This post, video and photos courtesy of The Planet D, exclusively for HouseTrip as part of our #housetripping series.
Marrakech, Morocco is an exotic city that has strong traditions tied to an ancient culture. Located in Northern Africa, it is bordered by the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert. Visiting Marrakech will make you feel as if you are in an Indiana Jones movie. At least that’s how we felt. The souks (markets) in the old city haven’t changed for centuries and one can easily imagine what life was like during the height of the silk and spice trade. It’s a place where old meets new and where one can spend days getting lost in the maze of the old city known as the Medina.
When traveling to Marrakech, it’s important to know a few customs before you go. It will make your trip more enjoyable, and help you feel more comfortable as you meet the friendly locals and explore one of the busiest cities in all of Africa.
Staying in a traditional Riad is the ultimate in exotic accommodation. A riad is a large house that surrounds an inner courtyard. Many courtyards have a swimming pool and the four wall surrounding the pool are usually three stories high with a rooftop patio for dining and relaxing. Most riads were large homes and even palaces owned by rich families. Many have now been converted to apartments and accommodation and it is the best way to be immersed in the culture of Marrakech. HouseTrip offers plenty of choices in the city and we stayed in a beautiful riad in the heart of the Medina.
If you are lucky, you may be invited to a local family’s home for tea or dinner. When invited, it’s important to follow a few rules. Be sure to bring a gift of figs, dates or pastries with you, and when you enter anyone’s house, make sure to take off your shoes. Many Moroccans carry a pair of slippers with them to change in to, or your host will offer you a pair of their house slippers to wear while inside.
Much of Moroccan food is eaten with your hands and before your meal, it is important to thoroughly wash with soap and water. Normally a washbasin is brought out for you to use. When you do eat, only eat with your right hand. That is a hard and fast rule.
Greeting people in Marrakech is much like anywhere else in the world. A handshake is customary between men. However, a man must never shake a woman’s hand until she extends her hand first. Once you know someone well, you will most likely greet them with a kiss on both cheeks.
Alcohol is not widely consumed in Marrakech and when visiting anyone’s home, do not bring it along unless you are sure that it is accepted in your hosts’ house. Instead, be prepared to drink a lot of tea. In Marrakech tea is a tradition and you will be greeted regularly with a cup of sweet mint tea to enjoy. It’s delicious and not to be passed up. Take the time to get to know the locals; they are some of the most hospitable people in the world. Drinking tea together is a wonderful way to get to know each other.
And finally, learn a bit of the language before you go. French is widely spoken in Marrakech, but Arabic and Berber are the Mother tongue. Learning a bit of both is a great way to break the ice when meeting new people.
Visiting Marrakech will be one of the best vacations you’ll ever have. It’s an exciting destination that is not to be missed, and if you follow a few of these customs and traditions, you’ll find that your trip will be more comfortable and relaxing. The more prepared you are, the better your trip will be. So check out the HouseTrip website for a riad of your choice and start planning your trip to Marrakech today.