So, what is a medina?
The medina of Marrakesh is more than a thousand years old and a UNESCO world heritage site. Ignoring the fact that there is electricity, you really do feel like you’ve be transported through time. Essentially, Medina means walled city. The old, thick concrete slabs holding the riads together, the lack of window and most importantly, the distinctively recognisable ash pink, clay colour have been unchanged for centuries.
The old rulers of Marrakesh decided that it would be really funny to see tourists get lost in the city so they purposefully built it with winding streets, dead ends and sharp random corners. Just for the LOLs. Ok, maybe not. It was built like this for defensive reasons, mostly, even though it was never attacked, not to trick tourists. The idea was to have the foreign army lost in a confusing labyrinth city and at the same time, pelted by citizens with stones or rotten eggs and whatever from the safety of their roofs. It’s quite fun for tourists as well. Gives a whole new meaning to “get lost and wander” until you need to pay a small boy to bring you back to your riad.
Another thing, a riad is a living space that is somewhere in between a palace and a house. Most of the boutique hotels located within the walls of the medina are riads. AND I WOULD REALLY RECOMMEND YOU STAYING IN ONE. Just for the sake of convenience and authenticity. It was such an amazing experience. For one, there are no cars in the medina because of narrow the streets are so everything is transported by mule. Coming from a car-obsessive place like Singapore I was thoroughly confused, what do you mean no cars? We pay a small fortune for our cars, what do you mean you don’t have them here? You savages.
It makes for good photo opportunities though.
Another thing within the medina is the souks. It’s basically a bazaar or for the Singaporeans, a pasar malam, except that it’s all day and not just in the evenings. Souks are categorised based on the items the shops are selling. It’s relatively easy for you to find the items you want but difficult to find the exact shop you want to buy it from. Tricky tricky…
Which brings me to my next point… You WILL get scammed and tricked if you don’t have your guard up. If you are Asian, be prepared to here an orchestra of clumsily pronounced “konichiwa”s. That’s racist man. I really cannot fathom for the life of me, why Marrakesh is such a popular destination for Japanese tourists seeing that they have COMPLETELY different cultures. I almost feel sorry for the Japanese tourists lost amongst the chaos of the medina.
I digress. There are certain scams I should warn you about. Basically everyone there wants your money. DO NOT ASK FOR DIRECTIONS. You will be expected to pay for it. DO NOT TAKE FREE SAMPLES OR “TOKENS OF FRIENDSHIP”, you will be expected to pay for it. Even the children, and especially the children. DO NOT TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS OF ANIMALS WHEN THEIR OWNERS ARE WATCHING. You will be expected to pay for it.
Other than that, Moroccans are generally nice people. I hands down loved, loved LOVED my trip and I would be back in a heartbeat. The Medina is a magical place and I hope you’d be up for the next flight there as well!