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Marrakech in all its madness and bustle can be overwhelming, even for the most avid traveller. But with friendly locals, great hospitality and visitor safety a top priority, Morocco’s top tourist destination, aka the Red City, can be rewarding if you’re going it alone. Just be sure to do your research.
One of the best ways to start the day is at the centrally located Café des Epices watching the vendors set up their shops before a day of trading in the colorful spice square. Order breakfast or just a fresh juice or nous nous coffee and plan your day. The Medersa Ben Youssef is nearby, as are the metalsmith and leather souks – great sites to visit during a trip to Marrakech.
To get your bearings, request the services of a guide who will not only provide you with a history of the old city (very interesting), but help point you in the right direction of the major sites and also ease the intimidation of the bustling souks. The Bahia Palace, Badi Palace, Medersa Ben Youssef and Maison de la Photographie should all be included on your list.
Don’t miss the sunset from one of the rooftop terraces overlooking Jemaa el Fna as the sky lights up in various shades of pink, orange and purple. Sip a mint tea, grab your camera (and selfie stick) and soak up the nighttime ambiance. Solo travelers wanting to experience the best of Jemaa el Fna food stalls should head to Aicha on the corner of the night market, easily accessible and away from the hustlers who may insistently try to get diners to their stalls.
Don’t be afraid to reserve a table for one! At a restaurant like Café Clock, nightly entertainment attracts a hip crowd and the café prides itself on being a cross-cultural café. Somewhere like Le Jardin and Café Atay, solo travelers can easily curl up in a corner with a book, or in a more open space where it’s easier to meet fellow travelers.
Smaller, more budget-friendly riads such as Riad BE, Riad Chambre d’Amis, and Riad Yasmine are the perfect destination for solo travellers. The locations are perfect and the common spaces provide an area to meet fellow travellers.
Knowing a few words of either French – bonjour (hello), non merci (no thank you) or even s’il vous plait (please), or perhaps a few phases in local Arabic dialect Darija – salam alykoum (hello), la chakran (no thank you), atay bi nana (mint tea) will increase your interactions with the locals while out in the souks, in the café or when taking a taxi.
Not all areas of the medina are the same. Some provide a very local feel, which is great for soaking up the ambiance, but not so great for returning back to your riad after dark. Areas such as Dar El Bacha, Lksour, Kennaria and Rue Riad Zitoun Jdid are perfect destinations for solo travelers as there is tons of foot traffic and security.
Marrakech is a bustling city. With the medina filled with pedestrians, scooters, salespeople in the souks and the unexpected that seems to pop up, sometimes a day at the spa is just what one needs. A visit to the hammam will provide just the right level of relaxation needed to rejuvenate during a Marrakech city break.
Reading up on what is allowed and what’s not permitted in Moroccan culture should be high on your list of things to do before traveling solo here. For example, non-Muslims are prohibited from entering mosques throughout Marrakech, while homosexuality and pre-marital relations remain illegal and punishable by law.