Travelguide Marrakech https://travelguide-marrakech.com Travelguide for Marrakech with information about sightseeing, activities, culture, hotels, restaurants and more useful stuff. Fri, 10 Jan 2020 19:06:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-favicon-150x150.jpg Travelguide Marrakech https://travelguide-marrakech.com 32 32 The Anima Garden: A Trip to the “Island of the Blessed” https://travelguide-marrakech.com/anima-garden/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/anima-garden/#respond Thu, 09 Jan 2020 21:04:16 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2884 A trip to André Heller’s Anima Garden is a journey into another world where art and nature are lovingly intertwined. Find out more about the most beautiful garden in Morocco! This breath-taking dream of greenery in an otherwise barren landscape to the south of Marrakech is definitely worthy of being called an island. However, this doesn’t even begin to do justice to what the Anima Garden offers its visitors. The garden can be described as

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A trip to André Heller’s Anima Garden is a journey into another world where art and nature are lovingly intertwined. Find out more about the most beautiful garden in Morocco!

This breath-taking dream of greenery in an otherwise barren landscape to the south of Marrakech is definitely worthy of being called an island. However, this doesn’t even begin to do justice to what the Anima Garden offers its visitors.

The garden can be described as a shady oasis full of unique plants, fragrances, colours and shapes that enchant the senses. Let’s take a look in a little more detail. This little piece of paradise on earth spans three hectares. The once barren, red desert soil at the foot of the majestic Atlas Mountains has been transformed into aplace that invites you to stroll around, marvel and reflect. A more accurate description of the reality you’ll find there is hard to portray without an actual visit.

Breath-taking view in the Anima Garden Marrakech

Breath-taking view (Photo: Anima Garden)

One of the most beautiful gardens in the world

The Anima Garden has been open to the public since 2016. As soon as it was completed, the gates were opened to visitors. Since then, this spot on earth has been deemed to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. If you’re planning a trip to Morocco, a visit to the Anima Garden is a must. It’s also a pretty easy excursion. Free shuttle buses regularly depart from Marrakech to Ourika, 27 km away in a valley with the same name.

When you arrive in Ourika, you step through an oriental gate and enter a fascinating, natural paradise. No sooner will you take your first breath, then it’s time to forget about the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. How much time do you need for your visit? The answer is half a day, maybe longer. Experiencing the Anima Garden is simply a must!

Booking a trip from Marrakech to the Anima Garden
Duration:Variable travel times
Included: Guaranteed space on the shuttle bus, personal greeting
Costs:Approx. 12 EUR
Rating:
Booking:

A unique blend of art and nature. Simply wonderful!

This natural phenomenon doesn’t use any more water than the surrounding farms. The Anima Garden blooms, turns greens and shines in all its glory. It’s a sustainable model and noted for the fact that this project employs around 1,000 people, providing a guaranteed income.

Focusing once again on this garden of paradise, carefully paved, meandering paths wind between exotic cacti and amazing sculptures. The paths are how you find your way as there aren’t any of the usual signs or signposts in the Anima Garden. This is a place where your senses should guide you. At every turn, you’ll be surprised by a new, unusual plant or shrub, placed with great care and attention. The detail of the subtle, harmonious encounters between nature and art are overwhelming. Everything seems to find its natural and right place here.

Anima Garden near Marrakech

(Photo: Kurt-Michael Westermann)

André Heller’s Garden of Eden is definitely staged, but you’ll hardly notice it. The Anima Garden will delight your senses. It’s a place of rest and contemplation, somewhere to draw new energy and inspire and stimulate fresh ideas. The contrast with the garden’s surrounding landscape couldn’t be stronger.

The Anima Garden is a magical place

A brilliant project like this takes time, patience and a lot of hard work. In a detailed interview, André Heller gives behind-the-scenes insights and talks extensively about the hurdles, difficulties and success stories of the time it took to implement his vision. The end result is a garden that not only combines art and flora, but is also an abstract way of presenting the social challenges of time.

You’ll come face-to-face with Rhodin’s thinker, lost in contemplation and facing away from a rusty ark, which symbolises the current refugee crisis. Just around the next corner, you’ll find yourself in an Asian-style pavilion. At its centre, there’s a fountain full of fresh, colourful, fragrant flowers.

Fountain in the Anima Garden Marrakech

Fountain in the Anima Garden in Marrakech (photo: mhobl from Flickr)

On the other hand, the regular dimensioned mirror house looks almost like a mirage and seems to merge with its surrounding bushes, hedges, ferns and roses. A giant mosaic head in the middle of a sea of palm trees is just as impressive, subtly spraying a fine mist of water. With so many impressions and sensations to describe, words alone cannot really portray the true beauty of the place. You really need to go there and see it for yourself, feel and sense the atmosphere and absorb the magic of the Anima Garden.

Culinary delights in the Anima Garden: The “Paul Bowles” café

Even the café has a place in history, named after an American writer who lived and worked in Morocco for half a century: Paul Bowles. He’s known for his work Heaven Above the Desert, which, like André Heller’s Anima Garten, picks up on the failings of western life and artistically depicts the secrets, beauty and limits of the world.

No wonder the food and drink taste particularly good here. Also, the ingredients in the fruit juices, teas and Moroccan pastries served come from the Anima Garden itself. Heller’s heavenly creation follows an all-round holistic concept, which tastes really good and is just as refreshing. This is a welcome tonic after the enriching tour through the lavish, colourful garden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AZTSzT-B2s

Practical information on the Anima Garden near Marrakech

The Anima Garden has developed into a thriving concern since it opened. It’s a real visitor magnet and has also created numerous jobs, bringing new prosperity to a previously poor region of Morocco. André Heller wants to make the most of the potential of the Anima Garden. That’s why the garden hosts regular cultural events.

Directions, shuttle bus and service

Knowing that 27km south of Marrakech, a dream of nature and art is waiting to be discovered is one thing. Having a plan of how to get there is another. That’s why a shuttle bus service was specifically created for visiting the Anima Garden. This takes visitors in safety and comfort to the garden and also creates additional jobs.

This shuttle bus runs three times a day. The journey takes about 40 minutes.

Marrakech Shuttle Bus - Anima Garden
Departure9.30 am11.30 pm2.30 pm
Arrival10.10 am12.10.pm3.10 pm

The collection point for all visitors to Anima is the “Lavage la Koutoubia” car park, behind the famous Koutoubia mosque. Of course, return transport from the Anima Garden to Marrakech is also provided. Buses run four times a day.

Marrakech Shuttle Bus - Anima Garden
Departure10.10 am12.10.pm3.10 pm5.10 pm
Arrival11 am1 pm3 pm6 pm

The shuttle bus service is limited in July and August, the region’s hottest months, when demand isn’t quite as high. During this period, the shuttle bus only departs from Marrakech only once a day at 11.30 am. The return journey starts at 2.30 pm. However, a short visit to this artistic, botanical spectacle is totally feasible in July or August.

Marrakech Anima Garden Art
(Photo: Stefan Liewehr)

Travelling in your own car

If you prefer to drive to the Marrakech Anima Garden in your own car, head out from Marrakech towards Oukaimeden/Ourika. After about 27km, you’ll see a large TOTAL petrol station on the left. After another kilometre, you’ll see a sign to the Anima Garden. Then, you need to drive 500 meters down a gravel road until you finally reach the entrance gates to the oriental garden.

Opening hours and entrance costs

The Anima Garden is open all year round from 9.00 am. to 6.00 pm. However, this paradise on earth is closed during the Muslim feast of Eid-el-Kabir (what we call the sugar festival) as well as the sacrifice festival.

If you want to visit the Anima Garden during your stay Marrakech, I recommend booking a ticket in advance through Getyourguide because daily visitor numbers are limited to 500. The ticket not only includes admission, but also guarantees a place on the shuttle bus. You can present the booking confirmation on your mobile, and don’t need to print off your ticket.

Booking a trip from Marrakech to the Anima Garden
Duration:Variable travel times
Included: Guaranteed space on the shuttle bus, personal greeting
Costs:Approx. 12 EUR
Rating:
Booking:

Tickets to the Anima Garden aren’t cheap, but this artistic monument is definitely worth it. Adults pay 120 DH and young people (12-16) pay 60 DH. There’s no admission charge for young children.

Anima Garden Andre Heller

(photo: Albina Bauer)

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Camel rides in Marrakech https://travelguide-marrakech.com/camel-ride/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/camel-ride/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2019 22:22:33 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2844 You don’t necessarily need to go to the Moroccan desert to enjoy a camel ride. Short excursions just outside of Marrakech give you the chance to experience an adventure on camelback. For example, camel tours are popular as the sun is setting over the Palmeraie.

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You don’t necessarily need to go to the Moroccan desert to enjoy a camel ride. Short excursions just outside of Marrakech give you the chance to experience an adventure on camelback. For example, camel tours are popular as the sun is setting over the Palmeraie.

When you book this type of camel tour in Marrakech, getting picked up from your hotel or riad is included in the price. Then, the driver will take you to Palmeraie, which is north-east of Marrakech and has over 100,000 palm trees .These trees form a beautiful backdrop, but you can see the effects of the drought over recent years. The actual camel ride on the excursions I’m going to tell you about in this article takes about an hour.

A camel ride through the palm grove

After making a booking, you’ll receive a confirmation and precise information about where and when you’ll get picked up. If you’re staying outside of Marrakech, most organisers will also offer transfers from your accommodation at a little extra cost. On the other hand, if your riad is in the medina, your driver will pick you up at the nearest pick-up point accessible by car. The Cafe de France on Jemaa el Fna is a popular meeting place for almost all tours that start in the mornings. Usually, a minibus or people carrier will take you to the palm grove. You can easily spot the vehicles as they’re marked with the company logo.

camel ride in Marrakech

A camel ride in Marrakech

Once you arrive at the palm grove, you’ll have plenty of time to get a really good sense of the place and the atmosphere, as well as take some lovely photos of the camels and surrounding area. Before the camel ride actually starts, a traditional turban is wrapped around your head. This protects you from the sun and makes the whole experience very authentic. Then, it’s time to really hold on tight because sitting on a camel as it stands up or sits down is a really odd feeling.

Time for a break

Once the camel is up on all fours, your ride through the green palm grove will begin. English-speaking guides lead the camels. They also take pictures of the whole group and you and your travel companions. At the end of the ride, it’s time for a break. You’ll enjoy a moment of calm and relaxation in the unique setting of sand, grass and palm trees, which really works like magic. For physical and mental refreshment, traditional Moroccan mint tea is served during the break. After enjoying your tea, your driver will take you back to your hotel or riad.

camel rides with children Marrakech

Conclusion: A camel ride is a great day out

If you want to leave the hustle and bustle of Marrakech behind for a while and go on a short excursion into the beautiful area surrounding Marrakech, camel trekking in the spectacular palm grove definitely offers a relaxing contrast to the lively medina. To enjoy your tour without any worries or concerns, you should definitely go with full-length trousers, sunglasses, sun cream and sturdy shoes. So, nothing will stop you from having a brilliant adventure on camelback!

Please note; this type of camel tour isn’t suitable for pregnant women, people with heart problems or wheelchair users.

 A camel ride into the sunsetA camel ride through the PalmeraieA half-day desert tour on a quad bike and by camel
Special instructions Transfers in a people carrier, a camel ride (1 hour), visit to a Berber village, nomadic clothing & turban, mint tea & waterTransfers, camel ride (1 hour), traditional mint tea, duration: 2 hoursTransfers, camel ride (1.5 hours), quad bike tour in the Agafay desert (2 hours), Berber village, nomadic clothes & turban, mint tea, Duration: 4-6 hours
Price20 EUR23 EUR47 EUR
Rating
Book

(Photos: Annie Spratt)

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Desert Tour from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga https://travelguide-marrakech.com/desert-tour-erg-chegaga/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/desert-tour-erg-chegaga/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2019 22:39:06 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2764 A three-day desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga. This organised tour takes you on a drive through the diverse landscapes of Southern Morocco and you’ll spend two nights in the Sahara. One word of caution though: This trip potentially offers an all-time holiday highlight that’s hard to beat.

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A three-day desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga. This organised tour takes you on a drive through the diverse landscapes of Southern Morocco and you’ll spend two nights in the Sahara. One word of caution though: This trip potentially offers an all-time holiday highlight that’s hard to beat.

A desert trip is usually at the top of many wish lists for travellers visiting Morocco for the first time. That’s hardly surprising, because the sand dunes, the endless horizon, the emptiness, the silence and the starry skies all make for an unforgettable experience. Morocco has two large expanses of sandy desert. The tour I’m going to tell you about in this post focuses on the vast sand dunes of Erg Chegaga, which cover around 150 km². As you approach, it’s plain to see the incredibly impressive landscape that South Morocco has to offer.

Sand dunes in Erg Chegaga, Morocco

The Erg Chegaga sand dunes

On the way to Erg Chegaga: The Atlas Mountains, Ait Benhaddou and Zagora

Depending on where you’re staying in Marrakech, you can either arrange a pick-up in the morning or make your way to the meeting point at Jemaa el Fna. Each tour takes place in a small group (max. 16 people). At the start, we cross the Atlas Mountains by minibus via the Tizi n’Tichka Pass. Even this part is amazing and after just one hour on the road, I already feel like I’m in another country, such is the difference between this place and Marrakech. The scenery and panoramic mountain views are so breath-taking.

Our two-hour break at Ait Benhaddou is better still. The Ksar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and been used as a backdrop for many famous film productions, including Babel, Game of Thrones and Gladiator.

Ksar Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
Ksar Ait Benhaddou is on the way from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga

Passing through Ouarzazate, we continue to the oasis city of Zagora. From here, we travel for a good hour by camel to the first desert camp, which is set up near to a few small sand dunes. The camp is pretty cosy and comfortable and we spend the night in a well-furnished tent, which, of course, we have to ourselves. To make the most of the sunrise from the nearby mountain, we start the next day very early. Our reward is a most spectacular sunrise. After breakfast, we ride back by camel with the group to Zagora.

Desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga
Duration:3 days
Highlights:Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazte, Erg Chegaga, Draâ Valley, 2 nights in desert camps
What to take:A backpack for the camel ride to the first night in the desert camp, a sleeping bag, sunscreen
Cost:from 189 Euros per person
Booking:

Travelling by jeep through the dunes

The tour to Erg Chegaga continues in a comfortable jeep. We learn more about the production of ceramics in Tamegroute, a place made famous for its green pottery works by the arte documentary The Colours of Morocco. After visiting the village, we continue towards Erg Chegaga.

Shortly after M’Hamid, the road comes to an end. A sign indicates that the desert starts here and in order to carry on, you must be adequately equipped for your own safety. This is where the true desert adventure begins. The track leads across the dunes and in some places, you can barely see the way. The driver really needs to concentrate due to the sand, which means the jeep glides slowly through the breath-taking scenery of sun and sand.

Erg Chegaga Offroad
On the second day of the desert tour, you’ll change from a minibus to a jeep

We spend the second night in a desert camp surrounded by sand dunes. This place is far more enchanting than the first desert bivouac, because we’re utterly alone here in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the fabulous sand dunes scenery.

The third day starts with an early breakfast because we want to start our homeward journey in good time. First, we travel by jeep through the sand dunes. Then, from Zagora, we board the minibus once more. Our last extended stopover is in Ouarzazate where we visit the Kasbah Taouirt with a city guide. Then, we make swift progress over the Atlas Mountains and the tour finally ends in Marrakech in the late afternoon.

Organisation, food, accommodation

It doesn’t take long to realise that this tour is very professionally organised and everything runs like clockwork. This is no mean feat, given the different drivers, vehicles and crews in the three desert camps, all playing a part in the success of this tour. The tour guides speak good French and their English is ok. They’re always mindful of your needs and will answer all your questions. The drivers are professionals and drive safely.

Last but by no means least, moving on to the meals and the accommodation. All the hot food served in the desert camps tasted great. I thought that the accommodation was just as positive. The fortified tents near Zagora and Erg Chegaga are very well-equipped, with integral beds and carpeted floors. In the desert camps, you and your companion have your own private tent, guaranteeing you privacy at night.

desert camp in erg chegaga at night
Overnight in a desert camp at the Chegaga

An overview of the itinerary for the desert tour to Erg Chegaga:

1st day

• Departure from Marrakech (minibus)
• UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ait Benhaddou, lunch (2 hours)
• Ouarzazate.
• Zagora
• Camel ride to the desert camp in the sunset
• Overnight stay in the desert bivouac

2nd day

• Breakfast in the desert camp
• Camel ride to Zagora
• Switch to a jeep
• Tamegroute (mosque, pottery, Islamic library)
• Erg Chegaga, lunch in the desert camp
• Continue to a third camp with an overnight stay

3rd day

• Breakfast
• Drive to Zagora (by jeep)
• Ouarzazate, guided tour Kasbah Taourirt (minibus)
• Lunch in the Atlas Mountains
• Arrive back in Marrakech

Desert safari to Erg Chegaga: hints and tips

Luggage tips

I recommend taking as little as possible on this desert tour to Erg Chegaga. The reason is that you load your luggage onto the camels for the first night. The minibus doesn’t go to the camp. Ideally, you’ll have a daypack with your camera, torch, water, towel, sunscreen, toiletries and a warm jumper, depending on the season. Also, I advise taking a light sleeping bag.

Best time to travel

Although you can go on this tour all year-round, I think I’d prefer a three-day trek in the Atlas Mountains in July or August to the sweltering summer heat in Erg Chegaga. Although it’s bearable during these months, September to June offer cooler weather in the desert than in the summer. However, if you go to the desert in the winter, please remember that it can get quite cool at night and you’ll need at least one jumper.

Sunrise in the desert near Zagora, Morocco
Sunrise near Zagora

Booking

You can book this desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga through . During the booking process, you can provide your hotel address to get picked up in Marrakech. You can also do this later if the travel agency contacts you after booking for further information.

Desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga
Duration:3 days
Highlights:Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazte, Erg Chegaga, Draâ Valley, 2 nights in desert camps
What to take:A backpack for the camel ride to the first night in the desert camp, a sleeping bag, sunscreen
Cost:from 189 Euros per person
Booking:

Conclusion: The Erg Chegaga tour will be the pinnacle of your holiday!

Going on a tour to the Erg Chegaga sand dunes is definitely a guaranteed holiday highlight. The journey through the constantly changing landscapes of southern Morocco is just amazing. This stunning spectacle of nature will give you memories of Morocco that you can’t get from cities like Marrakech or Agadir. The highlight of the tour is definitely the second day when you drive by jeep through the Erg Chegaga dunes before finally reaching the desert camp. This night under the stars of the Sahara was just phenomenal.

(all photos: Travelguide Marrakech)

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Car hire in Morocco: What you should know if you rent a car https://travelguide-marrakech.com/car-hire-morocco/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/car-hire-morocco/#respond Sat, 19 Oct 2019 22:40:30 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2729 Renting a car is a great way to discover Morocco independently. With your own vehicle, you can reach remote places that are relatively poorly connected. This article will tell you everything you need to know about renting a car in Morocco.

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Renting a car is a great way to discover Morocco independently. With your own vehicle, you can reach remote places that are relatively poorly connected. This article will tell you everything you need to know about renting a car in Morocco.

There’s no doubt having a car gives you far more flexibility and freedom when exploring Morocco than if you went by bus or Grand Taxi. Many places of interest such as the Valley of Roses or the Ouzoud Falls are often difficult to reach by public transport. Morocco has many local and international car rental companies in many cities. Renting a rental car works very much like it does in Europe. Depending on the rental period, season, insurance and vehicle class, it costs around 10-90 Euros per day.

Visit Erg Chegaga independently in a rental car

Visiting the desert in a hired car in Morocco

Should you rent a car locally or book online in advance?

There are many Moroccan car rental companies such as Medloc Maroc and, if you’ve time and good negotiating skills, you can get slightly cheaper prices by turning up in person than by booking with the renowned international car hire companies.

However, local car hire companies often can’t remove the policy excess amount that you need to pay. Or, if they do, it can work out relatively expensive. In addition, their rental cars are often in a slightly worse condition than those from the major car hire companies. However, they’re cheaper. The big car rental companies are more likely to have several branches in Morocco. Therefore, they can offer one-way rentals at no extra cost.

Offers for renting a car in Morocco

Offer from (Search results for 7-day Car Hire from Marrakech)

Portals such as compare the prices of numerous providers with each other and clearly display the costs and hire terms in the search results. This is a very handy way to get an overview. Under what conditions are rental cars offered? How about extras, for example, sat navs?

What do you have to look out for when renting a car in Morocco?

If you’d like to book a rental car with one of the major providers before you travel, you should carefully study the conditions before making your choice and then be able to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a limit in terms of the number of kilometres you can drive (kilometre illimité) or can you drive for unlimited kilometres without additional costs?
  • Are local taxes (20%) already included in the price?
  • What about the insurance (CDW = collision damage waiver, PAI = personal accident insurance) and the excess amount in the event of damage?
  • If you’re picking up your vehicle at the airport, has airport tax already been paid?
  • Are certain car parts excluded from the partial cover, for example, the tyres?
  • What’s the fuel tank situation: is it fully refuelled or not?
  • How much is it to add a second driver or is this already included in the price?

Car Hire in Morocco

In the Atlas Mountains on the way to Ouarzazate

Don’t cut costs in the wrong areas

Don’t try to save on costs in the wrong areas, as costs aren’t proportionate to the risk: If you’re involved in an accident that necessitates a police report and an unregistered driver was behind the wheel, you’ll lose any claim for damages.

When picking up the car on site, you should take a close look at it and make sure any bumps and scratches are recorded. Not only should you check that the jack, wheel nut spanner and spare wheel are provided and working, but also that the tyres are at the right pressure. Finally, don’t forget to discuss the timing and procedures for returning the vehicle.

You have to be at least 21 years old to hire a car in Morocco. Most international car hire companies set the minimum age at 25 years. In addition, you need to have had your driving license for at least a year.

Car rental, deposit and excess

If you agree on the excess in advance, you’ll be less worried if, during the trip, a few stones fly up and hit the windscreen or the city traffic is a little tighter than you imagined.

However, different lenders have very different conditions. Statutory insurance in Morocco is only for partial cover. The benefits vary greatly depending on the contract. Usually, there’s basic cover against damage and theft. However, certain vehicle parts such as glass, the underside of the vehicle and the tyres may be partially excluded from the insurance.

Existing bumps and paint scratches are usually recorded in the contract during the handover. The excess is deducted for repairing major damage. With a few exceptions, the excess is usually paid in cash or by credit card when the vehicle is handed over. Most international lenders require a credit card to pre-authorise the agreed excess until the car is returned without damage.

Not allowed: A small rental car on a track near in Morocco

Not allowed: A small car on a track near the “Valley of Roses”

“No excess” means that international car hire companies usually don’t require you to pay anything in case of damage. However, this often means taking out additional insurance. When you turn up, the car hire companies will often ask for a deposit, which is retained in the event of damage and will be refunded later in Europe.

So, you rent the car without an excess, even if you have to pay a deposit when you turn up which, depending on the provider and vehicle value, can be between 500 and 1000 Euros.

Tips: Traveling in a rental car in Morocco

  • Avoid night driving and only go out in daylight
  • Always comply with the speed limits and traffic rules
  • Driving on tracks is strictly prohibited by most hirers
  • After heavy rain, some minor roads may be impassable
  • Car garages can be recognised by the sign “auto électricité”
  • Get a road map, for example, the Michelin 472
  • Research prices with booking portals like to get cheap deals
  • Stick to the slower driving speeds in Morocco, the results of the Michelin Route Planner are more realistic than those of Google Maps

Discover Morocco in a rental car!

Discover Morocco independently with a rental car!

(photos: Travel Guide Marrakech)

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Alcohol in Morocco https://travelguide-marrakech.com/alcohol-morocco/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/alcohol-morocco/#respond Wed, 16 Oct 2019 15:37:55 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2704 In comparison to buying alcohol in Europe, doing so in Morocco is a little more complicated than you might imagine. However, you’ll get there in the end! Here’s an overview of where you can generally buy alcohol in Morocco and particularly in Marrakech.

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In comparison to buying alcohol in Europe, doing so in Morocco is a little more complicated than you might imagine. However, you’ll get there in the end! Here’s an overview of where you can generally buy alcohol in Morocco and particularly in Marrakech.

This article will explain all you need to know about alcohol when on holiday in Morocco and where you can source it. The second part deals specifically with Marrakech. There’s also an interactive map where you’ll quickly be able to get your bearings and see where to buy alcohol in Marrakech.

Basic facts about alcohol in Morocco

First things first: Alcohol plays virtually no part in the daily lives of most Moroccans. The vast majority of Muslims don’t drink. Generally, you’ll be served water, soft drinks or juice when having a meal. There’s also Thé à la Menthe, which Moroccan’s jokingly call Whiskey Berber. This national drink is made of strong green tea, lots of mint and loads of sugar. It’s really delicious but doesn’t contain any alcohol. Nonetheless, you’ll find it invigorating and exceptionally tasty.

If you’re looking to by a bottle of wine in a medina in one of the country’s larger cities, you’ll come across many shops, but will soon realise that alcohol is only sold in certain places in Morocco. This might unsettle certain wine lovers at first, but the fact that alcohol plays such a small part of life in Moroccan life also has a few beneficial spin-offs.

Alcohol in Morocco

You’ll experience a different sense of security in Morocco. While many alcohol-fuelled fights tend to break out at German village festivals after midnight, things are different in Morocco. Thousands of people freely wander around the Jemaa el Fna at night and it’s an extremely peaceful and harmonious place.

The exegesis of the Quran and its ‘dry’ consequences: The Islamic ban on alcohol

Morocco is an Islamic country. It’s a well-known fact that the Koran forbids Muslims from drinking alcohol. However, this prohibition didn’t always exist and things used to be quite different. The current situation stems from a long history of the interpretation of the Scriptures. Surprisingly, the Qur’an actually contains Suras that encourage drinking alcohol.

To cut a long story short, we can sum up the story behind the interpretation of the Scriptures by saying that once upon a time, Islam approved alcohol consumption. Then, drinking became increasingly frowned upon, especially in connection with gambling. Eventually, at some point, this interpretation swayed towards alcohol being banned for Muslims.

Morocco’s sweet vines and alcohol produced in the country

On the other side of the coin, there’s a different view of the subject. Morocco is ranked 35th among the biggest wine producers of the world. The Meknès region makes excellent red wines such as the Château Roslane. Moreover, grapes such as Alicante, Cabernet Sauvigno, Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache, Merlot and Syrah are grown for wine production in Morocco.

If you enjoy beer, your choices are pretty restricted, with barely half a dozen Moroccan beers on offer. Casablanca is probably the most popular and is quite a drinkable beer. Somewhat cheaper and not as good is another beer called Flag Speciale.

Beer in Morocco Flag Speciale

Moroccan beer: Casablanca and Flag Speciale (Photo: Leberkassemmel)

In the desert areas, with a little luck, you might be offered a sip of homemade palm wine. This tastes a little exotic, but isn’t over the top. If someone invites you to sample homemade schnapps from their own backyard distillery, it’s best to politely decline. Even distilled alcohol doesn’t pass any quality control checks and, worse case scenario, it could cause you very negative health consequences. Although you mat be sorely tempted, it’s best not to succumb, no matter where you are.

Bringing alcohol into Morocco

One option is to carry your own alcohol over from home. Customs regulations allow you to bring in one litre of spirits and the same quantity of wine to Morocco. However, absinthe and anise-based alcoholic drinks aren’t permitted. Having said that, I’m not aware of any cases in Morocco where tourists have had to open their checked-in luggage at the airport customs desk to see what alcohol they have in their bags.

Things to consider when drinking alcohol in Morocco

Alcohol is rarely consumed by Moroccans and doesn’t have a very good image in the country. Many people see it as a Western drug with the potential to corrupt. It’s important to be aware of this and avoid drinking alcohol in public or walking around the city when drunk. This tip is particularly relevant during Ramadan.

In terms of alcohol and driving, Moroccan traffic regulations make it clear that there’s a zero-tolerance approach to drinking and driving and you should stick to this. Don’t expect any leniency if you get caught drink-driving. The message is really simple- never risk drinking and driving. Just don’t do it!

If you buy alcohol in Morocco, you should always have your passport with you. Although you won’t usually have any trouble buying drinks in specific shops or supermarkets, sometimes you’ll be asked to show your ID. Also, if you wish to bring your own alcoholic drinks into the lounge area of your riad, make sure you know the score in advance. Some riads have their own bar and will disapprove of guests bringing in their own alcoholic drinks.

Where can you get alcohol in Morocco?

Various theories circulate online as to why alcohol is more readily available in some parts of Morocco than others. In my opinion, most of these are fabricated or lacking in substance. The truth is plain and simple: There are financial reasons for not selling beer on every street corner.

The reason why alcohol is almost exclusively sold in expensive bars, restaurants or hotels in Morocco boils down to the mandatory licencing laws. An annual licence to sell alcohol involves a four-figure sum. Therefore, the smaller restaurants simply can’t afford to serve alcoholic beverages, but in some cases, places will flout these laws by offering wine ‘under the counter’ in neutral beakers.

Large hotels, expensive restaurants and upscale bars are mainly in the country’s major cities. By contrast, in rural Morocco you’ll be very hard-pressed to find a similar standard of places to drink. Larger cities have a few select shops that sell alcohol. If you’re in doubt, most hotel staff can offer information or get hold of a drink for you if you pay them a little extra. Also, many taxi drivers know where these shops are, but during Ramadan, the sale of alcoholic drinks may be limited in most stores.

Map_ Where to buy alcohol in Morocco

Various supermarket chains like Carrefour sell alcohol in Morocco. If you click on the picture, an interactive map with precise locations will open up.

Supermarkets like the French chain Carrefour or Atacadão also sell alcohol in Morocco, but you’ll only find these chains in the big cities like Agadir, Casablanca, Tangier, Marrakech or Rabat. Marjane and Acima are also supermarket chains you’ll come across but they haven’t sold alcohol for some time.

Where can you buy alcohol in Marrakech?

In Marrakech, buying alcohol is easier than in the rest of the country. The city benefits from many expensive restaurants and licensed bars. You’ll find some licensed liquor stores and two specialist wine merchants in the Newtown district. It’s also pretty easy to pop to a supermarket that sells alcohol.

Selected supermarkets

In years gone by, you could just go Marjane, a supermarket near the Bab Doukkala, and buy wine there. The Acima supermarkets also sold alcohol. Shortly after 2007, the royal holding company SNI took over this chain and alcohol sales were stopped. It’s now been several years since Marjane supermarkets sold alcoholic drinks.

Supermarkets where you can buy alcohol in Marrakech include Carrefour, Champion and Label Vie. Atacadão (formerly Metro) is actually a wholesale store and their range includes beer, wine and various spirits.

Buying alcohol in Marrakech

This map shows bars, licensed pharmacies, restaurants and supermarkets where you can buy alcohol in Marrakech. The link will take you to an interactive map.

Depending on where you are in Marrakech, I recommend going to one of the five Carrefour stores by taxi or on foot if you want to buy alcohol in a Moroccan supermarket. Just be aware that some of these stores keep their alcohol on shelves in the basement and it’s easy to miss. Most noteworthy is that the alcohol sections often have shorter opening hours within the supermarket’s trading times.

Bars and restaurants

Most of the bars and restaurants serving booze are in the Gueliz district, for example, the Baromètre Marrakech. You’ll get better value for money here than in the medina, where alcohol is sold almost exclusively in more expensive restaurants. You’ll also get a good deal at the Grand Hotel Tazi’s rather shabby bar located at the end of Rue des Princes. Fortunately, there’s a rooftop terrace where you escape the rather drab interior.

Speaking of roof terraces, the Kosybar on the Place des Ferblantiers in the southern Medina deserves a mention, as does the Café Arabe in the Mouassine district opposite the Secret Garden. Also, on the Jemaa el Fna, there are several restaurants serving tapas, for example, Marrakchi next to Cafe de France. These have an excellent view of the square. Adjacent, on Rue des Banques, you’ll find the refurbished Salama restaurant, which offers happy hours and has a pleasant outlook.

Both Nomad and Le Jardin restaurants haven’t renewed their alcohol licenses and don’t serve liquor any more.

Alcohol and liquor stores

In the new districts of Gueliz and Hivernage, you’ll find several specialist shops that can sell alcohol but close at 8.00pm. Any taxi driver worth their salt will know how to get you there. You can also refer to the map below.

Nicolas and the Atelier de Vin are two exclusive wine shops that have opened in Marrakech in recent years. Their staff team is very knowledgable and will be able to advise you on buying Moroccan wine.

Conclusion

Buying alcohol in Morocco isn’t a breeze. Only a few shops offer alcoholic drinks and these are mostly in the Newtown districts or commercial areas of big cities. Out in the countryside, the situation is pretty dire when it comes to sourcing alcohol. That’s why you should think twice about whether it’s really worth the effort.

Whiskey Berber Morocco

I don’t drink alcohol anymore when in Morocco. A Whiskey Berber is far more authentic and very invigorating. (Photo: Massimo Adami)

If you don’t want to go without a bottle of wine when away on your travels in Morocco, the easiest option is to pack it well-padded part of your checked-in luggage. If you’re travelling in your own car or hire car, I’d advise heading to a Carrefour supermarket en route.

So, now you’re all set to go. If you know of a shop selling alcohol that we can include in our map, please leave a us a comment below. On that note: Cheers, or as they say in Morocco, Bessahha!

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Going up in a hot air balloon over Marrakech https://travelguide-marrakech.com/hot-air-balloon-marrakech/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/hot-air-balloon-marrakech/#respond Tue, 01 Oct 2019 21:16:33 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2646 Would you like to take to the skies in a hot air balloon just like in Jules Verne’s book “Five Weeks in a Balloon” and see Marrakech from high up above? Well, it’s easy to arrange. Balloon rides take place regularly in Marrakech, offering a unique experience that you won’t forget in a hurry. Here’s an account of my adventure. It’s four o’clock in the morning when we meet Mostafa. He’s waiting for us with

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Would you like to take to the skies in a hot air balloon just like in Jules Verne’s book “Five Weeks in a Balloon” and see Marrakech from high up above? Well, it’s easy to arrange. Balloon rides take place regularly in Marrakech, offering a unique experience that you won’t forget in a hurry. Here’s an account of my adventure.

It’s four o’clock in the morning when we meet Mostafa. He’s waiting for us with his Land Rover on the Djemaa el Fna and offers a warm welcome. We’re excited. From a mere idea a few weeks ago, we’ve now made concrete plans to make it happen. In less than an hour, we’ll be up in a hot air balloon, floating high in the skies to greet the sunrise.

Simply Amazing: Views from a hot air balloon in Marrakech

A no-nonsense hot air balloon flight

Hot air balloon trips are popular in Marrakech and a number of companies offer them. However, their packages vary considerably. We’ve chosen a provider specialising in balloon tours, having conducted these in Marrakech for many years. An important reason for choosing this company is that they focus exclusively on hot air ballooning. This is a straightforward offer and, unlike many others, doesn’t include a package of additional activities such as quad bike tours or camel rides.

But back to Mostafa, who drives us in the Land Rover to a small village not far from Marrakech. Dawn is just breaking. Two small fires in front of a tent light up the darkness. A simple stand-up buffet breakfast is ready. In the background, the crew is preparing the hot air balloon, filling it with hot air.

Getting a hot air ballon ready
Getting the balloon ready near Marrakech

Ballooning with the professionals

Mahmoud Gouda uses the time before take-off to greet all passengers and introduce everyone. He’s our pilot today and has already been around the world, having worked in Egypt, Kenya and Germany, among others, conducting many flights in hot air balloons. He gives us detailed instructions on conduct during the trip and explains the best posture for landing.

Start in the early morning with your hot air balloon tour from Marrakech

At dawn near Marrakech

Then suddenly, the hot air balloon is fully inflated and ready to go. It rises majestically above the ground and only now can we see just how small the basket really is in comparison to the actual balloon. But there’s barely time to notice as it’s “Jalla! Jalla!” and we’re ready to take off as soon as possible. The sun will be rising soon and we really want to see this from the air.

Panoramic views and busy cameras

We hardly feel the hot air balloon lift off the ground and start its smooth but swift ascent. Below, the two camp fires have almost burned out. In the distance, the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains tower against the skyline. Marrakech just starting to come to life underneath us and a few scattered clouds roam in between. The hot air balloon glides effortlessly through the dawn and the atmosphere is amazing. Then, the sun breaks through and the diverse landscape takes on an array of colours. The view is incredibly vast and our cameras are busy taking snap after snap.

Stunning views from a hot air balloon in Morocco
Hot air ballooning in Marrakesh

Our pilot, Mahmoud, keeps us updated on the current altitude of the hot air balloon, which he steers confidently through the air. No juddering, no turning and nothing to worry about. The hot air balloon floats effortlessly through the emerging dawn. The only occasional sound comes from the gas burners, activated by pilot to provide even more lift with a short burst of fire.

In the distance, three more balloons have taken off and blend almost seamlessly into the early morning scenery. However, they aren’t up for long and are much lower down. Mahmoud turns to us. We’ve reached the maximum flying altitude for a balloon – 1500 metres. It’s less windy than we thought. Nevertheless, we’re glad to have brought a pullover for our hot air balloon ride.

The right landing posture

After a good hour, our phenomenal flight is nearing its end. Close to the ground, we get into the landing posture previously advised by the pilot and touch down without a hitch. While up in the air, we could see Mostafa following our hot air balloon in his white Land Rover. After the balloon has landed, he collects us and drives us back to the Berber tent. An opulent breakfast awaits, giving us something more to digest and adding to our intense impressions of this short adventure.

You will never forget your first hot air balloon ride

A balloon ride near Marrakech

Quite frankly, after seeing such a beautiful sunrise, would you really want to spoil the day with a bland camel ride? Absolutely not. So, after breakfast, we were quite happy to be driven straight back to the Djemaa El Fna.

Conclusion: A stunning adventure, a professional provider and attention to safety

The provider of this balloon flight specialises exclusively hot air balloon trips and is very professional. After booking, all e-mails were quickly answered and complete information provided. One of our travelling companions even booked at short notice and received her confirmation with all relevant information the very same evening. The pickup at Jemaa el Fna was smooth and reliable. At the take-off point, an experienced crew took care of setting up the balloon. Pilot Mahmoud ensured a safe flight and no one felt uncomfortable at any point.

In short, I have rarely experienced such a professional provider in Morocco. Particularly when it comes to a balloon ride, it’s very reassuring to know you haven’t got a dare-devil pilot in control of the balloon. I can guarantee that you trip in a hot air balloon will be an unforgettable experience.

Offer: Hot air balloon tour with a Berber breakfast
PriceRatingBooking
Including transfers, breakfast, flight 179 EUR

While this experience is definitely not cheap, if you want to a truly unique holiday experience, give this some serious thought. But be prepared for your mere idea to turn into a concrete plan quicker than you think.

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Scams in Morocco and Marrakech: The most common frauds and rip-offs https://travelguide-marrakech.com/scam-fraud-rip-off-morocco/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/scam-fraud-rip-off-morocco/#respond Thu, 09 May 2019 11:36:29 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2344 At some point on your travels, you were ripped off. Such disappointments can be avoided if you know how to spot the typical types of fraud. So, here’s an overview of the notorious rip-offs, rotten tricks and romance scams that can take place in Morocco.

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If you look back on your first Moroccan holiday with slight disappointment, there’s usually one reason. At some point on your travels, you were ripped off. Such disappointments can be avoided if you know how to spot the typical types of fraud. So, here’s an overview of the notorious rip-offs, rotten tricks and romance scams that can take place in Morocco.

A rather unpleasant encounter you’ll inevitably suffer as a tourist in Morocco is the offensive business practices of some Moroccans. I’m not referring to the negotiating skills of many of the tradespeople, but the multitude of little scams and everyday rip-offs. They certainly have just what it takes to spoil someone’s holiday if they’re gullible enough when on their Morocco adventures.

This article is very long and you’ll need to invest a bit of time if you want to read about all the scams I’ve listed. You can use the table of contents to jump to specific sections in the text.

Introduction

You’ll encounter frauds and rip-offs and fake guides in every country in the world, especially in the big cities. For example, if you were looking at a website about Thailand, this article would be about the Taximafia in Phuket. If I were writing a Spanish blog, I’d be warning you about the Rosemary women in Granada. But this site is all about Morocco and Marrakech. So, I’d like to focus on the most notorious scams you’ll come across on your holiday in Morocco.

To avoid giving you the wrong impression, the problem with the fraudsters only involves a fraction of the full Moroccan population. Nevertheless, you’ll be really lucky if no one tries to defraud you on your Morocco holiday. In addition to the tourists that suffer, Moroccans also have to suffer from the negative image these rip-offs convey and the blanket judgements that ensue.

Financial damage isn’t what the scams have in common

Almost all scams exploit the ignorance of tourists and their lack of local knowledge. Tourists are usually relatively easy victims because they’re often too embarrassed to react in the right manner or to walk away from an uncomfortable situation.

Financial damage isn’t what the scams have in common. This is usually very manageable. Rather, you’ll get the feeling at some time or other that you constantly need to be on your guard not to get ripped off. Some fraud victims find that negative experiences like these cause growing mistrust. They detach themselves during their travels and at some point start to see every Moroccan as a potential fraudster. While this is certain to put you in a bad mood, it’s also not at all helpful for getting to know a foreign country.

Scams and romance fraud in Morocco and Marrakech

Anyone who is too open to love and then blinded by this emotion risks being the victim of one of the worst scams: Romance fraud. This is when there’s a fake love relationship that goes on for years with the aim of obtaining money or a European residence permit.

Statistically, far fewer robberies or violent crimes are committed in Morocco than in most European countries, making the country a very safe place to travel. In other words, in Morocco, money is not snatched from your pocket, but you can reach for your money and hand it to someone with a grateful smile if you’re completely naïve when embarking on your Moroccan adventure. However, many scams are fairly easy to avoid if you understand how they work.

Common scams and frauds in Morocco

The following is a list of scams and rip-offs in Morocco and some tips on how to avoid them. I’ve personally experienced almost all of these during my travels. I’ve also learned the hard way on many occasions. This list may appear a bit shocking at first glance but you need to work pretty hard to fall victim to multiple scams during your Moroccan holiday.

The helpful stranger

The helpful stranger is by far the most popular trickster in Morocco. This form of rip-off is the main reason for the negative image of the country that I’ve mentioned above. You won’t recognise helpful strangers at first glance. But rest assured, they’ll find you and offer their help.

The classic situation where the helpful stranger appears is somewhere in the medina. If you’re looking a little disoriented and gazing around you, count backwards slowly from twenty. You won’t even make it to 5 until you hear a friendly “Hello”. If you aren’t careful, in the next few moments, you’ll unwittingly book an unofficial city guide who’ll make it quite clear that he wishes to be suitably paid for his guidance.

wrong guides and helpful strangers in Marrakech
Rest assured, the helpful stranger will find you.

This fake guide not only knows of a shortcut to where you need to go, but he also knows how to detour through various shops. Thanks to his excellent connections, the helpful stranger can basically provide almost everything you need or can arrange this through a friend or relative: hotel rooms, restaurants, taxis, excursions, city tours, hashish, or simply finding your way back to Jemaa el Fna.

The next typical situation where you’ll encounter the helpful stranger is in an indoor market or souk. A friendly young man will quickly appear by your side to lead you through the labyrinth of stalls and goods. He’ll give you the impression that he knows almost everyone and is involved in all negotiations. This means that every purchase turns out to be more expensive, because, not only does the helpful stranger demand a tip from you at the end, but he also gets paid a commission from the actual seller. I’ll give you three guesses who ultimately pays for this commission due to a higher selling price that’s kindly been negotiated for you by the helpful stranger.

You may not always recognise the helpful stranger as being this type of person. Generally, he’ll start off by getting you to trust him. By offering sound information, he actually seems helpful. However, you can count on the fact that you’ll need to pay for these favours indirectly at a later point. If you don’t pay the helpful stranger, he can sometimes become indignant and occasionally also rude or aggressive to make it harder for you to disappear without paying. Don’t let yourself be pressurised by this type of behaviour. Instead, get used to telling helpful strangers right from the start that you won’t pay them any money.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Try not to lose your sense of direction. If you need to consult the city map or navigation app, be as discreet as possible.
  • If somebody approaches you in a strange manner, politely dismiss them with a firm “La, Shukran” (No, thank you).
  • If the helpful stranger becomes unpleasant, it may help to suggest a visit to the Tourist Police at Jamaa el Fna. After all, it’s illegal to work as a city guide without an official permit.
  • If you need to ask someone for directions, approach people who can’t get away like a stall owner or a waiter.

An alternative scenario:

The vast majority of Moroccans are extremely helpful. I’ve rarely experienced such warm hospitality as in Morocco. That’s why I can well understand when Moroccans are disappointed or offended when their hospitality or help are rudely rejected because they’re incorrectly taken for fraudsters.

The henna women

You’ll usually come across the Henna women on Jemaa el Fna. They sit on little stools. In front of them, faded yellowish albums are spread out with various henna patterns. In the more aggressive of these scams, you’ll be called over and distracted. Suddenly, the good woman will start to paint the back of your hand. In her opinion, there’s been a misunderstanding and she should at least finish off the job so that it ‘looks good later’, if you understand my meaning.

If you negotiate a price beforehand, the henna woman will be less pushy but not any less expensive. In this case, be prepared for the price you agree to gradually increase while she’s painting the tattoo.

Henna Women Marrakech

Henna women on Jemaa el Fna (Photo: Travelguide Marrakech)

These unofficial tattoos are not just pretty ugly as a rule, but they can also turn out to be quite expensive. Since some of these women use black-coloured henna, in the worst cases, these paints can be harmful to your health. The coloured henna can contain toxic chemicals that irritate the skin and can cause allergic reactions.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Avoid the henna women on the Jemaa el Fna and keep a good distance away from them.
  • If you enter into a conversation with them: keep your hands in your pockets!
  • If you’d like to get a henna tattoo, look for somewhere else to get it done. My tip is to go to the Henna Art Café or the Henna Café Marrakech. Both are just a 10-minute walk from Jemaa el Fna.

Photography

Photography is a bit more complicated in Morocco compared to other countries due to two main reasons for this. Firstly, there’s the Islamic image ban. This prohibits the close-up depiction of images of people. On the other hand, many tourists visit Marrakech and want to capture the best moments of their vacation on camera. Since people are constantly taking pictures of Moroccans and dealers and craftsmen working in busy places can often find this irritating.

In Marrakech, this trend is tackled in two ways. Some traders and other individuals attach clear notices that ask for respect and make it clear that photography isn’t welcome. Others make a profitable business out of the western art of staging photographs. The best example of this is the water sellers with their conspicuous hats. You’re most likely to encounter them on the Jemaa el Fna. The water sellers actively call out to groups of people and urge them to get photos taken with them. Afterwards, they expect a generous payment and, when it comes to this, their audacity knows no bounds. I’ve heard stories from tourists who paid 20 Euros for a blurry photograph.

Photography scam in Morocco and Marrakech

On Jemaa el Fna, you’ll encounter different types of people who are all motivated by money. These include acrobats and street musicians, as well as dentists and storytellers. However, these people can get very touchy if you photograph them secretly and they catch you doing so.

How to avoid photography issues:

  • If you want to take pictures of people: always ask for permission and negotiate the best price.
  • You can usually take photographs in stores when buying something.
  • If someone wants a lot of money for a photo, make your final offer and then walk away if you have to. This usually works.
  • On Jemaa el Fna, you’ll get more peace for taking photographs if you take a seat in one of the adjacent cafés that has a rooftop terrace, for example the Café Glacier.
  • Never take close-up photographs of water sellers, dentists, street artists, musicians etc. without asking permission.

What you should bear in mind:

Some traders or craftsmen in Marrakech feature in thousands of photos when at work. They form the backdrop to an authentic impression of your holiday and are also popular among keen amateur photographers. In turn, these individuals share their photos on social media or sell them as stock photos. Visual networks such as Instagram have established a new and subliminal form of human exploitation. Therefore, hostile reactions to photographers who are too brazen or really unscrupulous are understandable and justifiable, in my opinion.

Scams involving exotic animals

As in many other countries, animal rights play a minor role in Morocco. You’ll come across examples of poor animal welfare and animal exploitation on the Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech. Every day on the large square, you’ll see showmen with their animals. These include chained monkeys, as well as snakes with their poisonous fangs removed. These animals are often in a pitiful condition.

Two types of animal fraud take place on the Jemaa el Fna. In the more harmless version, someone in traditional costume is sitting on the floor and playing a whistle to charm the snake in front of him. This is still a popular photo opportunity on the Jemaa el Fna and, naturally, is isn’t free. Usually, the snake charmer has a helper who ensures that no one takes photographs without paying. Therefore, it’s mainly a kind of photo scam.

Animal Fraud on Jemaa el Fna

Animal fraud on Jemaa el Fna (Photo: Travelguide Marrakech)

Animal scams can be more intrusive. The pattern is similar to other types of fraud and is based on ignorance, insecurity and ambushing you. If you get too close to these scammers and look interested, you’ll barely notice when a snake or a monkey is placed on your shoulders. Then, someone from your group will be encouraged to take photos.

Needless to say, a generous tip will be due for this snapshot. However, it can work out to be even more expensive if you’ve give your mobile to the animal fraudster and he takes a blurry photo. In the worst case, he’ll refuse to give your phone back until you’ve paid him enough money. If this happens, simply walking away isn’t an option.

There’s a simple trick to protect yourself from animal scams on the Jemaa el Fna: Give these showmen a wide berth. Don’t take pictures of animals that aren’t well cared for or photos of those who profit from animal exploitation. Any donation given to these animal abusers doesn’t help the animals, but only supports their exploitation.

How to avoid this scam:

Unlike most scams, I’ve absolutely no sympathy for deceived victims when it comes to animal fraud. Anyone who allows captive animals to be draped around them or their friends deserves nothing more. In my opinion, anyone who tries to deny this shouldn’t complain when both the captive animals and tourists who support this practice pay a high price.

  • Stay well clear of all showmen with animals and don’t support animal cruelty!
  • Don’t photograph animals on the Jemaa el Fna.
  • Never hand your phone or camera over to a stranger on the main square.

“The Jemaa el Fna is this way”

You’re almost certain to hear this phrase when you’re in the medina. It’s usually commonplace in the northern medina where many tourists visit the Madrasa Ali Ben Youssef or the Maison de la Photographie. The direction that you’ll hear someone calling out can often be correct, but sometimes not.

One thing is certain. In the next instant, a helpful stranger will enter the scene. He’ll either give you some friendly personal advice or have an accomplice who’s going there anyway. Needless to say that at the end of this small city tour, he’ll ask for an appropriate fee.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Ignore people telling you that you’re going in the wrong direction.
  • Give a friendly nod and move on.
  • Don’t loiter about under any circumstances.

An alternative scenario:

While briefly distracted and not paying attention you’ve taken the wrong route. You’ve no GPS signal because the alleyway is very narrow and the houses are high. You can quickly lose your bearings in the medina and find yourself wandering about. In this case, a friendly tip can save you a lot of time and stress.

If the person who wants give you advice isn’t a helpful stranger or his accomplice, but perhaps just a friendly local who sees tourists coming up against the same dead end every day, a harsh brush-off can be very embarrassing and hurtful. So, always be friendly but never naive.

“This road is closed/the gate is locked”

A similar scam involves a closed road or locked gate. This is widespread in Marrakech. Even if you aren’t looking disoriented and are walking purposefully through the medina, at some point, you’ll be approached by a young man or a small group who’ll point out that the upcoming street or gate is closed today.

blind end scam in Marrakech

If you stop in this scenario, you’ll make your first contact with the helpful stranger. He’ll immediately take care of ensuring you get to your destination with his help by taking an alternative route. Of course, he expects a tip for this service.

In contrast to “The Jemaa el Fna is this way” scam, this trick is almost always based on a lie. Gates aren’t locked in Marrakech, at least not during the daytime. Construction work will be cordoned off to preserve the maximum space. Excavation work in the narrow streets of the medina also takes place during normal daytime working hours.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Ignore people alerting you to allegedly closed roads or locked gates. In the unlikely event that something is really going on, you’re just unlucky and will have to turn back.
  • Make sure you’re very familiar with the way back to your riad, particularly if out and about at night.

An alternative scenario:

Even if you’re new to Marrakech, after a few days, you’ll be able to find your way around the northern medina pretty well. You’ll be able to get from the Jemaa el Fna to your riad without taking any detours and will be confident about finding your way around. However, at night, the empty streets look completely different. It’s dark and all the shops are closed, with their displays tidied away. To make matters worse, there are several large gates in the souks in the northern Medina and these are locked late at night. So, at such times, you may need to go on a detour, which means you may come up against problems, even when using a navigation app.

If you come up against a locked gate at such a time, you may meet a helpful stranger who’ll seize the opportunity to show just how helpful he can be. Or, you might just meet a friendly Moroccan whose good advice will help you out of trouble. In this case, he may be one of the majority of nice, helpful Moroccans who have no intention of guiding anyone through the medina.

Scams while eating on the Jemaa el Fna

I’m not sure if problems occur because the waiters on the Jemaa el Fna have to remember all the orders and often get very busy or if they want a big tip through a bit of clever arithmetic. The fact is that some waiters on the main square are more likely to get confused than others.

On the one hand, they can sometimes bring you more expensive food than you ordered, while on the other hand, they can forget to bring you dishes. This confusion continues until your waiter adds everything up and presents you with the bill. I’ve often found that my bills are incorrect and can easily be 100 DH too much. Then, all you can do is go through the bill item by item and calculate it together. Of course, flatbread, olives and tomato sauce served as an aperitif or side dish will also end up on the bill. At most places, you’ll pay 5 DH for each of these.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Take a photo of the menu before ordering.
  • Almost all places have a large paper notepad, which is ideal for recording your order.
  • Roughly calculate the total amount before asking for the bill.

The restaurant scam

This is an old trick and involves switching the menu, but I’ve never experienced it myself. It’s basically very simple. Standing in front of most restaurants in Morocco are waiters who’ll call out to you and encourage you to sit down to eat. They’ll often extol the virtues of the unbeatably cheap set menu. Then, when the bill arrives at the end of your meal, it will be for an unexpectedly high final amount.

Unlike the tactics used by the arithmetic con artists on the Jemaa el Fna, the bills in this case of restaurant fraud will actually add up. However, they won’t reflect the cheap set menu, but a different menu, which is much more expensive.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Read reviews on sites like Trip Advisor before visiting a restaurant.
  • Search for recommended restaurants (ask in the riad, or speak to your travel guide).
  • Recommended restaurants in Marrakech.

Freshly squeezed orange juice

A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice is the perfect way to enjoy a quick breather in the medina. It’s hard to miss the juice stalls on Jemaa el Fna. Although the juice is a bit more expensive there than in the side streets, most sellers are nice and will be happy to refill your glass.

However, black sheep exist among these juice sellers. They dilute the freshly squeezed juice with water and sometimes even add sugar to it. This is annoying because you actually wanted something quite different. Also, it can be worrying when you’re unsure if the added water is suitable for drinking. To make matters worse, the stalls are slightly raised and many juice vendors stand behind a mountain of oranges, making it hard to see what goes on behind the privacy screen.

juice stalls on Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech

Orange juice stall on Jemaa el Fna (photo: Travelguide Marrakech)

How to avoid this scam:

  • Ask in advance if the juice is diluted with water.
  • Buy the juice from a stand where you can see the preparation taking place.
  • If necessary, continue to search for a more promising-looking juice seller in the backstreets of the medina.

Ten dirhams for one Euro?

I’ve never experienced this fraud myself. I honestly can’t imagine that this rip-off is really worth it. Children will commonly play this trick on people. They ask you to exchange a 1 Euro coin they’ve allegedly found for 10 dirhams. The problem is that the coin is a worthless fake. As soon as you hand over your 10 dirham piece, the children disappear as fast as arrived.

Exchanging small change doesn’t necessarily amount to fraud. As a tourist in Morocco, you’re quite often asked to change foreign coins. The background to this is usually that some tourists give change in their native currency to beggars or children. These people can usually do little with it because they can’t exchange such small amounts. I usually go along with these requests. The exchange rate for the currency is 1:10, which is easy to calculate and brings minimal benefit.

But sometimes, the person asking for a currency exchange is actually a helpful stranger. Then, it isn’t about exchanging 50 cents, but a means of making contact with you. The established trust can then open the door to the actual rip-off event.

  • When you exchange money, carefully check the currency offered.
  • Simply change the money then keep going. Don’t invite an unwanted city tour.

Fraud attempts near the tanneries

The tanneries of Marrakech are a popular photo opportunity. Although they’re more hidden away than most other attractions, many tourists find their own way to the area where the tanneries are located. Often, they’ll be guided to the entrance by a helpful stranger or his accomplice and then taken through the complex free of charge. Unfortunately, they can be abandoned while going through a store and, at this point, pastries and mint tea are already waiting as part of the sales pitch to follow.

Tannery Scam in Marrakech

The Marrakech tanneries are a bit remote. Because of this, a helpful stranger or his accomplice will often offer to escort tourists his back to Jemaa el Fna. Of course, small, friendly tip is mandatory in exchange for this service.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Plan your route to the tanneries with a city map or a navigation app.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be confused by false information (“the gate is closed”) and try to find the entrance to the tanneries alone.
  • If you accept an offer of tea in a store, the seller will take this as a sign of your intent to buy and will be all the more persistent.

Someone is walking suspiciously slowly in front of you

This fraud is a mixture of various ‘directions’ scams (“The Jemaa el Fna is this way” / “The gate is closed”) and the helpful stranger scenarios. However, this usually takes place without you noticing. On the whole, this fraud is preceded by a little interaction, but not in every case.

The scam works when the trickster approaches you and then immediately walks in front of you. He attentively tracks every change of direction you make and every change of pace. If you stop, he stops. If you turn unexpectedly, it won’t be long before your new companion will appear in front of you again, looking back at you constantly.

Fake guides in Morocco

At some point, he’ll speak to you and demand payment for the guide service he’s just provided. I’ve rarely experienced this scam. However, the individuals accompanying you on your route can be quite stubborn during final negotiations and sometimes become a little upset when you refuse to pay.

How to avoid this scam:

To check whether a person walking in front of you and constantly turning to look at you is trying to scam you, stop briefly, e.g. to take a photo or change direction and watch how they react. If your suspicions are confirmed, speak to the person and politely explain that you know where you want to go and don’t need a guide. Sometimes, all you need to do is to say that you won’t pay any money for a guide.

Free samples that you then have to pay for

I haven’t experienced this mobile cake seller scam myself, but I’ve heard about it from several sources. To strike up a conversation, you’ll first be offered a free pastry. Not everybody says “no”. While you’re reaching for one, the question will be repeated, but without the mention of the pastry being “free”. Afterwards, these sweet treats can turn out to be surprisingly expensive.

How to avoid this scam:

  • If someone offers you a sample and you’re unsure, ask first if it’s really free (“gratuit”)?

Taxi scams

Taxi rides are usually very cheap in Marrakech. However, this industry is also famous for some bad rip-offs. The classic is the allegedly broken taxi meter. If you don’t pre-negotiate a fixed fare for your taxi ride, you’re likely to pay more than if you’d been charged by the taxi metre.

Taxi Meter Marrakech

 Broken taxi meter in Marrakech (Photo: Travelguide Marrakech)

At the airport, taxi drivers scurry about and will try to talk you into being driven to the city for a fixed price. This price is usually higher than the standard set rate of 100 DH for a Grand Taxi, but many tourists don’t know that.

However, it can be different. When I arrived at the airport in Marrakech in 2004, one of the taxi drivers undercut the standard price and offered the trip for 80 DH instead of 100 DH. On the way into the city, the driver then specified the terms, mentioning that although the journey was only 80 DH, there’d be a 20 DH charge for my luggage – which worked out to be exactly the standard rate overall.

Also, some taxi drivers you might book for an excursion or a longer city tour will include a visit to various shops to earn a sales commission.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Only ride in taxis that have a metre. If it doesn’t work, negotiate a low fixed price or move on and wave down another taxi.
  • If travelling from the airport to the city centre you don’t have to worry if you use the cheap airport transfer service or airport bus.

“The bus to XYZ isn’t running today”

This is a popular trick by taxi drivers looking for business. You’ll experience it when standing with your luggage near the bus station, train station or airport. Most of the time, you’re approached by a taxi driver or his accomplice. He’ll briefly inform you that your bus isn’t running for some reason – a strike, Ramadan or just because the bus is allegedly full.

Of course, the next bus won’t leave for a long time, possibly even the next day. Fortunately, there’s a solution. Thanks to a fall in fuel prices, today, your taxi journey is offered at a bargain price.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Be skeptical if taxi drivers give you information about buses.
  • If in doubt, ask at the bus station information desk.

What you should bear in mind:

Sometimes strikes take place in Morocco and then, unfortunately, there aren’t any buses. I’ve already had to spend two extra days in Tangier for this reason. The fasting month of Ramadan ends with the three-day sugar festival (Eid al-Fitr). This holiday period is similar to Christmas. Many Moroccans travel to their families using public transport before and after the festival. In particular, the comfortable buses run by the recommended Supratours and CTM bus companies are full at these times.

Bus station scams

If you approach a bus station with luggage and all the buses are running, a helpful stranger may immediately approach you and ask you where you’re going. He’ll then take you to a bus counter, get you a ticket and accompany you to the bus. He expects a small tip for this service.

So far, this may seem fair. However, the helpful stranger can also be collaborating with the ticket vendor and you’ll pay a higher fare than if you’d gone to the counter on your own. It’s even worse if you’re specifically taken to a particular bus when you wanted to travel on a bus running with a different line.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Gather information in advance, e.g. when in your riad, about the approximate price of the bus trip you’re planning.
  • Find the stop for the right bus line without any assistance and buy your own bus ticket.

An alternative scenario:

You reach the bus station. The helpful stranger catches you and offers you a seat in the bus that’s just about to leave. Without his help, you’d have missed this bus. So, the 15 DH tip was absolutely worth the two hours of time saved and is a fair deal for all!

Traders and street vendors

Street vendors in Marrakech

“Hello, do you know what that is? Why don’t you smell it!” So, you stop and quickly smell the assortment of different scented soaps. Many sellers in the souks of Marrakech know their craft well and shopping is fun. Everyone is relaxed yet enthusiastic at the same time.

Haggling inherently involves an astronomically high starting price, which will then reduce in the course of negotiations. This isn’t a rip-off, but part of the rules of the game. It isn’t a sign of rudeness if you come across as a tough negotiator and fight for a good price. Far from it. You can negotiate with a clear conscience, because the seller wouldn’t sell if he wasn’t making a profit.

Normally, you won’t come across cheats among the dealers in the souks, but rather traders with perfect business skills. This includes, for example, serving you tea. Many tourists feel obliged to buy something in the shop after a free hot drink.

How to avoid this scam:

  • If you don’t want to talk to every dealer on the street, look at the displays as you pass by and only stop if you’re interested.
  • If haggling really isn’t your thing, visit the Ensemble Artisanal near the medina. Some of the items are for sale at a fixed price and you’ll get an idea about the prices of certain goods.
  • The staff at your riad can also help you by telling you about the approximate costs of certain items.
  • Only haggle if you really want the goods. Don’t haggle for fun.
  • Be as daring as the dealers and start your introductory offer at 20-25 percent of the requested price.
  • Always behave in a friendly and respectful manner. Haggling should be pleasant for all parties.

Secretly swapping the goods

This type of fraud is very rarely reported and I haven’t experienced anything like it. The scam works when you agree with a seller on a reasonable price for a high-quality product. However, the trader exchanges the goods for lower quality items between your payment and departure. Victims of this fraud have often purchased items like silver trays, rugs or hashish.

  • Be alert and don’t let the item you’re buying leave your sight after paying.
  • Don’t be distracted by potential accomplices who ask you a question when your item is being packaged.
  • If you get a funny feeling, check the goods again while you’re there. Complaining later on is unlikely to be successful with shop traders.

Hashish scams

Morocco is considered to be one of the main exporters of hashish. This intoxicating hemp product is produced in northern Morocco where hemp is cultivated in the remote valleys of the Rif Mountains and processed into hashish. Although hashish in Morocco is relatively widespread, it’s still illegal.

Hashish in MarrakechIf you consume hashish, you should avoid smoking it in public. A rooftop terrace or outdoors are better places. In addition, be crystal clear that you can’t take drugs home with you when your holiday ends.

There are many myths about hashish in Morocco. Stories used to circulate of roadblocks in the Rif Mountains where people were forced to buy. The dealers are then said to have reported their customers to police officers who were in on the deal and insisted on a bribe.

Today, the reality is much more mundane. If you walk a bit too slowly through the medina, someone may whisper “zero-zero?” to you. If you’re looking for hashish, it won’t take long before you get your first offer. However, in Morocco as in every country, you need to keep an eye out when buying drugs!

Buy something illegal from a stranger on the street represents the worst conditions for this type of purchase. In all likelihood, you’ll receive a smaller amount of a lower quality product and pay a higher price. That assumes you actually get what you saw initially. In addition, you’re leaving yourself open to being blackmailed by a stranger. Therefore, getting involved with hashish is something to seriously consider.

How to avoid this scam:

  • If you want to smoke hashish in Morocco despite the fact it’s illegal, don’t buy it on the street, but rather talk to a local acquaintance your trust.
  • Ignore or politely reject any approaches by dealers.
  • Don’t let strangers invite you to have a drag of their joint in the evenings in the medina.

Bad hotel recommendations

The hotel rip-off isn’t actually a scam, but mainly a bad offer. However, this can have a negative effect on your whole holiday. This scam is very simple. If you’re walking with your luggage through the medina, you’ll inevitably be approached by a helpful stranger. He’ll ask if you already have accommodation or if you’re looking for a hotel.

If you get involved in this game, you’ll be taken to a hotel by the helpful stranger and offered accommodation there. If you’d been looking for a hotel by yourself, you’d probably have chosen a better establishment at a cheaper price. But by now, you’re already there.

The helpful stranger is happy to receive a small commission for his help. If he’s clever, he’ll cash in on the hotelier too. There are hotels that even hire their own people for this scam.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Book your accommodation before the trip. You will find a selection of recommended riads of all price ranges in the most beautiful parts of the medina in the Marrakech Riad Guide.
  • If you haven’t booked a room, search the guide for streets with hotels in your price range to avoid a lengthy search.
  • Always see the room first before you agree.

An alternative scenario:

Many helpful strangers are real networkers and provide other family members with referrals. I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity of meeting families through such third party introductions and have then stayed in their homes, which is priceless experience.

Romance scams and love affair frauds

Using love to deceive someone has many different names: From love scams to romance scams and even marriage frauds – this type of deceit exploits the victims emotionally and financially over a long period of time. Sometimes, these relationships can last for years.

Romance scams take place all over the world where significant differences in income exist between locals and tourists. Love scams are the flip side of a softer form of sex tourism and females usually fall prey to this in Morocco. The other major countries where romance scams take place are Tunisia, Turkey and the Dominican Republic, but hundreds of cases are also reported in Morocco.

Romance Scam in Morocco

Young man with a phone in the desert

In Morocco, women are mainly (but not exclusively) the victims of romance scams. Usually, local men pretend to be tourists who’ve fallen in love with these women. However, they’re actually targeting the assets of the person they’re deceiving or have a vague hope of getting a European residence permit through a potential marriage. The most brazen romance scammers will conduct several relationships at the same time. Occasionally, whole families get involved in this scam when they’re introduced to the new prospective partner and an alleged future relationship.

Victims of romance scams can lose significant assets through this type of fraud and are often seriously emotionally damaged.

How to avoid romance scams:

  • Even if someone seems really charming, there’s no reason to be blind to common sense, including when you’re on holiday.
  • Don’t give detailed answers to questions about your personal salary or financial status.
  • Be careful when it comes to talking about love and marriage after only a short time.
  • If you enter into a binational relationship, learn Darija (Moroccan Arabic) as soon as possible.

What you should consider:

I’m reluctant to make hasty judgments about other people’s relationships. Love knows no bounds and nobody can control when it may happen. There are countless European-Moroccan couples who didn’t meet as part of a romance scam and only wanted true love and having a family together. Personally, there are several such binational marriages among my circle of friends.

Payment by credit card and broken card readers

This scam takes place in many countries but I haven’t come across it yet in Morocco. However, I’ve have read about it on Internet forums. As part of this rip off, when you’re paying by credit card, a seller or hotelier may try to claim that the card reader is broken or that your card is unreadable. Sometimes, the amount due will be debited twice or they’ll insist on payment by cash to save credit card fees or commissions for booking through online portals.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Only use your credit card at ATMs and don’t pay directly with it.
  • If you do actually pay with your credit card, keep the receipts.
  • Use online platforms to reserve and pay for your accommodation.

Pickpocketing

Theft is neither trickery nor gambling but simply a criminal act. For thieves, there’s hardly a better place to operate than in the confusing souks of the medina or among the crowds on the Jemaa el Fna. Still, pickpocketing isn’t a huge problem in Marrakech. If you’re careful, you won’t need to worry about this. You’re far more likely to part with your money to a helpful stranger in Marrakech than be robbed by anyone. Pickpocketing has never been an issue for me or my companions in the course of over twenty trips to Morocco.

If somebody is intent on committing theft, they’ll rarely act alone. This is the same everywhere else in the world. Pickpockets usually work in teams of two to four people. Every member has a clear task. One is on the lookout for potential victims and will distract you with a trivial question. A second will block your way and provide a bit of a privacy screen. At that moment, a third party will steal from you and hand over the loot, such as your phone, camera, or wallet, to a fourth accomplice who will then disappear immediately with the stolen goods.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Don’t carry more money on your person than you need to.
  • Keep your valuables in the hotel. The better hotels provide safes.
  • Keep your money in various places and sort it by small change, small notes and large notes.
  • Leave your passport in the hotel and just take a copy.
  • Your back pocket isn’t a safe place for mobile phones or wallets. Carry these in your front pocket or in another place.

Skimming and ATMs that have been tampered with

So far, I haven’t heard of any cases of skimming in Morocco. I’m mentioning this scam just to ensure I’ve covered everything off, but you don’t need to be overly concerned about it.

Skimming works by using a visual device and internal laser card reading device attached to the card slot on the ATM. The inserted bank card is read by the illegal laser device and forwarded to the original card reader. Account details are then read and stored without the card owner even noticing. The PIN entry is recorded with a camera or captured by a phone camera. These might be in several places:

  • On a specially-adapted type of veneer placed over the PIN keyboard on the ATM.
  • Hiding in a dummy smoke alarm on the ceiling.
  • To the side, e.g., in a catalogue stand that’s been tampered with.

Other tricks are used to get the PIN such as using a realistic dummy keyboard as well as a card reading device with an integrated camera. The harvested data is then used to make copies of bank cards that allow offenders in non-European countries to withdraw money from their victims’ accounts. European ATMs usually don’t allow counterfeit bank cards to be used.

How to protect yourself against skimming:

  • Avoid using ATMs in dark, remote locations.
  • Don’t use ATMs if you notice something unusual, such as a cover attached, protruding or loose parts or traces of glue around the card slot.
  • Make sure you enter your PIN without anyone seeing you. Take note of how far away the next customer is. Covering the keypad with your hand while entering your PIN makes it harder for a camera to spy on you.
  • Do you have several bank cards? Use a different one to open the door than the one you use to withdraw money.
  • Never enter your PIN into a door opening system at a bank. No financial institutions require a PIN to access their ATM facility.

Conclusion: How to deal with these scam and avoid them

As banal as it may sound, my best recommendation is not to be an easy victim. Don’t behave like someone who is easy to take advantage of. If you stop along a busy road with a big city map in your hand and look disoriented, you won’t have to wait long for a helpful stranger to appear. That’s a certainty. If you use any form of service, first agree on the price as you’ll have far fewer nasty surprises.

Fortunately, after more than 20 trips to Morocco, I rarely have to worry about scams anymore. On the one hand, I’ve changed my attitude to certain things and, for example, I no longer expect to pay the same price everywhere as the locals do. On the other hand, I take today’s scams in my stride. I recognise helpful strangers and am almost happy to encounter them. I just give them a complicit nod so they understand they won’t succeed with me. If they get too pushy, I hand them a business card and go on my way.

I rarely get annoyed at the sometimes very clumsy attempts to get my money and smirk at most of the tricks people use. I think it’s legitimate to make a living from minor price inflations or active redistributions from the rich to the poor. However, I get really annoyed if people take me for a fool and think I’ll be easy an easy target.

If you’re aware of the most common scams and have learned to avoid them and stand up to them, you’ll have far fewer problems and can then fully focus on your Moroccan holiday. So, enjoy your trip!

Have you experienced a scam in Morocco that isn’t on this list? If so, please leave me a comment and tell me about your experiences.

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The Ouzoud Waterfalls https://travelguide-marrakech.com/ouzoud-waterfalls-morocco/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/ouzoud-waterfalls-morocco/#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 22:48:29 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2216 The imposing Ouzoud waterfalls are one of the most awe-inspiring natural sights you'll come across in Morocco. Unfortunately, the location is a bit off the beaten track, but you can get there on a day trip from Marrakech. This article explains everything you need to know about a day trip to the Ouzoud Falls.

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The imposing Ouzoud waterfalls are one of the most awe-inspiring natural sights you’ll come across in Morocco. Unfortunately, the location is a bit off the beaten track, but you can get there on a day trip from Marrakech. This article explains everything you need to know about a day trip to the Ouzoud Falls.

The famous Ouzoud Falls are located on the edge of the Atlas Mountains. They’re among the most popular places to photograph in Morocco. This isn’t surprising, because experiencing Oued River thundering down over a hundred meters into the depths is truly breath-taking. That’s not all, because Ouzoud is also famous for the Barbary apes who live in this valley, rounding off the spectacular scenery in a rather surreal manner.

The waterfalls provide a great contrast if you’re spending the majority your holiday in Marrakech or in other cities. You can easily spend more at the falls time or just visit on a day trip.

Ouzoud Morocco

The imposing Ouzoud Falls are the greatest falls in Morocco

What will you see and experience at the Ouzoud Falls?

A journey to Ouzoud usually ends in the large car park above the falls. There, you’ll find guides waiting for newcomers, offering guided tours down to the waterfalls. The prices are relatively high (about 150 DH). However, you guide will take you on a different route to the foot of the Ouzoud falls. On the way, you’ll pass several hidden vantage points, with the opportunity to take some superb pictures.

From the car park, you can’t miss the main path to the waterfalls. In fact, you’ll see it from the souvenir shops, food stalls, cafes and little restaurants that line the paved path leading down to the foot of the great waterfall. The restaurants are better than you’d expect. In addition, the view from the terraces is absolutely unbeatable.

Barbary macaques and the waterfall close up

On the way down to the foot of the falls, you’re bound to meet the Barbary apes. They’re actually macaques and are agile, really cute and pretty sly. Over the years, they’ve learned not to fear man. Since some of them are really bold, you need to watch your belongings.

Barbary Apes in Ouzoud, Morocco

Barbary apes at the Ouzoud Waterfalls

Going down the path to the falls takes less than ten minutes. At the bottom, you’ll have a great view of the imposing waterfall. You’ll see Moroccans waiting with little boats and they’ll escort you behind the waterfall for a small tip (10-20 DH). The constant thunder of the water is a truly spectacular background noise. Be warned, you can get a bit wet on this little detour. That’s why it’s advisable to leave cameras, mobile phones and other delicate, moisture-sensitive items in a safe place on the shore.

Swimming and hiking

The Ouzoud Falls are a popular bathing spot. Many people cool off here by swimming in the pools. However, since everyone who comes to Ouzoud visits the falls, there’s quite a lot of hustle and bustle. If you prefer a more tranquil experience, head to the smaller waterfalls downstream.

ferryman in front of Ouzoud waterfalls in Morocco

A ferryman at the foot of Ouzoud Falls

For a tip, you can cross over to the opposite bank of the Oued. You’ll find a narrow path along the river and this gradually leads you deeper into the valley. At the start, you’ll see a few little makeshift cafes, but you’ll soon find yourself alone. The cascades of the river form natural swimming pools and are ideal for swimming.

The path continues on through a really stunning landscape. At some point, you can turn back and return. Alternatively, cross to the other riverbank and carry on for a few more kilometers. On your return journey, you can choose either of the two banks. If you’ve taken the path to Ouzoud, you’ll definitely go down into the valley for a while and this is very worthwhile.

How do you get to the Ouzoud Waterfalls?

Unlike other destinations in the Marrakech area, the Ouzoud Waterfalls are relatively remote for a day trip. By car, it will take you about three hours each way. There’s no direct bus route. All in all, there are four ways to get from Marrakech to Ouzoud. You can take the bus and a taxi, hire a car, go in your own private Grand Taxi or go on a group tour.

Hiring a rental car or using your own car

Travelling by car will take you about three hours and the various routes from Marrakech to the Ouzoud falls are around 150 – 190km. For example, you can drive on the N8 towards Benni-Mellal, which branches off after about 145km to the P3105 towards Aït Attab. This is a longer route. Another option is to follow the N8 and turn off on the R307 after about 120km. Follow this road until you reach the R304 towards Azilal, then take the P3105 to Ouzoud. However, the quickest way from Marrakech to Ouzoud is via the N8 and R208.

How to get from Marrakech to Ouzoud by car

How to get from Marrakech to Ouzoud by car

By bus and Grand Taxi

Since there’s no direct bus service from Marrakech to Ouzoud, travelling by public transport or taxi can be a little more complicated than you’d expect in Morocco. It’s true to say that the Ouzoud waterfalls are very remote.

To get there, you’ll need to take a bus to either Beni-Mellal or Azilal. Buses run by private companies are cheaper and depart from Gare Routière near Bab Doukkala in Marrakech. Speak to the bus driver or the assistant in charge of luggage as soon as you can and explain where you actually want to go. The bus will then stop at the junction with the P3105. There, you’ll find a little square where the Grand Taxis stop. From there, you can travel on to Ouzoud.

Valley under the Ouzoud waterfalls in Morocco

The valley below the Ouzoud Falls is ideal for hiking

On your return trip, take a taxi from Ouzoud to the same place. You’ll then have to wait for a bus. To avoid a long wait, ask one of the riads in Ouzoud for the current bus timetable. The bus ride costs about 50 DH and a taxi is about the same.

The journey by bus and taxi definitely takes the longest. You might also find it hard to work out which bus to catch to travel back to Marrakech. To make the whole trip worthwhile, I would definitely recommend spending the night in Ouzoud. You can use the time during the day to go on a longer hike. You’ll get more out of this than going back the same day.

Travelling by Grand Taxi

Of course, the least stressful option is to take the easy route and book a private Grand Taxi for the entire journey to Ouzoud. This is probably the fastest way to get to the Ouzoud Waterfalls. However, it’s also the most expensive. Depending on your negotiating skills and finances, I’d expect a one-way journey to Ouzoud to cost at least 600 DH.

In Marrakech, the Grand Taxis going in this direction will be waiting between the Gare Routière and the city walls at Bab Doukkala.

Joining a group tour

Many travel agencies offer day trips from Marrakech to Ouzoud. These tours are usually by minibus. The trip doesn’t usually include a guide or any food and you just pay for the round trip. However, unlike travelling by your own means, it’s a time-efficient way of going on a day trip to the Ouzoud Waterfalls.

Ouzoud Falls Morocco

If you join one of these tours, I’d recommend finding out what time the minibus will be leaving to go home and then making your own way to the falls. It’s easy to explore the area on your own. Day trips to Ouzoud start at around 25 EUR per person.

 Ando TravelSabor ServicesMarrakesh Travel Services
Duration9 hours1 day1 day
General informationtransfer only, group tourtransfer only, group tourtransfer only, group tour
Price 1 person35 EUR36 EUR29 EUR
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Booking

Staying in Ouzoud

If you travel by public transport or car to Ouzoud, you should make the effort to spend the night here. With a little more time, you’ll be able to explore the area properly. I recommend trying to get to Ouzoud as early as possible and then going on a long hike as soon as you arrive.

In the early morning and late in the afternoon, there’s far less hustle and bustle at the viewpoints and the whole place is calmer. My tip for a place to stay is the beautiful Riad Cascade d’Ouzoud. It’s located right on the main square above the waterfalls. The village also offers other accommodation options.

Recommended accommodation near the Ouzoud Waterfalls
A beautiful kasbah hotel about 1km from the falls, with a pool, wireless internet and a bar
€€
Kasbah Ouzoud

(My tip)
A lovely riad right by the waterfalls, with a courtyard, a terrace, wonderful views and Wi-Fi
€€


Riad Cascade Ouzoud
Right above the waterfalls and including Wi-Fi
€€
Hotel Amazir, Ouzoud
A very simple hotel with Wi-Fi directly by the waterfalls

Hotel Le Panorama, Ouzoud

Conclusion: Rainbows, Barbary apes, waterfalls

Although the Ouzoud Falls are quite a distance from Marrakech and you’ll need to sit in the car for a long time to experience this attraction first hand, the experience is worth every tedious moment of the journey. My highlights from the trip include seeing a rainbow over the gigantic falls, hiking in the valley and, of course, encountering the free-roaming Barbary apes. As a destination, the Ouzoud Falls offer a wonderful contrast to the busy medina of Marrakech.

Ouzoud Morocco Hiking

(all photos: Travelguide Marrakech)

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The weather in Morocco: The best times to travel, weather data and tips for your holidays https://travelguide-marrakech.com/morocco-weather/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/morocco-weather/#comments Sat, 05 Jan 2019 10:23:16 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2186 Morocco can generally be divided into three regions with contrasting climates. These areas feature significant differences in the weather. Reading this article will help you to work out what time of year is best for you in terms of the weather and what to look out for when planning your trip to Morocco.

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Morocco can generally be divided into three regions with contrasting climates. These areas feature significant differences in the weather. Reading this article will help you to work out what time of year is best for you in terms of the weather and what to look out for when planning your trip to Morocco. You’ll also find travel tips and weather charts for selected locations.

It may be helpful to imagine the Moroccan climate as a large plate of couscous royale. It’s warm, satisfies the appetite of the typical sun worshiper and is easy to digest. However, just like couscous, not every mouthful tastes exactly the same. Therefore, you’ll find the weather in Morocco can differ considerably between regions. Trying to give a generic weather forecast for the entire country is impossible in terms of accuracy.

Weather in Morocco

A far better solution is to look at the weather region by region. Here’s the place to find information and weather data for popular destinations like Northern Morocco, the Rif Mountains, Essaouira, the Atlantic coast, Imlil and the High Atlas. You can also find out about the weather in the desert areas on the edge of the Sahara. Of course, there’s also detailed information on the weather in Marrakech.

A general overview: climate zones, temperatures and the best times to travel

The Moroccan weather can be divided into three different regions, all different and all subtypes of the sub-tropical climate. The main influence on a region’s weather is the distance from the sea, as well as and the role of the trade winds. Another variable that affects the Moroccan weather is the Atlas Mountains. The High Atlas forms a climate barrier, separating the mild climate of the coastal regions from the continental climate further inland. Also, the Atlas Mountains act as a natural border to the desert areas in the south, which have their own climate.

The Moroccan Atlantic coastal stretch enjoys a maritime climate with high annual rainfall. Differences between night time and daytime temperatures are less dramatic. The Atlantic Ocean is the reason for this more balanced climate, which can be explained by the fact that the ocean stores heat and releases it more slowly than air. Thanks to this influence, the weather on the Atlantic coast generally features hot summers with little rain and mild winters. Humidity is high.

Going further inland from the coast, the climate starts to change to typically continental weather. There’s more of a noticeable difference between night time and daytime temperatures, as well as the weather in summer and winter. In the middle of the country, humidity and annual rainfall levels are relatively low. In the deserts on the edge of the Sahara, the climate is hot and dry. This region hardly ever has any rainfall.

The weather in selected regions of Morocco

As already mentioned, the weather in Morocco changes not only from season to season, but also greatly between the different regions. In fact, you can only make one generalisation about the weather in Morocco: It’s always warmer than in Central Europe. This is a good sign when going on a Moroccan holiday. But if you’re planning any special activities, for example, a desert tour or mountain hiking in the High Atlas, you should keep track of the weather and check to see if the forecast is suitable for your tour.

The weather in Northern Morocco and Fes

The climate on the northern coast of Morocco and in the Rif mountains benefits from the balancing influence of the Mediterranean. Warm, dry summers and relatively mild winters are typical of this region. However, during the cold season, the north of the country is colder than the south. October to March also see more rain than the summer months.

Morocco Weather Chefchaouen

In the Fez region, the Mediterranean doesn’t influence the weather much and there’s significantly less rain. However, summer days in the city at 410 meters above sea level can be very hot. The months for better weather in Fez are April to mid-July and September to mid-November. Even in January, the thermometer can climb to over 16°C. This makes it a tempting place to take a break from the European winter.

Morocco Weather Fez

The weather in Agadir, Essaouira and on the Atlantic coast

The north-western part of the country and the long Atlantic coastal region experience long hot summers with hardly any rain. Temperatures average between 24-26° C and don’t fall much below 17°C at night. This means it’s the ideal Moroccan beach holiday weather. In winter, it gets a bit cooler and temperatures fall to around 16°C on average. It also rains more during this time.

Morocco Weather Rabat

The weather along the Moroccan coast changes the further south you go. In Essaouira, temperatures are similar to those in Rabat, with considerably less rain. This picturesque port city has its own special microclimate. With a breeze blowing every day, Essaouira is nicknamed the “Windy City”. Needless to say, it’s a good idea to pack a windproof or softshell jacket when visiting.

Despite the wind, the weather in Essaouira is pleasant and generally stable. Summers tend not to be unbearably hot and winters are milder than those further inland. Thanks to this well-balanced weather, Essaouira is the ideal place for a relaxing holiday at any time of the year; It’s also a good place to go with children.

Weather Morocco Essaouira

South of Essaouira along Morocco’s Atlantic coast, the weather is mild and fairly predictable all year-round. Temperature differences between day and night are more pronounced in winter than in summer, but not as much so as for the continental climate in the middle of the country. By night, temperatures never fall below 7°C, while usually still over 20°C by day, even in winter.

Weather Morocco Agadir

The Moroccan weather inland

You’ll experience more continental weather conditions the further away from the coast you go and the nearer to the Atlas Mountains you are. Proximity to the Atlantic has a balancing influence on the weather. This is particularly noticeable in the marked temperature differences between day and night further inland. Depending on the altitude, temperatures can soar to over 40°C during the hottest summer months and fall below 0°C by night during the winter. Since the Atlas Mountains act as a climate barrier, there’s hardly any rainfall east of this mountain range.

Morocco Weather Ouzoud

The best weather for travelling will mainly depend on the specific region you want to visit. If you travel in winter, go prepared and take a sleeping bag. Another tip is to select heated hotels for your accommodation. If you’re planning day trips, destinations like the Ouzoud Falls are popular and appealing all year round.

The weather in Marrakech

Marrakesh is situated on a high plateau and enjoys a continental climate. From November to April, daytime temperatures range between 18-23°C. In summer, however, the thermometer often climbs to over 35°C and humidity is low. It gets noticeably cooler in the evenings.

Weather Morocco Marrakech

When is the best time to go to Marrakech? The best time for nice weather is May. At this time of year, you’ll enjoy very warm evenings without suffering the summer heat. In any case, the weather in Marrakech is always warmer than in Central Europe. This means it can be a better place to spend January than if you were at home. Just outside of the summer months, it’s a good idea to carry a light jacket or thin jumper. In winter, you’ll need thick jumpers and warm socks. Another good tip is to carry a rain jacket outside of the summer season.

Choosing the right accommodation is also very important: Not all hotels in Marrakech benefit from heating. If you’re planning a trip in December or January and feel the cold, check whether the hotel you’re booking is heated. Choosing your accommodation carefully is very important in high summer. It’s easier to tolerate the hot temperatures if you cut back on your daily routine and take a longer lunch break. It’s a really good idea to stay in a raid with a shady courtyard and a nice roof terrace to spend the hottest hours of the day. Don’t forget there’s a good selection of recommended places to stay in our Marrakech Riad Guide.

The weather in the High Altas

If visibility is good, you’ll see the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech. Travelling there takes a good hour by car or taxi. Imlil is the Moroccan centre for hiking and mountain sports. There are plenty of trekking tours and day hikes that start out from Imil. It’s also the place to begin an ascent of the Djebel Toubkal (4167m), the highest mountain in North Africa.

The weather here is similar to conditions inland, with hot summers and temperatures that fall below freezing in winter. It’s more common for rain to fall as snow. At higher altitudes, daytime temperatures drop and the weather feels a bit like in the Alps. Some of the four-thousand-metre mountains are still covered in snow right up to the summer.

Weather Morocco Imlil

Thanks to lower temperatures, the Atlas Mountains provide a refreshing contrast to the summer heat. For easy hikes, the weather is best between March and November. You should only go to Toubkal without your winter gear between May and September. However, even in winter, the Atlas Mountains are a worthwhile destination. If you go on a trekking tour in the Imlil region during these months, you’ll rarely ascend above 2000 meters and tours are all tailored to suit the weather conditions. A private day tour through the many valleys of the High Atlas Mountains can be really lovely, even in winter. The spectacular panoramic views will take your breath away.

The weather in the south and in the desert

The most popular sandy desert areas in Morocco are on the edge of the Sahara, south or south-east of the High Atlas. This is where the desert climate reigns supreme, with typically hot and extremely dry weather. The Sirocco, a hot desert wind, tends to blow during the summer, covering the vast and beautiful landscape with sandstorms.

A trip to the Sahara is a real highlight of any trip to Morocco. If you intend to visit this region, you’ll need to think hard about whether this part of Morocco, the climate, travel time and planned activities are what you’re looking for.

Weather Morocco Merzouga

Between December and February, it gets surprisingly cold in the desert at night. When temperatures fall to 4°C and you’re spending a night in a desert bivouac, sleeping bags, hats and gloves are really worth their weight in gold! In spring and autumn, the weather in the Moroccan Sahara is more balanced. In contrast, it gets extremely hot during the summer months of July and August. These are definitely the months to avoid if you enjoy fast-paced desert hikes.

In my experience, it’s worse travelling from Marrakech to Merzouga by car in the heat of the day than spending a few hours out in the high temperatures of the desert. The hot weather you’ll experience in southern Morocco is more tolerable due to the relatively low humidity.

What to consider in terms of the Moroccan weather when planning your holiday

So, how do you make the most of all this information when planning a trip to Morocco? Although it’s a good idea to take this information on board, you certainly don’t need to become a slave to the weather. Outdoor activities are naturally more prone to bad weather than a museum visit in the medina. Sometimes, you’ll need to plan to travel outside of the typical holiday season to take part in certain activities. For example, while recreational hikers without any alpine experience might only want to climb Djebel Toubkal in the summer, other mountain enthusiasts may go there to ski in March. Everyone has their individual needs and expectations. As these can differ so greatly, it’s impossible to make specific recommendations about when and where to find the ideal weather in Morocco without knowing individual preferences, abilities and plans.

Three facts about the “Moroccan weather”:

  • The weather in Morocco is always warmer than in Europe.
  • In April, May and October, you can’t really go wrong as the weather is at its best in all regions of Morocco.
  • Dry heat in Morocco is more bearable than you might expect. 42°C in Merzouga is better than 30°C in humid Berlin.

Weather data: www.yr.no,
Photos are all from Riads Marrakech except Chefachaouen (محمد بوعلام عصامي), Fes (Alina Chan), Rabat (Quentin Drèze), Agadir (Hash Pay)

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Morocco for Vegetarians and Vegans https://travelguide-marrakech.com/morocco-for-vegetarians-and-vegans/ https://travelguide-marrakech.com/morocco-for-vegetarians-and-vegans/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 21:52:31 +0000 https://travelguide-marrakech.com/?p=2144 What can you expect when going on holiday to Morocco as a vegetarian or a vegan? What can Moroccan cuisine offer vegans and are there any restrictions to eating a meat-free diet in Morocco? In this article, we’re going to answer these questions and make a few specific recommendations for vegetarians in Marrakech.

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What can you expect when going on holiday to Morocco as a vegetarian or a vegan? What can Moroccan cuisine offer vegans and are there any restrictions to eating a meat-free diet in Morocco? In this article, we’re going to answer these questions and make a few specific recommendations for vegetarians in Marrakech.

Without doubt, Morocco is definitely a meat eaters’ paradise. The national cuisine has many very special recipes and culinary techniques that can conjure up wonderful dishes. However, it’s slightly harder for vegetarians and vegans in Morocco than in other Western European capitals. The good news is that with a little effort, you can enjoy a varied and balanced meat-free diet when visiting the country.

Being a vegetarian in Morocco

Moroccans see vegetarianism and veganism as a modern western phenomena and can find these somewhat disconcerting. This is particularly true in rural areas compared to cities like Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakech. These cities have a growing number of modern restaurants offering snacks, which reflects the increasing importance of a meat-free diet.

It’s true that Morrocans don’t regard vegetarians as coming from another planet. However, you should be prepared to come up against some restrictions when looking to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet in Morocco.

Morocco for vegetarians and vegans

Busting a couple of myths: Morocco is either a paradise or a hell for vegetarians

In Morocco, fresh fruit and vegetables are sold on practically every street corner and buying regional food won’t cost you much. There’s an abundance of shops and stalls selling herbs and spices. It’s true that, on the one hand, this is the ideal basis for a variety of vegetarian dishes. Unfortunately, on the other hand, real state of play for vegetarians in culinary terms can be slightly different.

Outside the big cities, be prepared for a rather restricted choice, with a couple of staple meat-free dishes. You’ll find these everywhere you go: Couscous and Tajine. In most areas, these are prepared as vegetarian or vegan dishes and usually have some variety. However, some restaurants could be an exception and meat-free menu options might be hard to find. Also, anyone accustomed to eating meat substitutes like tofu, soy or seitan, will need to change their expectations when in Morocco.

On balance, Moroccan cuisine for vegetarians and vegans has much more to offer than you might first assume. To avoid living on a diet of chips, couscous, or bland Tagine every day, you need to invest a little effort. Vegetarians should look out for places with menus that offer something a little different. The good news for vegans is that most vegetarian dishes will cater for their diet. Most of the time, the best places are the local smaller one-off restaurants and street food stalls.

What can Moroccan cuisine offer vegetarians?

Moroccan cuisine features many regional differences. A good overall description of Morrocan food is that it’s rustic and highly aromatic. With many contrasting tastes, you’ll find that fresh herbs and exotic spices are used in abundance. Although vegetarians won’t be able to indulge in the sweet-savory combinations of meat and dried fruits, Moroccan cuisine can still be a delight for gourmets who enjoy a meat-free diet. Cheese plays virtually no role Moroccan cuisine.

So, vegans must adapt to tighter restrictions compared to vegetarians — something they aren’t necessarily used to in Western countries.

Appetisers

On a day-to-day basis for vegetarians in Morocco, the staple food at mealtimes isn’t couscous, but fresh pita bread. Appetisers play an important role in Moroccan cuisine. In addition to the mandatory green olives, these include a range of salads, pastas, grilled vegetables, spreads and lentil and tomato dish La3dass. Other classic dishes include Harissa carrots, carrot and cinnamon jam, malven spinach (Bakoula), broad bean paste (Bissara) and, of course, aubergine caviar (Zaalouk).

Main dishes

In addition to couscous, tagines can be made using many different ingredients. For example, a vegetarian delicacy is potato tagine with peppers and almonds. Don’t miss out on the soups either when you’re in Morocco. In addition to traditional chickpea soup (Harira), you should also try pumpkin soup (Rabartahro).

Vegan Food Morocco Zaalouk

A Moroccan classic vegetarian dish: Zaalouk

In the Medina, you’ll find several places to enjoy street food, for example, deep fried triangular pastry parcels (Briouats). These are often suitable for vegetarians, with a choice of cheese or meat filings. The many food stalls also sell grilled vegetables. However, your expectations in terms of Moroccan street food shouldn’t be too high. The North-African street kitchens aren’t as diverse and don’t really compare to those you’d find in Thailand or Vietnam.

Sweet treats

Moroccan confectionery is wonderful. It features the flavours and armoas of orange and rose petal oil. Amlou is also used as an ingredient, a marzipan-type paste extracted from almonds and argan oil. In addition to cakes and pastries, fruits often feature in desserts, for example oranges with cinnamon. For something more substantial, you could choose a dessert like Moroccan pancakes (Beghrir).

Self-catering as a vegetarian in Morocco

It’s fairly easy to cater for yourself in Morocco. In towns and villages, you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables without any difficulty. The average olive shop has a wide range to choose from and you can buy olives at unbeatable prices. These may come ready-mixed with herbs and Harissa. In the Medinas, you’ll come across barbecue stalls that will typically sell grilled eggplant or peppers. From time to time, you’re also likely to see street sellers with bread carts trundling through the streets. This gives you all the ingredients for a tasty, vegan sandwich.

I like to buy a spice mix, e.g., Ras el Hanout, to spice up the taste of my sandwiches a little. It’s also handy to have a thin cutting board and a knife with you. Buying other kinds vegan food is easy all over Morocco, for example, nuts, dried fruit and cookies.

A phrasebook for vegetarians

In case of doubt when ordering food, it’s always best to ask if dishes are meat-free for vegetarians and vegans. Here are some examples of phrases in English and in French to help you get by.

Mini phrase book for vegetarians (English-French)
I'm a vegetarian. Do you have anything suitable for vegetarians without meat, fish or seafood?Je suis végétarien. Avez-vous du repas végétarien sans viande, poisson ou fruits de mer?
Do you also serve vegan food? I'm vegan and don’t eat any dishes with ingredients like meat, fish, butter, dairy products, honey, or eggs.Avez-vous aussi du repas végétalien? Je suis végétalien/ne et je ne mange pas de plats qui contiennent de la viande, du poisson, du beurre, des produits laitiers, du miel ou des œufs, par exemple.
Does the soup contain meat?Est-il de la viande dans la soupe?
Does this dish contain meat?Est-il de la viande dans ce plat?
Is there a vegetarian restaurant nearby?
Y a-t-il un restaurant végétarien à proximité?

Vegetarian Marrakech

Currently, there are two vegetarian restaurants in Marrakesch, the Ayaso Concept Store Café and the Earth Café. In addition, most restaurants serve meat-free Tagine, as well as vegetarian couscous. Here’s an overview of the recommended places in Marrakech that offer a better-than-average selection of vegetarian or vegan dishes.

Conveniently, restaurants with meat-free menu choices are fairly evenly distributed over the city. That’s why you’ll find local options for vegetarians and vegans within walking distance of all popular tourists spots.

My Tip: If you prefer to roam through the Medina on your own to find a snack bar or restaurant, you’ll certainly find one in the Zitoun El Jedid, east of Jemaa el Fna. Go here to find plenty of street food options and many smaller restaurants.

Vegetarian and vegan restaurants

The restaurant scene in Marrakech is constantly changing. New restaurants open up frequently and established restaurants change ownership. So, the following selection isn’t exhaustive and is only a sample of what’s on offer.

Earth Café

The top place for vegetarians in Marrakech is the Earth Café, which now has two outlets. However, only the first restaurant in the southern Medina offers a completely meat-free menu. This slightly quirky, lop-sided building is very comfortable inside. The decor is somewhat alternative and the atmosphere is calm and relaxed.

Vegetarian Restaurant Earth Cafe Marrakech

Earth Café: Vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Marrakech

Almost all the dishes served by the Earth Café are vegan. Dishes are prepared with regional vegetables that all come from a farm close to Marrakech.

• Vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free
• Location: Southern Medina (Google Maps)

The Ayaso Concept Store Cafe

The Ayaso concept store has a vegetarian café and is located in the district of Gueliz. Dishes are prepared using exclusively organic products. Juices, coffee and various vegetarian dishes are also served. Most of them are also vegan can be served as a vegan option upon request.

• Vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, organic
Menu
• Location: Gueliz (Google Maps)

Le Jardin

Le Jardin is located near the Secret Garden in the Northern Medina. This restaurant has a beautiful garden. There are many vegetarian starters on the menu, for example Briouats, lentil salad, gazpacho or Burrata with tomatoes. However, when it comes to main courses, the selection for vegetarians is rather narrow. I can recommend the vegetarian Pastilla with carrots, eggplant, Zucchini and vermicelli. Booking in advance is recommended.

• Dishes with meat, vegetarian and vegan options
Menu
• Location: Northern Medina (Google Maps)

Zwin Zwin

The Zwin Zwin Café is located in a multi-storey riad in the southern Medina. It’s a little hip but still very comfortable and the cuisine comes with top recommendations. You’ll also find a few vegetarian options such as Berber Tagine or avocado wraps on the menu as an exception to the otherwise meaty dishes.

• Dishes with meat, vegetarian and vegan options
• Alcohol
• Location: Southern Medina (Google Maps)

Nomad

There’s been a lot of hype about Nomad in recent years. So much so that you definitely need to book to get a table there. The aim of this rather pricey restaurant is to combine traditional Moroccan cuisine with modern culinary trends – something it totally succeeds in doing. Spending the evening at Nomad is a real experience in every sense. If it’s warm enough, the roof terrace is one of the best places to go.

Vegetarian Salad Nomad Restaurant Marrakech

A vegetarian salad at the Nomad

The Nomad has several meat-free dishes on the menu. My tip for vegetarians is the Pastilla.

• Dishes with meat, vegetarian, vegan options
Menu
• Location: Northern Medina (Google Maps)

Latitude 31

The Latidude 31 is a modern restaurant that offers special menus for vegetarians and vegans. Among the various salads, you’ll also find risotto, grilled vegetables, ravioli, mushroom tagine or Pastilla with apples, dates and ginger on the menu. Latitude 31 offers fine dining at higher than average prices.

• Dishes with meat, vegetarian, vegan options
• WiFi, DJ
Menu
• Location: Northern Medina (Google Maps)

The Marrakech Henna Art Café

The Henna Art Café is a good recommendation for lunch in the southern Medina. There’s a gallery on the ground floor of the Riad with contemporary artwork on display.

Vegan food Henna Art Cafe Marrakech

A perfect vegetarian snack for lunch: Olives, humus and zaalouk with fresh pita bread at the Henna Art Café

This café with a rooftop terrace is located on the first floor of the Riad. Various vegetarian, vegan and meaty snacks are on the menu, as well as fresh juices and smoothies. On the menu are dishes like eggplant caviar (Zaalouk), various vegan salads, hummus, lentils with rice, Zucchini salad, falafel sandwiches with Taktouka, vegetarian couscous and seasonal fruits.

• Meat, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free
• Henna-Tattoos, gallery, WiFi
• Location: Southern Medina (Google Maps)

Un Déjeuner a Marrakech

Un Déjeuner a Marrakech is a chic and rather pricey restaurant in the Eastern Medina. The menu lists various vegetarian dishes.

• Meat, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free
Menu
• Location: Eastern Medina (Google Maps)

Amal Women’s Training Center

This NGO helps to train Morrocan women from disadvantaged social backgrounds in culinary professions. There’s also a restaurant run by the apprentices under the guidance of a chef and this serves excellent dishes. As a social showcase project, the Amal Women’s Training Center offers a varied menu with interesting vegetarian dishes.

تعتبر المائدة النباتية المفتوحة فرصة رائعة لمتدرباتنا ليشهدن العديد من السلطات يتم إعدادها من مجموعة محددة من الخضار….

Posted by Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant on Saturday, 24 March 2018

• Meat, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free
• NGO training and support for disadvantaged women
• Location: Gueliz (Google Maps)

Henna Café Marrakech

The Henna Cafe isn’t anything to do with the Henna Art Café and is near the Mouassine district in the Northern Medina. On the menu are vegetarian and vegan snacks such as humus, falafel or sandwiches, as well as drinks. As the name suggests, you can also get henna tattoos here. The Henna Café is a cultural institution and also offers free language courses for Moroccans. Anyone who wants to start a language course can register here in advance. Volunteers are always needed!

• Vegetarian, vegan
• Henna tattoos, language courses
Menu
• Location: Northern Medina (Google Maps)

The Café Clock

The intercultural Café Clock originated in Fez and has now opened more branches in Chefchaouen and Marrakech. Concerts, readings, exhibitions and cooking classes all take place in the café. On the menu are numerous options for vegetarians, including a vegetarian tapas selection, Pastilla, tabouleh and falafel. The cafe also serves meat dishes. There are freshly-squeezed juices and smoothies.

• Meat, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free
• Galerie, WiFi
Menu
• Location: Southern Medina (Google Maps)

Café des Epices

’Spice Square’ lies due north of Jemaa el Fna. From the terrace of the Café des Epices, you’ll enjoy a wonderful view and can take photos. This cafe serves snacks with and without meat, including vegan avocado sandwiches, gazpacho, Harira, vegetarian Tagine and various salads. In terms of desserts, you simply have to try to the cafe’s famous Kardomon coffee.

Café des Epices Marrakech

The Café des Epices is very popular and gets pretty busy. Sometimes, you may find it hard to get a table.

• Dishes with meat, vegetarian, vegan options
Menu
• Location: Northern Medina (Google Maps)

Jemaa el Fna

I love the Jemaa el Fna square, but I find it’s better to eat before mingling with the busy crowds there. I tend to have a snack and a few glasses of spiced tea there later on. The food stalls on the square offer Moroccan street food. Simply take a seat and choose what you fancy eating. If you want meat-free options, you’ll always find vegetable salads, grilled eggplant, peppers, olives, or fries to choose from. The Jemaa el Fna is a must-see during any trip to Marrakech.

Streetfood at Jemaa el Fna, Marrakech

The Jemaa el Fna square is a place where you’ll find vegetarian street food.

Vegetarian cooking classes

You’ll get a deeper insight into Moroccan cuisine by attending a cooking class. However, since more and more cooking classes are being held in Marrakech, it isn’t easy to get a good overview of what’s on offer. Also, participants can expect to find significant differences in the various courses on offer. The really good courses will teach you so much about Moroccan cuisine, including how to plan and cook wonderful (vegetarian) meals. The courses that offer a less hands-on approach tend to get you to watch while others do the cooking. However, you still get to spend a relaxing morning and enjoy good food.

The Amal Women’s Training Centre

Not only does the Amal have an excellent training restaurant, but it also offers cooking courses that you can book online. If you take part in these, you can specify that you’d like to prepare vegetarian food. This course is less expensive than many others, but you won’t find yourself actually participating much during the course. However, it’s very interesting to meet the Moroccan women.

Vegan Cooking Class Amal Marrakech

The vegetarian cooking class at the Amal Women’s Training Centre in Marrakech

The House of Fusion

The cooking class at the House of Fusion is the complete opposite. This is one of the most expensive courses you’ll find. It’s a really worthwhile investment and I’ve never enjoyed better food in Morocco. You plan the menu in advance. Then, you go out and buy the ingerdients and cook everything with the hosts and participants. The result is a mouthwatering lunch. Those who are passionate about cooking and eating should seriously consider taking part in this unique experience at the House of Fusion!

Vegetarian Cooking course in Marrakech

A vegetarian cooking class at the House of Fusion in Marrakech

You’ll find more cooking classes in the article on cooking classes and food trails in Marrakech.

Conclusion

Vegetarians and vegans can expect to find excellent food and embark on a culinary journey of discovery. If you put a bit of effort into planning your trip and carry out some research in advance, you won’t need to stop at the first snack bar you see. A meat-free diet is a bit dull in rural areas compared to the larger Moroccan cities with their dynamic restaurant scene. Those who like to self-cater and source their own food will be quite happy with the regional choices and the very cheap fruits and vegetables you can buy in Morocco.

Photos: Travelguide Marrakech

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