Food & Drink
Moroccan food is delicious. It mostly comprises of tagines, cous cous or barbequed meat and fish with salads and bread.
When you tire of it, there are a number of other cuisines on offer. Many restaurants serve basic Italian food (pizza and pasta), while a few specialise in cuisines such as French, Thai or Japanese.
Prices vary enormously, from very cheap if you eat with the locals, to very expensive - 70 Euros a head or more.
If you're brave enough (and can afford it) it's fun to try the whole spectrum. If nothing else try to spend one evening in the main square, Jemaa El Fna, and eat at one of the many food stalls set up each day. It's a unique experience and we've never heard of anyone suffering as a result, honest!
Alcohol is served in most, but not all restaurants. In particular those that open on to Jemaa El Fna don't tend to serve alcohol. If you're not sure it's always best to ask first.
Wine is mostly Moroccan and is of a reasonable standard, some restaurants do do a wider selection, but it can be expensive.
Weather / Clothing
When we first visited Marrakech we thought the sun always shone and a good selection of t-shirts was all you needed to bring - how foolish!
Actually, most of the time it's true... but not always.
Firstly, it's a desert, and like all deserts, the temperature drops rapidly after sunset. Obviously it depends on time of year but, with the exception of June - September, you'll need something warmer than a t-shirt in the evenings and if it's winter it can go down to freezing... so bring warm clothes!
Secondly, we lied, it's not really a desert at all... and as such it rains and when it rains it really goes for it! Be prepared for a wet day or two at some point in your stay (the chances drop in the summer, but it can still happen).
And the last point is that it's typically a very dry heat, this is great news because you really can move around in 40 - 50C heat without it sapping your energy. The downside is that you can get dehydrated without even noticing it, so in summer make sure you drink lots and lots of water.
You can not possibly visit Marrakech without buying something in the souks (markets) that it's so famous for.
But, then, neither can you come to Marrakech without being ripped off! It's part of the experience. You can haggle all you like, but you'll rarely get anything at it's true value.
Just remember to keep it light hearted, it's a game after all, and to walk away if you're really not sure.
Much of what you see will be mass produced for the tourist market, but by and large that still means hand made and if you're happy with the quality go for it. At the higher end of the market you can find some genuinely good stuff (both genuine antique and modern reproduction) at reasonable prices.
Be warned, most shops and stalls will convince you that shipping their goods back to your home country is no problem, but our experience shows that it can be a frustrating and expensive business. Please make sure you're really clear about shipping before you buy. If necessary arrange your own shipping while in Marrakech.
If there's a special purchace you want to make Najat will be happy to advise you as best she can.
Moroccan Dirhams are the local currency. You can't get them outside of Morocco, so you have to get them while you're there.
As they depend on you spending as much money as possible, it's not too difficult to get hold of them!
Both ATMs and Exchange booths are available in the arrivals hall at the airport. There are also a good sprinkling of ATMs, Banks and exchange booths throughout Marrakech, although you won't find many in the Medina, apart from around the main square (Jemaa El Fna) and on a few of the major roads.
Personally I would recommend using the ATMs or larger banks, rather than the smaller exchange booths. The ATMs have a withdrawal limit of 2000 Dirhams a day.
Credit cards are widely, but not universally accepted. You can normally be confident that the mid to high end restaurants and shops will take credit cards. Some western banks automatically block the use of credit cards in Morocco unless you've specifically requested them not to before you arrive. It's certainly worth checking.
There is no point in taking Dirhams out of the country and you can't use them in the Duty Free shops at the airport, so don't withdraw much more than you need! Unless, of course, you feel like being very generous with your tips for the staff at Dar Habiba, which would be very much appreciated :-)
Marrakech has a mixed bag of cultures. It's a real melting pot of North African and Arab, but the French have stamped their mark in many ways, especially in the newer parts of the city.
Languages typically spoken are Berber, Arabic and French. Many people who work in the tourist industry will also speak English to some extent, but most others won't.
As you'll already know it's a Muslim country. That means you'll be woken at about 5.15am when the first call to prayer of the day kicks in (If you're like me, you'll learn to love it and feel somehow disappointed when you've managed to sleep through it).
In Marrakech itself western standards of dress are largely accepted, and even adopted by some Muslims. To be properly respectful both men and women should wear clothes that cover their legs and arms, but no one is going to worry if you don't.