Why Marrakesh?

Colorful…fun…speak Arabic…shopping in the souks…walking…cafes…Jemaa el Fna square…art galleries…safe…snake charmers…sunny… Atlas mountains…couscous…smiling faces…

Introduction

Marrakesh is one of Morocco’s major cities, with a population of around 750,000.

Jemaa el Fna square at night, with the Koutoubia mosque in the background

It was first established around 1,000 years ago by the Almoravid dynasty, thus it boasts many historical sites and monuments. Among them are the Koutoubia mosque, Jema el Fna square, and the ancient medina, or old city, home to the famous souqs of Marrakesh.

Juxtaposed against this mysterious and colorful side are Marrakesh’s modern quarters, where you can eat at McDonald’s, shop at western style supermarket, or visit a trendy art gallery.

Westerners will feel comfortable both in the old and new parts of Marrakesh.

Since Marrakesh thrives on a tourism-based economy, making foreigners feel welcome is a top priority. Many people speak some amount of English,

The ancient city walls against a backdrop of the Atlas mountains

or are willing to patiently decipher a foreigners Arabic.  Safety is not a main concern, aside from the incidental petty theft of a wallet or camera, just keep your wits about you!

Getting there

Marrakesh has an international airport with many inexpensive flights to Europe. The main budget airline companies are Easyjet, Ryanair, Thomson, Atlas Blue which is a subsidiary of Royal Air Maroc.

The weather in Marrakesh is big draw for many people.  There is a short, mild winter in December and January, a hot, sunny summer in July, August and September. The rest of the time the weather is quite pleasant, sunny but not too hot. Many Europeans escape the endless gray skies and rain of their native countries to bask in the Marrakesh sun.

Getting around

Marrakesh is an easy city to walk in, and you can easily and safely walk a 20 minute route.

McDonald’s is considered a trendy place to eat and socialize.

Alternatively, there is no shortage of taxis, operating with a meter (make sure the driver turns it on), and the fare is usually between 6 and 15 dirhams (80 cents to $2). A fairly reliable bus system is an even cheaper way to get around, a ticket costs 3.5 dirhams (around 50 cents).

Cost of Living

A rising foreign and expat population has driven real estate up during the past 15 years. However, compared with the US or Europe the cost of living is still reasonable. A 2 bedroom unfurnished apartment runs from 1500-3500 MAD per month (US $200-400). Food expenses are around 30-60 MAD per person per day (US $4-8). Moroccans live quite frugally, they generally make do with little and don’t need a vast range of choice and entertainment. Living with a family is a good way to learn how to live quite simply in Marrakesh.