Solo Gay Trip Guide to Marrakech in Morocco
Marrakech is beautiful, exciting and very touristy. It is the hotbed of Moroccan tourist activity and while that has a lot of goods that come with it, the bad side gets quite so prominent especially when it comes to contact with locals. It is a very attractive option and what took me there was the enticing sun in late November when London was getting greyer and darker by day and the sun was still shining in Marrakech with great food, cheap flights and a chance to touch Africa, why the hell not?
Read my country guide about Morocco to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.
Moroccan people are nice, friendly and hospitable everywhere else except Marrakech! I have friends from Fez and Rabat and if I had listened to them and had slightly more time I would have gone to Fez or Rabat and then done dessert trekking for 2 days and ended up in Marrakech. Next time perhaps!
Marrakech is a beautiful city with a lot of French influence from the colonial times. The old Town is called Medina and the city is divided between the old Medina and the new neighbourhoods and then some resorts outside the city.
Tip: Most of the packaged holidays take you to these resorts away from the charms of the beautiful city; I’d highly recommend booking local Riads that help locals and let you enjoy the city like locals do.
All Things Marrakech
Tip: You are not allowed to take more than a little bit of money outside the country so budget your trip properly and use your card where possible so you don’t have to surrender your money at the end. I think the current limit is around 2000 Dirhams.
To and From Airport
There are some very cranky buses to and from the airport and taxi isn’t expensive either but make sure you agree on the price beforehand even with metered taxis.
Check out the guide to get the best flight deals wherever you go.
Public transport is not generally an option due to language and if you’re not familiar with the areas it can be problematic. Taxis are quite easily available and not expensive. You do need to negotiate in advance though.
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I have never been where people are so money focussed. From the children playing around in Medina who guided me to the Riad to shopkeepers to tour guide to people we met in local villages, everything is seemingly about money and sometimes it gets quite aggressive. I guess it has become a way of life. It was also quite weird how many teenage boys approached me with offers of all sorts of drugs.
This is not a critique of locals, they have to make the best of their circumstances but it does dampen the mood if you’re not prepared for it. Away from the touristy areas, in the narrow streets, I ate at some local cafes and people were the warm, loving and very friendly.
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Photos for money
That’s one other thing to be careful about. Every time you take photos with someone or someone takes photos for you, you might be asked for money. Keep some change in case you are asked.
Check out the Free Walking Tour for a chance to get to grip with the city and find some local perspective.
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I’d highly recommend booking a place in a Riad. I found a place in the middle of the Medina. It was really beautiful and the hosts were amazing. I’d recommend choosing a local place than a chain because you get to experience the local hospitality including the amazing breakfast I got every morning.
Check the guide to find the best accommodation in a new city.
Food is amazing. I ate at some high-end restaurants but honestly, walking around I stopped at small cafes made in shops where they were selling Tagine or grilled meat and that was the best food I have had.
The central square has food stalls in the evening with some pretty gory things on display (sheep heads and cow tongues as examples). I have a pretty sturdy stomach so I tried it and it was amazing. Comparatively expensive but worth a try!
Another must-try is the cactus fruit, which is fragrant, soft and delicious. ALWAYS buy it and don’t pick it from cacti in the wild, the thorns are fine and very annoying. Took me 2 days to get rid of them!
Medina (Old City) & Shopping in Souks
Medina is a maze of streets; you have to walk around in it to actually enjoy the diversity of these streets from the lifestyle to local food to architecture. When I was visiting Marrakech, I was going through a rough patch at work. On my second day, I saw some kids playing around in the mud with makeshift toys and they were happy and here I was complaining when everything was available to me. It still puts a smile on my face; bless those little bundles of joy!
With shopping, you have to be ready for lots of haggling and negotiating but you can find some great stuff especially jewellery, I got myself a silver bracelet.
You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling in this guide.
Visiting a hammam was very high on my list of things to do. I absolutely love spas and with hammams so cheap here I visited 3 of them. It was a mixed experience with some offers of extras (ahem!) to a great time. I loved Hammam Ziani and had an amazing massage there.
Jamaa el Fna and Koutobia Mosque
The central square of Marrakech is Jamaa el Fna. It is the focal point of life in this city and lively at all times from early mornings to late nights. I came across snake charmers, people with monkeys, fire blowers, musicians, food stalls, party tricksters, storytellers and god knows who else. Towards the end of the square is the biggest mosque of Morocco; Koutoubia mosque. While it is not the grandest or finest in terms of architecture there is stillness and peace inside a few metres away from the bustling Medina. The mosque garden is serene and beautiful and loved my nap there in the shade.
Tip: Be careful of pickpockets in the square more than anywhere else, it is a hotbed of activity and ALWAYS negotiate the price before you touch anything. This includes photos with animals.
Want to learn how to take perfect photos while travelling solo? Read this guide.
Within the old city, there is the Museum of Marrakech and despite the stuff not being of much interest, the building itself is marvellous and the interior is sleek. Made with marble it is so smooth it makes you want to play with the floor. The patterned floors and the fountains create a different world altogether. Taking the inspiration for future interior design projects from here.
Ben Yousef Madrasa
A madrasa is a sort of religious school and what most people don’t know is that the first university in the world was established in Morocco in Fez (University of Al-Karaouine). These were times when everything was taught as an extension of religion. This madrassa was a university which provided education to students coming from far and wide. Today it is a beautiful reminder of how much emphasis was placed on education earlier on. The intricate decorations that cover the walls, ceilings and arches all transported me into another world. This building is another level of mastery over geometry, architecture and aesthetics. Highly recommended!
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I visited Bahia palace after a relaxed nap post hammam visit in the late afternoon. The tourist numbers had dwindled by then and the sunlight was getting weaker. I found a few stray cats next to the entrance, they were quite fearless and friendly, perfect place for some tea. I slowly went inside, got myself the ticket and walked inside the palace. The first room was whitewashed with some patchwork around the ceiling, fine! I thought I’ll be quick here!
I had to change my mind soon because the colours exploded, the ceilings got covered in geometrical patterns, the colours became more and more vivid and by the time I got done, I felt this euphoria of colour, pattern and beauty. I’ll let you make your own decision when you visit but if I have had the chance to visit only 1 place in Marrakech, this would be it.
Saadain Tombs and Badi Palace
Saadain Tombs were relatively recently discovered and became quickly popular. The tombs are beautiful in kind of the same style as Ben Youssef madrasa. Definitely worth a visit! There is a small café next to the tombs with amazing tagine, do check it out (sorry there was no name).
Not far from the tombs is the older Badi palace. It is mostly in ruins and the grandeur here is not due to finesse but due to scale. Could be missed, if you are short on time, I should have!
Le Jardin Majorelle
Another gem of Morocco! It is a relatively newer addition to the landmarks, crafted over 40 years. When you enter it almost feels like an artist went with the frenzy of creating their masterpiece. The colours are so bold, I had to almost remind myself I was still in Marrakech. It definitely runs along the themes of orientalism but I put that aside to simply enjoy the beauty of this place.
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Now if you are visiting there’s plenty of options to go around this gorgeous city but I would recommend taking a day trip outside to see some of the countryside as well and it was shocking. The poverty, the warmth, the hospitality and simpler smiles and surprisingly lifestyles all intrigued me. I chose to go to Ourika valley which is a couple hours away from Marrakech and I also got to see the Siti Fatima waterfall; much more adventure than I imagined.
Tip: You do not need to pre-book things, there are lots of shops in Medina where you can book these tours and prices vary quite a lot so shop around. The actual people who run the tours are eventually the same.
Our guide picked us up and we headed to the valley. First stop was a small village (don’t remember the name) but we were given fresh bread with honey and some tea which was delicious but I could barely eat any. It felt cruel taking anything from people with so little around them. The children running around were fun though; they seemed especially fascinated by my shorts because it is not common around them to fashion bare legs like that.
We were shown how Argan Oil is made and then we headed to the interior eventually stopping at Ourika River for lunch. It was surprisingly delicious (I am always sceptical of mass production and mass tour recommendations). We sat with our feet dipped in pleasant (and then progressively colder cold) water. My group had fun people, Hellelujah!
Siti Fatima Waterfall
Some lunch and tea later we headed to the waterfall. It is a bit of a trek and a climb and you definitely need sturdy shoes with grip. 3 of us actually went to the top to enjoy the full experience with the guide but it was a tricky climb but we managed to do it. On the way back we stopped somewhere for a camel ride which isn’t really my thing but it was a fun day.
Marrakech was a fun experience, my first stop in Africa and quite an eye-opener. Despite the pestering for money, I have had a great time, until next time Marrakech!
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