Everybody said I’d struggle in Marrakech.
Even I arrived a little apprehensive of what lay in store for me.
After all, Marrakech is everything I usually dislike in a city – it’s large, crowded, noisy, polluted, chaotic and intense. I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be long before I was huddled up in a corner of my riad, trembling and refusing to go outside.
I’m pleased to announce, however, that the complete opposite occurred.
Within a few hours of arriving, I had discovered a side to Marrakech that I wasn’t aware existed.
Much to my surprise, I found myself taking a liking to this city.
Astonishingly, my first few days in Marrakech were some of the least challenging of my entire time in Morocco — I had expected them to be some of the most intense as I struggled to deal with sensory overload. I met Katrina, another solo traveller, at the riad where I was staying and was immediately grateful to have found someone who was also apprehensive about being a solo female traveler in Morocco. We decided to hire a guide for the day to help us navigate.
This was an excellent decision.
The medina in Marrakech is unbelievable. Terracotta houses and shops line a claustrophobic labyrinth of streets filled with tourists, vendors, cars, scooters, donkeys, camels and just about anything you can think of. Within seconds of entering, expect your senses, and your sanity, to be overwhelmed.
On our way to the souks, we first stopped off at the Bahia Palace, a 19th century palace and gardens with some amazing architecture – it’s worth a visit just for the incredibly intricate artwork and ceilings.
And then it was time to venture into the souks.
One of the many benefits of having a guide accompanying us was that most of the vendors left us alone and we experienced very little hassle. There were still shouts of “English!” “England!” “Fish and chips!” “See you later, alligator!” (the last one providing hours of entertainment and confusion) but there was no aggression in their sales technique, it wasn’t intimidating.
And so, for the next three hours, we explored. First, we checked out the fabric and clothing section.
And of course, we couldn’t escape without trying on our own Berber-style headscarves!
Next up, were the gorgeous and vibrant lantern stalls. This was one of my favourite areas and I so desperately wanted to buy one for the home I no longer have…
We also spent a few minutes visiting the leather shops of the souks.
And then, finally, after a quick lunch of chicken tagine, we climbed up to the roof terrace of a nearby shop and were rewarded with views over the whole medina, with the Atlas Mountains making for a stunning backdrop.
After spending much of the morning and early afternoon walking around in the sweltering heat, Katrina and I were both exhausted and decided to head back to the riad. However, we then found ourselves with a slight problem. When almost every single street in Marrakech looks like the alleyway in the photo below, we soon found we needed a guide just to find our way back!
If you’re visiting Marrakech for the first time, I can wholeheartedly recommend hiring a guide on your first day to take you around the souks and to see some of the main attractions of the city. I have no doubt that had I been wandering around on my own I would have ended up seeing just 10% of what I experienced with my guide – and would have spent the majority of my time lost and confused.
Indeed, one of the true delights of Marrakech is the joy of wandering aimlessly through the alleyways and medina, but I can honestly say that after having explored first with somebody who knew where everything was I felt a lot more comfortable walking around in the days that followed.
I paid approximately 100 MAD (11USD) to hire a guide for a half-day.