You will not get very far without money — especially not in Marra-Cash. Some of the most frequently asked questions regarding money are how you can organize your travel finances during your trip and how to get Moroccan Dirham at attractive rates once you’re there.
There are several ways to approach currency exchange issues. Most of them have both advantages and disadvantages. In the past, it was common to order and pick up the desired amount of foreign exchange from your local bank. But today no one does it anymore because of the cumbersome process. You are only allowed to take up to 1000 Dirham with you to Morocco and you are probably not to keen on keeping an eye on your cash permanently during your trip.
100 Moroccan Dirham banknote
Traveler’s cheques have lost their popularity as well, since their use is equally complicated and too expensive. European cash can be exchanged at many places but not at very good exchange rates, and you would still have to carry around too much cash. So the only option left is plastic money. Read more
Backpackers will not be immune to Marrakech’s magic. Even though the city is relatively expensive in comparison to the rest of the country, you will be able to have a great time on a small budget there. How this works, you will find out with the following tips on low-budget holidays in Marrakech.
Marrakech can roughly be divided into three areas: the gardens, the ville nouvelle (new town) and the historic centre, the so-called medina. While the ville nouvelle is characterised by broad avenues lined with modern buildings with glass fronts, the atmosphere in the narrow, maze-like lanes around the central square Jamaa el Fna (“assembly of the dead“) is much more oriental and traditional. So if you want to come close to the orient, this is your place to be!
Most low-budget-accomodation can be found in the medina. Usually, it will be simple, small hotels in different conditions. The rooms in most budget hotels do not include private bathrooms — you will usually share the facilities with the other guests on the same floor. Showers may have to be paid extra. Many of those hotels are located in magnificent town houses or riads which are decorated in a much richer way than the outside may pretend. Often, you will find little paradises behind the red brickearth walls and almost all hotels have a roof terrace from which you can listen to the muezzins’ polyphonic calls to prayer.
Morocco is a real photographer’s paradise with its special light, the bright colours and the unique motifs you find there. Yet, before you start putting the fascination of this country into pictures, you should be aware of a few things.
Photography and Religion: Aniconism in Islam
Islam, as well as Judaism, proscribes of pictures of humans and animals. Even though this proscription cannot be directly drawn from the Quran or the hadith, Islamic jurists have established legal conceptions which are rather traditionally than religiously founded and regulate the depiction of living beings in different ways. Thus, the interpretation of aniconism reaches from fundamental rejection (no living being may be depicted) to limited approval (living beings may be depicted as long as they are not idolised religiously). While it lead to an overwhelming importance of calligraphic and ornamental patterns in Islamic art, aniconism does not seem to play a major role today.
Yet, you should keep in mind that some Muslims still respect aniconism. So, in doubt it is better to ask for permission before snapping, especially in more remote and more religiously influenced places in Morocco. Read more
When is the best season for holidays in Marrakech. In short: It definitely is spring and autumn: it is agreeably warm, neither too hot nor too chilly. However, Marrakech can also be worth a trip in summer and winter.
The former Imperial capital is located close to the mountain range of the High Atlas which divides the country into two climatic zones: the mediterranean climate in the north and the arid south. Although there is a light to moderate breeze from the Atlantic Ocean all year round, it can be very hot in Marrakech in summer. Read more
Traveling to an Islamic country and experiencing the magic of the Thousand and One Nights together – as a homosexual couple? This sounds more dangerous than it really is. Even though Marrakech’s clubs and hotels do not openly use labels such as “gay” or “gay-friendly” for advertising, it is the new “Pink City”, having overtaken the formerly international zone of Tanger.
(Photo: Travelguide Marrakech)
To begin with: According to Moroccan law, homosexual acts are illegal and will be punished severely. Near Rabat, for example, two young Moroccans were sentenced to four months imprisonment each in 2013 because of homosexual contacts. Strongly influenced by religion and patriarchal structures, Moroccan society is characterized by traditional values, and is, thus, rather homophobic. Nevertheless, homosexuality is tolerated to the greatest possible extent, as far as it’s lived out discreetly. In apparent contrast to this are the many men who are holding hands while walking through parks or the medina. They are not gay, but communicating with their friends in the traditional manner.
In Morocco, there is little room for exchanging caresses in public. Hetero — as well as homo — or bisexual couples should be discreet and save living out their passions for the privacy of the riad. In spite of these repressive conditions, a gay scene has grown in Marrakech. Its most famous representative was fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who chose to settle down in Marrakech. Together with his partner, he renovated the Jardin Majorelle, where he was buried later.
Clubs and night life for a gay audience
In the 1990s, the number of Europeans in Marrakech increased as the international jet set discovered the city. Soon, the word of a gay night life in the South-Moroccan imperial city spread. Read more
Unfortunately, as a travel destination, Morocco is far from being handicap friendly: High kerbs, a lot of road holes and a lack of escalators or ramps render travelling for people with disabilities rather strenuous. If you want to discover Marrakech in a wheelchair, what you need is love of adventure, humour and thorough planning.
Fortunately, Morrocans are very helpful towards people with disabilities and often offer assistance without being asked – and without expecting the otherwise obligatory tip. Yet, what you will hardly ever find in Morocco are ramps and elevators, traffic lights with acoustic signals, information in Braille or accessible buses. What you will find instead are obstructive kerb heights, a lot of road holes and lifted manhole covers. These little obstacles may make travelling difficult but not impossible – especially if you are accompanied by someone who supports you.
Woman in a wheelchair on Jemaa el-Fnaa (photo: Travelguide Marrakech, 2014)