Marrakech, Morocco: Staying in the Medina, a Dream or a Nightmare?
I love immersing myself in culture and experiencing the reality of the countries I visit.
I want to learn the history, the customs and any lessons that each country has to offer. When visiting Morocco, I decided to stay at a Riad; which is a traditional Moroccan home. I also made sure that the Riad was located in the Medina (old Arab walled city with many narrow and maze-like streets), instead of the “New City”. However, the Marrakech experience was very different from my expectations.
It all started when our taxi driver picked us up at the airport and drove us through the chaotic Medina. There were people, donkeys, motorcycles and vendors coming from every direction. The car couldn’t get through the tiny alleyways, so our driver stopped in the mist of the commotion and asked us to follow him on foot. As we rolled our suitcases walking extremely fast behind him through the shady alleys, I couldn’t help but think “What did I get myself into?”. After what it seemed like an infinite maze, we finally got to a giant door where our taxi driver knocked to let us in. The intricate door separated our Riad from the craziness of the Medina.
Despite the expedition, we were pleasantly surprised when we walked into the Riad.
This place was truly a Moroccan oasis, an architectural paradise full of character and luxury. Every detail was thought of, every color served a purpose, and every palm tree inspired relaxation. It was as if we were transported to another place and the sounds of the Medina faded away.
As we built up the courage and decided to step foot outside our Riad, we were once again in the middle of the chaos. After we relaxed and became part of the flow of the busy market, we knew we were experiencing the “true Morocco”. The food was delicious and authentic; the merchandises were eccentric and unique; and the people were straightforward and forthcoming. Nothing was filtered with guidance, just us learning how to go with the flow and become part of the Medina madness.
On one of our days of exploring, we decided to visit Gueliz “the New City”, 10 minutes away from the Medina. This place felt like any western city, there were your typical shopping malls, cafes and people. There wasn’t anything unique about it. After experiencing Gueliz, I was convinced and glad that we didn’t stay there. We were experiencing the beautiful and chaotic Marrakech by staying in the “Old City”. In the Medina, people test your negotiation skills even to buy a bottle of water. You can still find kids playing soccer despite the dangerous streets and Moroccans attempting to carry on with their way of life despite the western civilization forming outside of the Medina walls.
Marrakech to me was a chaotic dream, but a dream nonetheless.
If you visit Marrakech, you should definitely stay at a Riad in the Medina! I would do it all over again if I had the chance. There is no point, in my opinion, to travel that far and stay in the comfort zone of a cookie-cutter hotel. Although the Medina was overwhelming, we were completely safe at all times (even at midnight). We also ended up putting our sense of location to great use by figuring out our way in and out of the Medina.
Thanks for reading!
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