Marrakech is a dream of a thousand and one nights. I was on fire when I set out to explore the most beautiful sights in Marrakech. But alone as a woman in Morocco it is not always easy! At the end of the article you will find some helpful Marrakech tips especially for women!
“Are the colors in Morocco really as intense and beautiful as they always say?” a friend asked me after my trip. And yes, indeed – the colors, the patterns: Morocco and especially Marrakech are an absolute feast for the eyes. There are interesting things to see everywhere, and it’s fun to get lost in the narrow, winding streets of the historically rich medina and discover new things. I probably would have spent a lot more time in this unique place, too, if it weren’t for a few things….
- The most beautiful sights in Marrakech
- Excursion tip from Marrakech: Essaouira
- Tips for women traveling alone in Morocco
The most beautiful sights in Marrakech
Place Djemaa el-Fna – Of snake charmers and Moroccan barbecue
Welcome to my travel blog!
Hey, I’m Tatiana, a German-Brazilian living in Berlin & the author behind The Happy Jetlagger. I’ve been writing about my travels since 2014. In addition to my job as a flight attendant, this blog is my passion project!
The Place Djemaa el-Fna is the central point in the Medina, the old town of Marrakech, and at the same time the big market place where everything happens. Even if you get lost in the labyrinthine corridors in the old town, you somehow always find your way back to the Place Djemma-el-Fna. The square is huge, around it some stores and cafes. There’s really not much going on during the day – a few juice stands here and there, a few henna painters. Until the evening approaches – then movement comes to the square. And every evening!
Slowly, the previously empty square fills up with tons of food stalls where meat and fish are put on the grill, musicians and snake charmers. Moroccan folk festival atmosphere! The best way to watch all the hustle and bustle is from one of the roof terraces around the square. Don’t worry, the places all look a lot like tourist traps, but they’re not that overpriced! And you can sit there undisturbed for 1-2 hours, watch the sunset and soak up the atmosphere.
On the square itself, however, you should be careful with looking around and looking… Each food stall has its tourist catchers well posted, who don’t let up and tirelessly wave their menus in front of you. Really look in peace is impossible. Also with the snake charmers and musicians caution is required, pulls out the camera. For each photo a fee is demanded not exactly unaggressively, if one does not come from itself on it. After all, the performers live on it – so donate or no photo. Then, if you don’t have a heart for animals either, you can still take pictures with monkeys that are kept on chains and have to wear silly disguises like tutus and sunglasses.
Jardin Majorelle – the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent
The Jardin Majorelle was actually always the first thing that came to my mind when I thought of Marrakech. Exotic plants, in the middle a house in rich Mondrian blue (those colors again!) and the symbiosis between Orient and modernity. I wasn’t quite that flashed after all. The garden itself is smaller than I imagined and unfortunately the Yves Saint Laurent Museum on the grounds was just closed. But the collection of diverse plants from all over the world is impressive even for non-botanists. In the air-conditioned cozy café (a dream with outside temperatures of 40 degrees) you can take a break comfortably with mint tea and fresh juices.
The Jardin Majorelle is located outside the medina and is best reached by cab. Even if you should bargain here – we never really made it to a realistic price and paid overpriced 40 to 50 Dirham (ca.4-5€) for round trip. Entrance fee for the Jardin Majorelle (without museum): 70 dirham.
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Merdersa Ben Youssef
One of the most beautiful buildings in Marrakech is the Merdersa Ben Youssef, a former Koranic school. The courtyard is very impressively designed with stucco ornaments and mosaics – absolutely worth seeing!
Musée de Marrakech
Nearby is the Musée de Marrakech – cultural events and exhibitions are often held there. But what is more interesting is that the museum is located in an old palace.
La Maison de la Photographie
Maybe not interesting for everyone, but a little insider tip near the Musée de Marrakesh and the Medersa: the Maison de la Photographie. In a small riad (beautifully restored, by the way), black-and-white photos by various photographers who visited Morocco between 1870 and 1950 are on display. A great insight into a world that was much more exotic back then than it is today! At reasonable prices you can also take home your favorite photo.
Tip: Be sure to go up to the roof terrace, enjoy the view and eat and drink at relatively reasonable prices!
The Saadian Tombs are one of the most visited sights in Marrakech. However, the waiting time here can sometimes be quite long if you are unlucky. The main attraction here is the Great Mausoleum, where sultans and their servants are buried – really very beautiful! Unfortunately, you can only view the mausoleum through a narrow side door, which means you have to stand in line for a long time when there is a large crowd. So if you have little time, I would skip this place.
Near the Saadian tombs you can find the Bahia Palace. Here it really feels once more like Marrakech and a thousand and one nights. Tropically planted courtyards, colorful mosaics and magnificent decorations!
The souks of Marrakech
For the souks themselves, you can easily take a whole day – in many cases, the souks are divided by industry: Here more leather goods, there more lamps, there more carpets. In part, you can also still look over the shoulders of the craftsmen and see how, for example, leather is tanned or fabric is dyed. All very original and fascinating.
Real bargains can hardly be made in Marrakech. You also have to be prepared for long price negotiations (and I’m really bad at that!). In Marrakech, the prices are exorbitant, so if you are still traveling, better shop elsewhere. But the market hustle and bustle is always interesting.
Excursion tip from Marrakech: Essaouira
Marrakech is not located by the sea, and depending on the time of year, a little cooling down is not bad at all. The coastal town of Essaouira is just under a 3 hour bus ride from Marrakech and is an interesting contrast to Marrakech. I spent a few days there. You can read more in this blogpost:
From Marrakech you can easily get to Essaouira by bus, but you can also book an organized day trip if you don’t have that much time.
Tips for women traveling alone in Morocco
In my view, Morocco is not an “easy” country for women traveling alone. Still, I would say that at least in tourist places like Marrakech and Essaouira, as well as big places like Casablanca and Rabat, you can get around just fine if you keep a few things in mind.
Clothing for Morocco: What do I wear as a woman?
Even if some female tourists show it and do not care about hints that one should better choose more “modest” clothes in a Muslim country, tight hot pants are probably not a good idea as a solo traveler. Personally, I think that it makes no difference whether you wear long pants or short shorts as a woman – you get picked on anyway, and I don’t think that bare legs make anything worse than it already is. I have always “covered” myself very well. Nevertheless, the nastiest things were shouted after me.
However, as a solo traveler, you’re guaranteed to feel more comfortable wearing a little more fabric on your body such as loose fabric pants and breezier tops. You’re still not immune to stupid comments, but you won’t draw more attention to yourself than necessary. There is no compulsory headscarf for women in Morocco, and wearing a headscarf is not expected of non-Muslims.
Pickpockets in Marrakech
Pickpocketing is probably less of a problem in Marrakech, except around Place Djemma-el-Fna. There I have been warned several times about pickpockets.
Safety at night – is it dangerous as a woman in Marrakech?
If you are staying in the old town: Depending on where your hotel is located, it can seem dodgy there at night. The first night I didn’t leave my lodgings after nightfall, and that even though I’m not usually a big chicken. The next few nights I did dare, but basically walked fast and with open eyes and ears through the sometimes pitch-black alleys when I was alone.
While I ultimately don’t think it’s mega dangerous in the old city, it’s the subjective feeling that might make it uncomfortable for one woman or another. I found it scary at times.
So be careful with the location of your accommodation! Or choose accommodation outside the medina, where you can cab right up to the door if you’re traveling after dark. (In the medina, this is often not possible). Oh, and who says, you have to stay as a woman better in the evening in the hotel: You should really have experienced the Place Djemaa el Fna in the evening, because you miss a lot!
Accommodation in Marrakech
The range of accommodation in Marrakech is huge. If you want to stay in a typical riad, with a cozy courtyard, real Moroccan ambience and so on, you have to look around in the old town. (It can get a little spooky here at night though, see above). As a solo traveler, I would advise you to choose an accommodation that is a bit more communicative and where you can get in touch with other travelers more quickly.
My tip: Rodamon Marrakech* (there are also private rooms there). It’s brand new and spotlessly clean, nice welcome, absolutely great discovery! However, the location is a bit out of the hustle and bustle (a bit lonely at night), and the address given by the hotel is not correct, that either way you have to rely on the shady services of one of the numerous “city guides” for the time being.
Alone as a woman in Morocco? You are not alone!
You think you’re the first woman to come up with the idea of traveling alone to a country like Morocco? Nope! Surprisingly, I met many women traveling alone in Marrakech. And that was really my salvation. Almost on the first day I met another single traveler. From then on I felt a little more comfortable in the alleys of the medina, in pairs you feel a little safer and can better defend yourself against pushy sellers. Or laugh together at their advances! So, feel free to look for other “fellow sufferers”!
Beware of friendly helpers and city guides
A huge warning against all seemingly helpful and sometimes pushy people in the streets of the old town, who immediately want to show you the way or have tips ready! Don’t believe anything people shout at you as you walk by and don’t talk to anyone! This sounds very harsh (and is also very sad) – but in 99.9% of all cases you will only get rid of money and at worst get into nastier discussions that can quickly become unpleasant. Especially if you are traveling alone! The vendors/ wannabe city guides/whatever in Marrakech are very crafty and can get really abusive and threatening if you get too involved with them.
A small selection of the most popular scams in Marrakech:
- “it’s closed” – no matter where you want to go: it’s closed right now. At least that’s what some resourceful guys say. And direct you somewhere else, preferably to your own store or that of your brother-in-law, where you first have to undergo a sales pitch.
- “the place is this way” – because tourists often orientate themselves at the Place Djemma el-Fna, you basically get this info shouted after you, but the direction is pretty much right
- “I show you the way, but I don’t want any money” – worst scam ever, because the guy really makes a trustworthy impression, but then refers you to another random “friend”, who then refers you to the next one and so on, and at the latest the last one demands money for whatever.
Actually, there is nothing better when traveling than to be able to talk to locals (no matter if man or woman) to learn more about the country and its people first hand. However, I strongly advise against making any kind of contact with men as a solo traveler. Women usually keep a low profile anyway and are less visible in public areas. I was somehow often uncomfortable and felt like I would make a wonderful victim for tourist cams. Even in a café we were towed by the previously sympathetic waiter to a spice store under the pretext of a small tour.
In general, a confident demeanor and determination are worth their weight in gold! And that’s not so easy, because you often find yourself in very unpleasant situations for which you are not prepared as a semi-naïve tourist with an otherwise positive view of people. All in all, this made my Marrakech visit very exhausting – unfortunately.