wandering Through Medina and Souk / Traditional Market Alleys

The old town medina surrounding Jama El Fna Square has many local houses with Moroccan architecture, stalls, riads and traditional markets or souks.  It is very amusing to wander around the alleys in between unique red walls, beautiful windows and doors of riads and local houses.  You will discover the colorful souks with merchandise and souvenirs, clothes, jewelry,  carpets, women accessories and many more here.  There are also local food stalls, fruit sellers (don’t forget to buy Moroccan clementine!), and herbs / spices.  Last but not least, donkey carts and old motorcycles are also  among the scenery.  We could spend hours strolling this labyrinth while choosing and bargaining souvenirs.  What made us feeling comfortable was the the sellers who we found usually calm,  were not aggressive and treated the tourists politely.  Apart from speaking Arabic and French, most of the sellers could also speak English.  Make sure that you bargain the price of items you want to buy, as they usually offer initial price around 2 – 3 times the normal price.  There are one or two stalls of souvenirs that have fixed price.


Historical Sites, Museums and Art Galleries

There are many historical sites, museums and art galleries – both antique and modern in Marrakech.  One of the most interesting and must visited site is Bahia Palace, located at southern side of medina that was built during 19th century. In this palace, we could enjoy the spectacular beauty of more than 150 rooms with colorful ceiling ornaments and stunning carved pillars, walls, including middle courtyard and garden.   The entrance ticket to Bahia Palace costs 70 Dh for an adult and 30 Dh for a child.

We also visited Dar Si Said museum which is located not very far from Bahia Palace.  This museum displays many jewelry, textiles, carpets, ceramics  and weapons from history of Berber, the indigenous ethnic group of most of North Africa nations, and the ethnic origin of majority of Moroccan people today.

Traditional musician show at one corner inside Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace
Beautiful carpets displayed at Dar Si Said museum
Koutubia Mosque and Minaret in Marrakech

Food – Don’t Miss Tagine and Couscous

After exploring the medina, take some rest in restaurants or food stalls that spread over entire medina.  The Moroccan special dishes that you need to try are tagine and couscous that are rich with herbs and look very tempting to eat.  I would recommend two restaurants that serve very delicious food at reasonably good price :  Bakchich Cafe dan Le Cantine des Gazelles.


Chicken cousous
Chicken Tagine

One Day Trip Exploring Atlas Mountain and Camel Ride

All the tourist sites in Marrakech medina are generally within walking distance.  We will need to rent a car with a guide for a tour outside Marrakech.   We were actually very keen to join the Sahara desert tour, however time did not let us as it would take at least 2 days and 1 night.  One of the day tours that we could do is an Ourika Valley tour to Atlas mountain which is around 70 km outside Marrakech.  Before reaching the location, there are several places that we could stop to go camel riding (costed us around 150 Dh per person for half hour, you can bargain).


Camel riding in Berber style !

After reaching the location, we must be accompanied by a guide to climb the Atlas mountain to reach the waterfalls (the guide asked us to pay around 45 Euro for around 2 hours trip).  We needed around 30 minutes to reach the closest waterfall, and we stopped there to take photos and enjoyed some warm mint tea before we continued to decent back.  There are also 6 other waterfall locations if you have more time and want to climb higher up.  Note that it will be colder when you ascent up, and there will be a lot of boulders to climb.  Along the path to the waterfall location, we could see the Berber village, and many local stalls selling souvenirs, and Moroccan argan oil (natural oil).  After we spent couple hours on mountain hiking, it was time to take rest and enjoy the delicious Moroccan dish for lunch in the village of Berber – of course, Tagine !


With Argan oil maker
Scenery from the Atlas mountain
Greeted by locals at Berber village.
Concluding our trip to Ourika Valley with Chicken and Beef Tagine, accompanied by our guide.

That’s it from our unique and interesting trip to the Red City of Marrakech!



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