Budget Friendly Things to Do in Marrakech and Fez, Morocco
Updated: Dec 31, 2018
Crazy times and tranquil places in the sprawling urban jungles of Morocco.
As we aren’t huge fans of massive urban centers, we only spent a couple of days in both #Marrakesh and #Fez. They were some of what we expected -- pollution, aggressive salespeople, motorcycles everywhere, income inequality, and a ton of people. But also we found a pleasant side to both cities, with friendly locals, sprawling souks, and surprises around every corner (literally! We had about one near death experience a day with a speeding moto).
Like all #Moroccan cities, our favorite thing to do in Fez and Marrakesh was:
Wander around. There is something childlike and universe-trusting in abandoning yourself to the moods of the city, walking around with no motive, following where your nose leads you. This is our favorite thing to do in all big cities, and Fez and Marrakesh proved to be greatly rewarding. They both have enormous souks (Fez especially is famous for this), and you could spend an entire day exploring the markets, and thinking to yourself “I swear I’ve seen this shop before?”. But no, you haven’t -- its just that big.
Make sure to be aware of all the various ploys put on by shopkeepers to get you into their store: offering tea, asking if you have any items to trade, complimenting a piece of jewelry and asking if they can draw it, and general Moroccan friendliness (which is often genuine). We could write a whole post on our interactions with persistent shopkeepers, but we’ve found the best policy is: to be friendly, direct, and honest. And hey, if you do end up in a shop drinking mint tea -- no worries. Just enjoy the company and Moroccan hospitality, don’t feel the need to buy anything, and just say Lak Shokran!
Besides general meandering, here are some of our favorite things from:
The bronze souk: a section of the Fez markets is devoted entirely to bronze artisans. You can see them creating pieces, with plenty of showmanship, sparks, fire, and hammer blows.
Dar Batha Museum: we stopped in here on a whim. It proved to be a really peaceful spot, and worth the 8 dirham entry fee just as an escape from the craziness of the city. There are well-tended gardens and marble walkways, and the museum itself has Moroccan artifacts dating back hundreds of years.
Garden Jnan Sbil: huge botanical gardens. Don’t go on Mondays when its closed (we made this mistake). Another tranquil refuge from all the movement of Fez.
Jemaa el-Fnaa: this is the central square for all of Marrakech, and the sheer variety of activity could keep you occupied for hours. There are: fresh juice vendors, all kinds of food stalls, date and nut stands, live music performances, snake charmers, henna artists, sad monkeys on chains, and probably dozens of other things we didn’t notice. Its fun to just get a fresh orange juice, stand in one place, and see all of the activity buzzing around you
Jardin Majorelle: the walk to this park is an adventure in itself, as you go through souks, big streets, tiny streets, commercial centers, local residences, and then affluent area of town. This is a really popular tourist destination, so make sure to come early. Another welcome respite from the hustling bustling city.
Of course we’ve probably left out dozens of important cultural and historical icons. If you have more time and enjoy all of the liveliness of Fez and Marrakesh, you’ll discover a lot more. But for us, we found the perfect mix -- lose yourself for a couple of hours in the daily life of the city, retreat to a tranquil garden or terrace for a tea, and then venture back out into world.