Since the 1900s, the city of Gueliz was built to be the centre of modernised cultural conversation in Marrakech; a hub of transport, arts positioning, shopping, nightlife with high-end restaurants as a destination for those seeking the taste of exotic. Straight after Moroccans gained independence, the locals moved to a city built for foreign inhabitants. This July, it was a holiday destination for myself and a friend.
In recent years, Gueliz has become catnip (no pun intended) for a breed of tourism, with the wealth of beautiful architecture, mint tea, shisha pipes and cultural endeavours which continued to build momentum through the mode of word of mouth, blogs, and Social Media. Itching for an escape to a different continent, top ten on the Africa travel list, with a cheap deal enticing my wanderlust, it made sense at the time to pack my bags and head to North Africa. Aside from the monetary issues experienced, the thrill of going there wore thin with the dressing standard becoming an issue when shopping for outfits, the racial discrimination that people have experience, amongst other things had me on edge. Nonetheless, I was excited to leave the familiar face of London and head to a country that housed beautiful landscape and culture.
Blindside by the fact that you have to pay tourist tax (400 Moroccan Dirham for two) for staying at the hotel for four days, filling out details of your destination at the airport for security reasons, I began to wonder what else is in store for me, and my travel buddy. The hotel we stayed at was incredibly beautiful, luxurious, providing buffet breakfast that has a variety of meals to choose; full English breakfast or Moroccan theme breakfast was part of the option. A hotel entertainer was there playing the latest hits from 2018, providing activities for tourist to do and much more. It was a haven shielding us from the bustle streets of Gueliz and its residents.
So here are lists of information you need to know to equip you for your holiday to Morocco if you want to avoid feeling disappointed about wasting your hard-earned money. It’s better not having expectations than getting disappointed because of your expectations.
Currency and Cost In Morocco
The monetary unit in Dirham (Dh) the UK £1 = Dh12.42. The US$1 = Dh9.42 and Euro = Dh11.40. Established shops accept credit and debit card while the smaller shops, markets, street vendors and cabs only accept local currency. Before arriving in the country, I expected things to be cheaper. Due to the unexpected outpour of tourist visiting the city frequently the price has skyrocketed so be prepared to spend more than expected. Perhaps, it’s expensive because I stayed in the city that’s often compared to the ‘Oxford Street’ of Marrakech.
Driving In Morrocco.
Idon’t recommend putting your life at risk driving the streets of Marrakech. The drivers don’t abide by the rules and regulations of the road code, which can make it hazardous to your health. Even as a pedestrian, I have to be in front of their vehicle to make them allow me passage before crossing the road.
Marrakech is the same time zone as the UK.
Like the American culture, tipping is expected and encouraged in Marrakech.
Let Haggle Be Second Nature
Born and raised in Nigerian till I was thirteen has embedded the haggle code in my genes which subdue when I arrived in London. Visting Morocco brought out the haggler in me. Thanks, Grandma! When shopping in the markets, getting a taxi you’ll have to learn to haggle to get a fair price without getting cheated by those trying to make a living. I’m aware that people have opinions on paying full price for the sake of charity, in the end, they’ll be the one getting the better deal than you as they tend to inflate the price because they are aware you’re a tourist that’s clueless. Remember, haggling is an integral part of their culture.
Every country has a strict dress code than others. While women are free to express themselves in whichever style interest them in other countries, the women are expected to dress conservatively in Morocco. In the eye of a feminist, the sexism flag is waving high. Remember, Morocco is a Muslim country and its part of their culture, and religion to dress conservatively. Also, covering up will help avoid unwanted attention and prevent harassment from the men. When visiting the mosques, you need to cover down to your wrists and ankles. For the ladies, it helps to have a shawl/scarf handy in case you need it.
Avoid Local Guides
To know a city, it’s always best to navigate your way around the country using the maps and places found on the internet. However, we get lazy and opt for a local guide to gain inside perspective. When in Morocco, its best to be wary of the local guides try to haggle for the best prices as some of them have built relationships to get a cut from sales made on your behalf.
Water, Clean Water Please.
In general, it’s advised to buy bottled water when travelling to a different country for health reasons. Morocco is no different. The best place to get bulk bottled water is at the supermarket. It’s cheap and will last you for the duration of your holiday.
Languages To Expect In Morocco.
Hands on my heart, I wasn’t aware that Moroccans speak French and Spanish. I ignorantly thought they only spoke Arabic and Berber. It was a shock to the system when I realised it. For the majority of my stay, I had people that spoke all five languages, Arabic, Berber, French, Spanish, and English at my hotel who was able to translate on my behalf.
While I was on holiday in Morocco, I quickly picked up basic sayings;
Hello: Assalamualaikum (Peace be with you) Something I was aware of growing up with my Muslim grandma, and extended family. To respond back, you say Mualaikumsalam (Peace be with you too)
Thank You: Choukran
No, thank you: La Choukran.
It’s Raining Cats.
I despise cats. I’m not a fan of them. But I ended up feeding one while I was dining at a restaurant. You have to prepare yourself when you’re not a cat person. Morocco is a cat-safe haven. If you’re allergic to them, don’t forget to pack your allergy medicine.
The nightlife in Morocco is absolutely bussing. It felt like I was on a night out in London. The only exception is Women get in for free at any hour while the men pay at the door. P.s, I was made aware that the clubs have prostitutes looking for their next client. I don’t judge or give a fuck. Also, you can acquire drugs, Hashish, an extract of cannabis that gets offered to you on the streets. Despite being a Muslim country, they offer Christmas, Halloween and many more holiday celebrations to tourist in the part of the country I visited.
Abolishing the right to smoke indoors in the UK is the best thing they’ve done for the country. As a non-smoker that’s in a permitted indoor smoking country, I was praying my lungs were able to withstand the smell. Coming back to London, I could still smell the cigarettes in my wig, and clothes. It was unbearable.
On several occasions, I genuinely wish I was a man when I was in Morocco as Sexism ruins supreme in their country. Some of the men can be rude and aggressive towards you. Aesthetically, Morocco is a beautiful country. However, you have to be aware of your surroundings and understand their rules and regulations to help put you in the right mindset which will set your expectations for you. Also, make sure you have a pen in hand as you’ll need it at the airport to fill in a form. It’s all for security purposes.