Marrakech was the destination of a recent visit of Morocco for the Sustainability Leaders Project – the highlight being our stay at the breathtaking Kashbah du Toubkal ecolodge in the Atlas mountains. But we also spent time exploring Marrakech, its markets, restaurants, historic buildings. Mind you, this destination can get popular during peak season and has a fair share of tourist traps – especially restaurants.
To avoid those and to make the most of your stay, here a few tips by Marrakech resident and responsible traveller, Christof Burgbacher. Christof is also expert for the sustainable tourism Program of the UN World Tourism Organisation.
Christof, if you had to choose one, which would you consider your favourite place in Marrakech – and what makes it so special for you?
I love the coffee house just next to my flat. Besides a very good coffee and mint tea there is nothing special about it. But it is a kind of a meeting point for the neighborhood where people discuss their daily problems and watch together the important soccer games.
5 tips for travellers planning to visit Marrakech – Do’s and Don’ts?
Try to travel slowly. Marrakech is a busy city, keep your eyes open to discover all the hidden secrets of the city.
Try to eat local and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Great taste at a low price.
Visit the old city (Medina) and the new city (Gueliz, Hivernage), if possible each by day and by night. You will discover completely different worlds.
Be careful when you shop in the Medina. Imitations of local products are often imported from China.
Avoid travelling during summer time, temperature can get up to 50 °C
As a frequent traveller, what makes a city worth visiting for you?
I love to get surprised by discovering a city. I want to find the small, hidden places by walking around and talking to locals. A visible mixture of history and modern development is also something I appreciate.
The most important for me is to not contribute to any kind of over-tourism. So I love cities where people are still happy to see a tourist.
3 ingredients for the perfect Marrakech trip?
Sleep at least 1 night in a typical Riad in the Medina.
Enjoy the sunset over the famous place “Jamal El Fnaa” and observe its transformation into the biggest open air restaurant in the world.
Have a „Nouss Nouss“ (Moroccan coffee with milk) and a msemen with honey (Moroccan pancake) in a typical coffee house.
Which green hotels, tours/experiences and eateries would you recommend to socially and environmentally conscious travellers visiting Marrakech?
Acting 100% environmentally is actually quite difficult in Marrakech as efficient waste management and water treatment are still missing. However, there are some riads, hotels, and restaurants which try to reduce their ecological footprint and take their social responsibility quite seriously.
Outside of Marrakech I would stay in the hotel Le Fellah. All of them have a positive impact on the local community and avoid any kind of green-washing.
A good possibility to discover the city is by renting a bicycle. Marrakech has a public bicycle rental system. Due to the local interpretation of traffic rules I would suggest to start with a guided tour, for example this one.
Try to eat local and seasonal. A lot of Riads offer the possibility to discuss the menu at the time of booking or at the arrival. You can also ask to accompany them when they are going to buy the ingredients.
Any advice for travellers visiting Marrakech on a tight budget?
Travel during the low season. Prices for accommodations are quite lower and the city is not full of tourists.
Avoid the typical tourist restaurants and ask locals what they would recommend.
How has Marrakech as destination evolved in recent years, in terms of urban sustainability?
Marrakech hosted the COP22 in 2016 but unfortunately there are only very few improvements in terms of sustainable destination management.
It still depends on local actors to offer solutions for more sustainability.
Some of them are quite active and innovative but suffer from a lack of support and communication.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
By visiting Marrakech I really recommend to plan some days to visit also the countryside of Morocco. For example the region called Souss-Massa. This region is perfect for any kind of outdoor activities and allows you to discover a very authentic part of the country. To find an accommodation or activities in that region I suggest to have a look at a local guest house association RDTR. They are really involved in sustainable tourism and in the improvement of the economic situation of local people.
Thank you, Christof!
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