My First Impression of The Medinas In Marrakech, Morocco

This blog post is in Partnership with Explore Morocco

I hardly ever get “culture shock” these days, but Marrakech was different – in the best way possible. I’d heard about the medinas – the old towns of Moroccan cities which once served as protection from invaders and date back to the 11th century. However,  nothing could have fully prepared me for wandering through these winding alleyways.

My senses were ignited as soon as I stepped foot into Marrakech’s medina or marketplace, Djemaa El Fna. It became apparent that you could easily lose yourself here – both literally and figuratively. There were so many sounds, sights, and smells vying for my attention all at once. It felt like I was immediately transported to another world.

Once we stepped into the medina, I was smacked with the overwhelming smells & sights of my surroundings, like the sound of sandals clacking against the hot pavement, donkeys pulling carts of who-knows-what, engines from speedy motorcycles, endless forms of transportation buzzing by, spices on spices on spices. There were goat heads laying on tables, men giving unwarranted directions, endless honking, winding walls that made me feel like I was in a maze, the call to prayer sung in every corner, horses galloping in carriages and so much more. My senses were on alert as I wandered through the blush alleyways unsure of what would lie around the corner. Exhilarating and vibrant – it’s easy to see why they call Marrakech the ‘Red City’.

I really try to be mindful of my surroundings and appreciate every moment when I travel. Morocco made that easy.


Here’s my Marrakech Experience in 5 senses: 

Sight: Red taxis, blue taxis, ornate tiles & archways, dark & narrow alleyways inside the medina, Arabic letters, the man serving my food, olives, fish, naturally dyed clothing, stray kittens, donkeys carrying loads, leather jackets, leather poufs, mosques, the process of scarves being stitched, and the molding of wet clay.

Sound: The call to prayer, horns honking, Arabic, donkeys straining, “Balak” which means to move out of the way in the medina, and “Shukra” which means thank you.

Smell: Dust, fresh mint, engine exhaust, and the scent of pigeon poop from the leather tanneries.

Taste: Camel burger…don’t ask, amazing lentils, beets, fresh yet tasteless bread, olive oil & salt to give the bread

taste, bitter mint tea, and the sweet & savory taste of chicken pastilla.

Feel: Kaftan on my skin, mint leaves, leather, fluffy rugs, and the hammam (traditional body scrubbing) that removed all of my dead skin.

Anytime I hear these sounds or smells these scents, I am immediately transported back to these days spent walking through the medina. Marrakech was one of my final designations in Morocco, after Fez, Casablanca, Merzouga, Moulay Idris, and Ait Ben Haddou. Out of all of the cities I visited, it certainly left the biggest mark on me.


Here are my tips for exploring the medina:

Get a Guide – A guide might make you feel more comfortable and they’ll also be able to provide relevant information. This will also prevent you from getting lost.

Bargain – Yes, you can and absolutely should bargain! It’s customary! Stand your ground, but have fun!

Wander Wisely – Be mindful of your surroundings, use a money belt and carry valuables closely.

Buy A Local Sim – Download or Google Maps in order to help you find your way around the medina. You should be able to buy a local sim for cheap.

Dress Appropriately – While it’s not mandatory, it’s best that your shoulders and knees are covered due to cultural customs.

Know A Few Arabic Words – Learning some basic phrases will get you far, especially with the locals!

Be Respectful While Taking Photos – You’ll want to take plenty of photos. Just respect local boundaries and always be sure to ask if you want to take photos of/with people.

Marrakech is one of those places that reminded me why I travel – to see, feel, and experience a totally different world. Enjoy!








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