Marrakech can be a bargain for savvy tourists. The two must see’s in Marrakech, Djemaa el-Fna and the Souks, are free. Frugal even if you can’t resist making purchases.
The landmark I use to orientate myself is the tower of the Koutoubia Mosque. The tallest in the city, it can be seen from anywhere near the Medina, the old city.
The Food Stalls At Djemaa el-Fna
From the tower of the Koutoubia Mosque, the Djemaa el-Fna is only a couple steps north.
During the day, this square is filled with dancing monkeys, orange juice carts (2 Dirham – approximately $0.54 U.S. – for a glass of orange juice – note: a common “trick” on tourists is to charge extra if you wish no ice, remember this is a hot country with little portable refrigeration, ice is at a premium to the plentiful oranges), and other entertainers.
But the real action starts at sundown. The food carts come out and so do the bargains. The posted prices are usually for the locals, expect to be charged a higher price if you don’t speak the language, especially if you don’t want to haggle. Still you can get a bowl of the famed chick pea based harira soup for 2.5 Dirham (approximately $0.69 U.S.). The round loaf of bread commonly eaten with this soup can be purchased for 1 Dirham ($0.27 U.S.).
The Souks are a maze of little shops situated right beside the Djemaa el-Fna. These stalls can be confusing and enterprising locals will insist that paid guides are needed. Unless you’re looking for a specific stall, they’re not. If you get “lost”, simply walk in one direction until you exit.
The Souks are one of the best places to get souvenirs including fabrics, leather shoes, and tajines (the cone like clay dishes used to prepare local cuisine). For spices, the grocery stores are a better bargain. For best deals, haggle. It’s expected by shop keepers.
You may be tempted to visit the Menara, another free site. We saved the taxi fare and trekked out there by foot. We were disappointed. It consisted mainily of a giant pool of stagnant water with one small shell of a building. The building charges an admission fee.
Unless you have a burning desire to see olive groves or a common teenage hang out site or have too much time on your hands, spend your energy exploring other more interesting areas of the city.
Marrakech is a wonderful, fascinating city filled with exotic sights and smells and tastes. And with proper planning, it doesn’t have to break your travel budget.