- Nia Alexander Campbell
The Atmosphere in Marrakech
What You’ll Find in This Post:
Observations about the atmosphere, people, and transportation in Marrakech
A mini celebration
Posing in front of an archway, surrounded by greenery
This post is kind of different in that it’s a collection of the few observations I made in Marrakech that didn’t have a specific place in any of my posts, but nonetheless I thought characterized the atmosphere of the city. Think of it more as a mixed bag of miscellaneous thoughts that may be of use to people new to the city, a collection of puzzle pieces that may give you a rough idea of the city’s vibe before I take my deep dives into things like safety, art, and shopping. Maybe this post – which I see more as a list – will minimize some culture shock or help you figure out what to pack. It’s a relatively chill post, so let’s begin!
Apples on display at a market
It was an odd, though somewhat familiar experience to be at a “nice” part of town – with classy hotels, fountains, restaurants, etc. – then to walk a few blocks and be in a totally different environment, the part of time where locals lived and shopped, the part of town with few tourists.
Parts of Marrakech within walking distance of my 5-star hotel
That said, it was interesting to watch the transition of people from tourists to locals within a fifteen-minute drive. The majority tourist demographic were old, white Europeans.
I heard much more French spoken this time around than I heard the last time I was in Marrakech. I also heard one group of tourists speaking Spanish and, because that’s the only other language I’m familiar with, that was exciting to me.
From what I observed, you can wear whatever you want in Marrakech. I saw people in jean shorts, hijabs, spaghetti straps, kaftans, hoodies – it really didn’t matter, so it seemed. However, I still think it’s respectful to dress in whatever way the country deems appropriate if you’re a foreigner. Morocco is a majority Muslim country and I feel that as a guest in the country, men and women should dress modestly. As an American, I can understand how dressing modestly may sound intimidating, oppressive, and uncomfortable, but I promise it isn’t as scary as it seems. Just wear pants that cover your knees, a t-shirt or a quarter-length blouse, and perhaps avoid clothes that show too much shoulder, chest, or midriff.
I didn’t notice anyone give the classic “what the hell are they wearing?” stare, possibly because Marrakech is so touristy that a variety of dress is kind of the norm. But still, I think its healthy to ask yourself why you want to wear what you want to wear if you’re in a place that doesn’t typically rock those kinds of threads. Sometimes the reason is a genuinely good one, and sometimes it’s not. Reflection is the key here. However, all notions of respectfulness aside, wearing revealing clothes in an area where that’s just not a thing will make you stand out in a crowd, which isn’t always the best thing when you’re new to a foreign country.
Another thing for tourists that tourists can expect is a lot of familiar fast-food restaurants. I remember the first time I was in Marrakech, there were some children hanging outside the restaurants and one kid asked if he could have the rest of my soda. I gave it to him.
I also rode past a woman peeing in public. No one paid her any mind.
A potted cactus along the sidewalk and the pattern carved into some sidewalk tiles
I thought the airport was nice, or at least nicer than the one in Rabat. This isn’t to say the Rabat airport wasn’t nice, it’s just that I liked the Marrakech one more. Marrakech was also very walkable, something refreshing after having been in Doha for the past few months (a city that is awkwardly un-walkable in many areas because of the construction). Marrakech was also very green, another refreshing thing after having been in the desert for so long. And of course, how could I talk about Morocco without mentioning the motorbikes? There were many, many, many motorbikes.
Motorbike in front of the Koutoubia Mosque
Street with mountains in the distance
Seeing the mountains in the distance as the subtle backdrop to everything was awesome. I don’t remember seeing them at all the last time I was in the city and this time I saw them everywhere. It was pretty magical.
Man walking in Marrakech
I went to Marrakech in November and the weather was nice, much better than the 100 F degree heat I encountered in May the first time I went. It did rain off and on, which forced some days into the low 60s/high 50s, but other days were very comfortable. The thing is, when I returned to Qatar my sinuses drained because the weather was so strikingly different. When I left Qatar it was hot, then in Morocco it was kind of cold, and when I came back to Qatar the temperature had begun to cool as autumn finally set in. All this temperature hopping was over the course of a single week. Funny thing is that my sinuses also drained the first time I was in Morocco, likely due to the animals in the souq in Fes el Bali.
Standing in front of a blue tiled fountain, tilework at the Centre De Formation Et De Qualification Dans Les Metiers De L'artisanat, and a mural nearby
Marrakech was colorful, a word I’d use to describe every city in Morocco that I’ve been to. However, the first time I visited the country I considered Marrakech the least colorful of the five cities I visited. This time, however, I was able to explore a bit more and enjoy the color offered by all the tilework and the few murals and sculptures existed around the city.
Flags around Marrakech
There were a lot of flags and a lot of palm trees. The flags struck me the most, possibly because I just wasn’t used to seeing that kind of aesthetic having grown up in the U.S. Back home I had only seen flags at government buildings, car dealerships, and craft stores during the Fourth of July.
Some stores near El Badii Palace
Similar to the first time I was in Morocco, I noticed a cool combination of old stuff and new stuff. There was architecture that seemed to have been built decades ago, other stuff probably a few years ago, and other buildings built centuries ago.
Mules in the market and chickens being carried on the back of a pickup truck
Mules a’walkin’ and chickens a’cluckin’. I am not sure what else to say about this one.
Camels near the construction site
Something I can say a bit more about, though, are these camels I saw. These sun-kissed ungulates are some of the first things I saw in the city, just hanging out on a construction site next to a palm tree leaning so low it nearly dusted the ground. There were about twenty camels here and I am still curious to know what exactly was going on.
And that’s it, you all!
I hope my assorted collection of thoughts about the atmosphere in Marrakech was beneficial to you in some way, hopefully just as useful as the more specific posts I will be writing about over the next few weeks. Something special about this post though is that it is my 100th blog post! Yes, I have written 100 posts about Morocco, Qatar, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, and the U.S. It is a pretty incredible feat that hasn’t fully sunken in yet, but maybe one day I will write a post just reflecting on all the posts I’ve written. But for now, I’ve got a few more stories to tell about Morocco!