Culture Shock: A Guide to Staying Safe in Marrakech
Posted on November 3, 2012 by Arabella Robbins
Marrakech will certainly awaken all your senses. The city swells with people throughout the day, the traffic seems permanently chaotic, and the confidence of the local salespeople is completely unshakeable.
You may find it overwhelming. But perhaps that’s the point of travel – after all, nobody wants to holiday in a different continent and culture only to be underwhelmed.
The problem with feeling overwhelmed is that it can also make you feel unsafe. And we don’t want that. So we’ve put together a guide to allay any concerns you may have about visiting The Red City.
Pack it up
Buy or bring a secure bag or rucksack – one that isn’t easy for wandering hands to enter. It’ll be useful for keeping for shopping in, carrying a bottle of water, and keeping your camera safe.
Beat the heat
Marrakech can become uncomfortably hot due to the lack of breeze and the heat island effect. Keep your energy levels up by drinking plenty of water and eating regularly.
Before you head to the city, have a good idea of how you’ll make the most of Marrakech. Without a plan, you’re an easy target for the local guides or, worse, wannabe guides – especially if you’re idly walking around and holding up a map. If you do take advice from them make sure you are firm and let them know exactly where you want to go. Leave the route to their discretion and you’ll more than likely end up in their uncle’s shop or having mint tea with their second cousin twice removed.
Learn to say no
Give a firm “la” to anyone that is trying to take advantage of you. It means “no”. And if that doesn’t work, a mention of the “police” should see them back down. Basic, perhaps, but these people don’t want to be trouble with the law, they just want to sell you something.
Beware of pickpockets. They’re not who you may think they are. Yes, little children and other people always seem a little too close for comfort, but the one to watch are the old ladies begging in the souk. They look harmless but some of them would give the Artful Dodger a run for his money.
Manners cost nothing
Moroccans are lovely people and very helpful – but they are tough people, too. Don’t be rude or do anything to antagonise them; what you may see as a joke or banter during a haggle over price may not be taken in the right context.
Take the ‘any city’ test
Bring some of the sense with you – would you walk down a dark alley at 11pm in any city? Probably not, so best not to take the risk in Marrakech. Sadly, you’ll find bad people in cities around the world – Marrakech is no exception.
Ask the police
There are lots of police around Marrakech, and they are so helpful. Never feel threatened by them; they are there to make your trip to Marrakech as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Don’t be afraid to call it a day
If you’re feeling flustered, frustrated, or plain lost, don’t be afraid to jump on the next minibus back to Tigmi, and return to Marrakech another day when you’re armed with a better idea of where to go and what to do.