When I told people I was coming to Marrakech by myself, I got a lot of raised eyebrows and concerned lectures. And after a while a bit of anxiety started to creep in...Was all of this concern really warranted? Was it really that unsafe?
Now that I've been here for a couple of days, I've decided. No, it's not. That's not to say that you don't need to be alert and cautious. But Marrakech is definitely not a place to be feared. In fact, it's amazing! Here are a few of my first impressions of this Moroccan paradise:
1. THE MEDINA IS LIVELY & CHAOTIC
The narrow alleyways and busy foot traffic throughout the medina make it a lively and chaotic place to wander. Plus, the winding network of streets creates a maze, which can be overwhelming to navigate. Luckily there are decent landmarks and Google Maps works offline!
2. AND REALLY CLEAN!
For a small city section with so much going on, the streets are impressively clean!! Not a single public trash can in sight, and yet there's no litter on the streets and the roads always look like someone just swept up!
3. PEOPLE ARE SO FRIENDLY...
Within my first five minutes in the medina I was met with "you are welcome!" over a dozen times. No matter where you are in the medina (but more so in the Jemaa El Fna or the souks) people will greet you loud and greet you often.
4. BUT SOME KINDNESS COMES AT A PRICE
While most people are genuinely friendly and any help they offer comes out of the kindness of their heart, there are those who try to take advantage of your need for assistance. Young guys who offer to carry your bags to your hotel or walk you to where you're trying to go will inevitably ask you for a "tip". Worst of all, you don't realize what they're up to until it's too late. I got 'trapped' by these hustlers twice in my first day, but I learned my lesson. And once you know what you look for, these guys are easy to spot and to avoid. If you need directions, just walk into the nearest hotel, restaurant or store and ask.
5. WOW, WHAT A DEAL!
You don't need to spend a lot to eat well in the medina - a delicious three-course meal and drink cost me less than US$10. But the best deal of all: a tall glass of fresh squeezed (locally grown, organic) orange juice for US$0.40!! FOURTY CENTS!!