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Smoke fills the air, rising off the scalding grills overloaded with meats and fish. The call to prayer echoes throughout the overcrowded square with its thunderous song. Men in long, dark cloaks call out to you and women reach for your hands to brand them with henna.
You feel encumbered by the enormous crowd surrounding you and, suddenly, a monkey is thrown into your arms. The snake charmer playing an instrument that you can’t quite seem to label bids you to step closer toward his serpents.
The scene is buzzing, wild and chaotic and everything seems so foreign and exotic, you’re not sure where to look first. Welcome to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the heart of Marrakech, Morocco.
Intense, colorful, and mysterious, Marrakech is truly the jewel of Morocco. It is no wonder that this city boasts the country’s greatest tourism.
Teeming with traditional Arabic marketplaces, the souks of Marrakech are a sight to be seen. But knowledge is power and, in a place so seemingly foreign, power will be your best friend. When you visit this magical city, remember these five essential tips:
The souks of Marrakech are the perfect place to wander into the unknown. Get lost down that quiet side street of the Medina. Follow the enticing smell through the crowds. Sit down in that corner café and savor a Moroccan mint tea. Go and get lost.
The twists and turns of the labyrinthine alleyways that all look identical are just another part of the charm of this exotic city. But, rest assured, just about all roads throughout the Medina lead back to the famed main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa.
And if worse comes to worst, trust the young boys that offer to take you there for a small tip. They won’t lead you astray.
Arabic lesson number one: La, shukraan. It means "no, thank you." Learn this phrase and learn it quickly.
You will need it on every corner of the souks. Be polite but firm and stand your ground when you’re not interested in buying, because in the eyes of the Marrakech locals, every tourist is a potential client that needs to be (somewhat) forcefully nudged in the right direction.
Just as so many other big, touristy cities throughout the world, Marrakech runs rampant with pickpockets. Keep your belongings close and safely hidden away where they cannot be reached.
With every distraction thrown your way, know that someone is watching to catch you right when your guard is down. Don’t give anyone that opportunity.
Haggling isn't just a way of business in Morocco; it's a way of life. Moroccans pride themselves on their ability to make the best deals.
Tourism in Marrakech has been alive and well for centuries so the people have adapted their tactics in many ways. Don’t be the fool who accepts the first offer.
Above all else, fall in love with the sights, sounds, smells, and chaos of the souks of Marrakech. There isn’t anywhere else in the world quite like it.
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Enjoy every last moment of your time in Marrakech, Morocco. It truly is a magical place filled with exotic and interesting sights and people.
Keep your guard up when you're shopping and exploring in the souks but also let the people in and absorb the beauty of Moroccan culture. The culture of the Marrakech locals is so rich and flavorful, it'll win your heart over in an instant.
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