How to Stay Safe in Marrakech
Marrakech is among the most popular places in Morocco to visit. And for good reason. It depicts the beauty of Moroccan culture. Its souks and medinas, the massive Jemaa el-Fna which features merchants of ornaments, jewellery, beautiful fabrics, and carpets, snake charmers, peddlers of local food and drinks, and just about anyone going about their daily life.
But just like any other city, Marrakech also has its share of blackspots, eyesores and nuisances.
In general, it is safe to walk around, but there are things tourists must be aware of.
Pickpockets in the crowd
While Marrakech is a safe city — risks of mugging and taxi ripoffs are quite low — petty crime can be widespread. Therefore be aware that in the crowded confines of souks and markets where tourists frequent, pickpockets can easily blend in and suddenly disappear from sight once they got hold of your wallet, phone or any valuable.
Advice: Keep your valuables out of public sight and easily within your reach. Place your wallets and phones in your front pocket, if not holding on to them. Bringing your backpacks might not be the wisest move unless you stay away from large congregation of people.
Interaction with traders
Some shopkeepers who sell variety of items from exotic teapots to traditional Moroccan clothing can be quite persistent to convince you to buy their wares. A quick stop and inspection of goods could be easily understood as intent to buy instead of piqued someone’s curiosity.
Advice: Should you need to look at these items for souvenir gifts or personal use, expect to be pressured into buying the items you are interested in. From what they’re made of to the price, don’t believe in everything you’re told. Prepare to haggle for these goods starting at 25% to a third of the price offer. If eventually you lose interest, politely say “no, thanks”. Shopkeeper might try to win you over, or ask you to return next time.
On a positive side, if store owners concede that you aren’t buying their wares, some of them will wave goodbye with a grateful tone of “have a nice day.”
Female visitors might get men’s attention
Women especially from other cultural backgrounds might find themselves getting unwanted attention from the male population. More annoying than threatening, you might find men trying to start a conversation: “which country are you from?”, “how long will you be here?”, etc.
Advice: Be sensible. If you notice a disproportionately higher number of men are in the area, gravitate towards where women are. Do not stay late outdoors or take taxi late at night. Also, draw less attention to yourselves by wearing clothing that cover your shoulders and knees.
Keep yourself hydrated
If you happen to visit Marrakech (or any other place in Morocco) during summer months, you’ll expect temperatures in early to mid-40s. Such weather can easily dehydrate you. Therefore be prepared with bringing appropriate clothing, planning your itinerary and scheduling your activity hours of the day.
Advice: Always bring with you bottled water, and have extra supplies handy. It is best if you go outside of your accommodation early and late in the day. If you need to travel long distances — say Marrakech to Merzouga which takes hours by land — consider paying Morocco a visit during cooler months or cut short travel time by taking flights instead of car/bus.
Again, Marrakech is generally a safe place to go, and other tourists confess they feel even safer there than they would in places like say London, Paris or Barcelona. Violent crime is virtually unheard of, that’s why you seldom hear news about Morocco.
By any means the advice above are not meant to discourage you from experiencing Marrakech. They are just guides meant for you not to be surprised and to prepare dealing with such incidents. Moroccan people are genuinely nice and hospitable.
Wearing the right clothing will spare you from possible verbal harassment, doing what locals and tourists do should generate minimal attention to you. And being polite and reasonable will get you treated the same way.