A Foreigners First Impression of Marrakech, Morocco.
Arriving in Marrakech
Friday 21st February 2020… 11:31 pm. I had just touched down in Marrakech.
My first time in Morocco, I had no idea what to expect.
Usually, when you’re flying over a country you can get a feel for it. Especially upon landing. I tend to have a quick glance toward the city.
It was 29 minutes to midnight. It was complete darkness.
I’d heard rumours about Marrakech and Fez. How they were crowded, overwhelming and dangerous.
Given that I arrived so late at night, at the start of a solo trip. I didn’t want to take the public bus into the medina and walk 30 minutes to my hostel.
So I arranged a private hire airport transfer.
I got dropped off at my hostel and went straight to bed.
No first impressions on my first day.
Which made it slightly more difficult. The next morning I had to meet an entire room of dormmates, who I probably woke up when checking in, find my way around a new hostel, a new city and a new country.
Before going into detail on my first day in Marrakech, I feel like I should give some context.
I had recently returned from what on the outside would look like an unsuccessful trip to India. I was literally there a matter of days.
It wasn’t unsuccessful though. I believe in travel you learn with every experience. Good or bad. That was the case for India.
I made a decision that not many others would. To abandon the trip and change my plans.
Most would have carried on, spent a lot of money and not gained anything from it.
What’s all this got to do with Marrakech? – Good question.
I booked this trip very last minute. I’d always wanted to visit Morocco. I saw cheap flights and booked it. Before my boarding pass had even downloaded it was time to go.
Minimal research, no plan, no return ticket. The best way to travel.
So let’s go back to Marrakech.
Waking up on a Saturday morning to 27-degree heat was certainly a pleasant first impression.
I got my bearings in the hostel and went through the typical hostel backpacker conversation with a few people in the hostel before deciding to head out into the medina.
It was chaos. Organised chaos.
I was immediately intrigued.
From donkeys and camels to motorbikes and cars. The locals were prepared to ride anything through the narrow medina streets if they had somewhere to go.
If you’re a regular viewer of my travel vlogs on my YouTube channel, then you will know I need a coffee before I do anything. So that was my plan.
I found myself walking, very slowly, towards the main square (Jemaa el-Fnaa).
I soon realised that Morocco is not a country of early risers. It was easily 10 am and a lot of shops, cafes, restaurants and any other local businesses were still setting up.
It seemed rather laid back for such a busy city.
I eventually settled on a cafe, which happened to have a rooftop. A common theme throughout Morocco.
If you’re anything like me and enjoy people-watching, it is very easy to do in Marrakech. I found myself chilling out on the rooftop of the cafe for about an hour watching the locals go about there morning.
A few hours of wandering around followed. When people tell you that you can easily get lost in the Medina, they aren’t lying.
All the streets look the same. They even sell the same stuff depending on what street you’re on.
I then decided to scout out a place for food. As the hostel provided breakfast I didn’t have to consider food up until now.
Every menu was the same and every place looked the same. I don’t understand how they’re all still functioning as a business. There is so much competition and little to no variation.
I spent a few more hours of visiting the Koutoubia and the Ben Youssef Mosque grounds, wandering the streets, trying to find my bearings and take it all in.
I caught up with a friend in a bar just outside of Jemaa el-Fnaa and shortly made my way back to the hostel. It was early. However, it felt like the right thing to do.
I avoided any late-night trouble, late-night crowds and I got to reflect on the day and more importantly my first impressions of Marrakech.
My First Impression of Marrakech
As this post is about my first impressions of Marrakech I will only discuss what I thought after the first day.
After all, that is what a first impression is.
I ended up spending numerous days in Marrakech throughout my trip, I’ll safe that for my final thoughts on Marrakech.
I’ll be completely honest. I was slightly overwhelmed.
However, as I have travelled to many countries in Southeast Asia and India I am used to that initial feeling.
I could imagine for a first-time traveller or someone who has never experience a “culture shock” before then it might be a bit intense at first.
first impression of Marrakech: The people
I thought most locals were very welcoming. Yes, of course, they were trying to sell me something every single time. Whether it be a tour, some food, a Moroccan tea or a picture with a snake.
There didn’t seem to be too many locals who said hello or anything if it wasn’t followed up with a sale pitch.
Which in my opinion is frustrating as you then have your guard up. Which leads to potentially missing out on interacting with genuinely nice people.
That’s why I don’t react badly to that. Instead, I embrace the culture. The locals do too. They love it when someone haggles with them over anything.
In the tourist industry, I found all the locals to be very accomodating. Some of the most accomodating I’ve ever experienced. From constant offers of mint tea in the hostel to very hospitable service in cafes and local restaurants.
first impression of Marrakech: The Medina
Busy. Hectic. Fast-paced. Amazing.
I weirdly loved the Medina.
It’s obvious from your first steps into the Medina it is catered to holidaymakers. By that, I don’t mean backpackers. I mean tourists who stay in fancy hotels and have no budget limit. The Medina is shop after shop after shop.
You can literally buy anything in there.
I literally witnessed someone buying a tortoise in a market like it was a normal thing to do.
That’s what I love about it.
Whilst there isn’t actually a lot to do, technically speaking.
You can walk around and just watch. Watch people. Watch what they’re doing. Time will fly by.
Expect the unexpected.
There are a few things I do disagree with. For example, the snakes and monkeys treatment in the main square. Along with how they treat the donkeys. However, I don’t like to talk about the negatives. I’d rather mention them so you are aware that they do exist.
first impression of Marrakech: The City
Marrakech had a unique feel to it.
European in its development.
African in its culture.
It was incredible.
conclusion: first impression of Marrakech?
I don’t want to reveal too much in this blog post as this is meant to be purely my first impressions of Marrakech.
Keep an eye out on my YouTube channel and other social media platforms for more Morocco content coming every single day!
I will be bringing blog posts on each location I visit, travel guides and more travel tips for Morocco.
I’ve been hard at work recently and have already created my Morocco Travel Guide PDF that you can now purchase on my store!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT – Thank you for reading this entire blog post… as a reward, the first 5 people to enter “Marrakech5” will get the Morocco travel guide for free!
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Hey! I’m Aaron Jarvis. I’m a budget backpacker and online content creator.
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