On my second full day, I woke up and tried to put the terrifying experience of the day before behind me, thinking to myself that I shouldn't let what happened ruin my week long trip or taint my opinion about Marrakech and Morocco in general.
Although I felt more positive, I felt like a walk round Menara Gardens would help ease the stress of the previous day away and that a nice sedate way to do it would be to travel by caleche. What could possibly go wrong with a walk in the park and a ride in a horse drawn carriage I thought? So I picked my ride, and after some haggling, agreed a price of dirham for a ride to Menara Gardens, a walk around and back to Jemaa El Fna which I was happy enough with. So I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the ride up to the park whilst soaking up the suns rays.
Then as we approached the park, I was abruptly told by my driver I must be back in 20 mins which I thought was odd and too short an amount of time to enjoy the tranquility of the gardens. After some discussion I managed to extend this time to 30 minutes, although this again wasn't enough for me to enjoy the gardens.
So after a fleeting visit to the gardens I got back onto my ride ready for the leisurely ride straight back to Jemaa El Fna, or so I thought. We headed back off in the direction we had came in initially, until we veered off to the left. Ok he's taking me on an alternative scenic route and didn't really think anything else of it. The driver was pointing out hotels and casinos on the way, very nice they seemed but not really what I was in any desperate need to see or take pictures of.
We wound through several similar looking soulless modern palm tree lined streets again in the blistering heat but didn't seem to be heading back anywhere near the medina. Then without warning the driver turned round and said " dirhams". Immediately I had a sinking feeling that once again being a lone traveller again I'd been taken for a ride metaphorically speaking as well as literally. I argued with him stating that we had shaken and agreed on a price of dirhams, to which his response was that he was taking me for a tour of the city.
Great I thought, if I had have wanted a tour of the city but that wasn't what we agreed before I jumped on board. My protestations about not wanting a tour fell on deaf ears as we rode on and again he insisted on dirhams seemingly without any room for negotiation. Once again I felt like I'd been lured into a part of town I didn't know to then be fleeced for cash based on my unease that I was lost and couldn't jump off the caleche easily.
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It didn't take long for things to turn verbally ugly and I once again felt an overwhelming sense of panic as I didn't know where I was and the modern soulless streets of the new-town were near deserted during the stifling mid-day heat. In the end I offered dirhams which he agreed to, once again I'd been well and truly ripped off.
He carried on his merry way through the kasbah where I felt very uneasy being the only tourist being driven through on a caleche then he came to an abrupt halt and insisted that I get off for a wander round and take pictures. By this time I'd had enough of him, the caleche, the kasbah, getting ripped off, Marrakech and Morocco and all I could think about was getting back to the riad and trying to find a flight out of there. Just as I was thinking that, one of his family members arrives at the caleche and insists that I visits his pharmacy "not again" I though so I sat tight despite having my arm grabbed to get off.
Eventually they got the message and the family member disappeared back to his pharmacy and the driver dropped me back at Jemaa El Fna and I was dirhams lighter for a journey most of which I didn't want to take. I am hugely disappointed as I really wanted to love the place and "feel the magic" like so many travelers do, but that wasn't my experience at all. I think perhaps that I was more of a "target" as I was travelling alone, so probably wore the look of a tourist new to the city too obviously. That said, I didn't expect to feel quite so uneasy and unsafe as I did.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I don't want to put people off visiting, reading so many positive reviews about the place I'm well aware that my experience is probably in the minority, but I wanted to share my experience to make other travellers aware, particularly lone travellers.
Interestingly my guidebook suggested that Marrakech is fine for lone travellers but that women may feel uneasy and harassed, based on my personal experience I would be very wary visiting there alone, whether male or female. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, maybe it will help someone who looks at the forum before leaving for Marrakech. I think it would have helped you out a lot to look at this forum before leaving as most of the things you have experienced do come up on the forums and you would have known what to look out for.
It does not justify what happened to you, it was wrong and something should be done about it. The first thing I would point out to anyone going to Marrakech is to find out how much the taxi is going to cost before getting in, you should not pay more than 20 Dirhams anywhere inside the city and that is usually being ripped off. If a guide comes with you and you want to get rid of them, then ignore them and tell them you dont want their help, these type of guides will always give you problems at the end.
You paid Dirhams to avoid trouble, I dont think they would have done anything to you but clearly they did frighten you into paying up, personally I would have got my mobile out and said I was calling the tourist police, this would have turned the tables and frightened them a little, take a photo of them and tell them you will report them if they dont leave you alone.
I have travelled through the medina many times on my own, I cannot speak Arabic but I always get by. If you need directions, always ask the shopkeepers as they will not "attach" onto you and start to follow you around. I cannot believe you gave the caleche driver Dirhams, he must have had the rest of the day off.
Again if you had agreed Dirhams, you should have paid him Dirhams. Everybody is different and the "husslers" in Marrakech seem to know who they can take advantage of, they do this "tactic" of getting people lost around the medina and then asking them for a lot of money. I hope you dont take the experience too badly, the vast majority of people living in Marrakech are lovely warm people but there are the ones who spoil it for everybody else by giving Marrakech a bit of a bad reputation.
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When things go wrong since the beginning …they usually go wrong until the end. Marrakech is a place where visitors need to use their common sense and consider how they would act in a large city in their home country. I dare say the OP would not have done these things in Manchester. Get in a taxi without the meter being on, allowing strangers to follow them and take them to unknown places etc. Single visitors can have a great time in Marrakech if they use their common sense.
The first time I visited was as a single female tourist. I had people telling me that they worked in the hotel that I was staying in, but I didn't play along with their game. I never had to hand over money and I never felt unsafe. We all have different experiences. I think the way we prepare and respond makes a significant difference. As the song.
From Esther Philipps. And last.. Hi everyone - thank you all for taking the time to reply. You all raise some very interesting and valid points and advice. As previously mentioned I am certainly not here to put people off Marrakech , and I do genuinely acknowledge that my experience is very much in the minority.
My trip did have a some highlights, the riad was beautiful, eating at a stall on Jemaa El Fna was a great experience and who can take away those views of the Jemaa El Fna as the sun sets and the activity and aroma rises in the evening?! It's just I found my bad experiences very much overshadowed these experiences really quite quickly. As many of you have stated, we are all different travellers who deal with our experiences differently - I know now after my experience in Marrakech that if I were to visit there or somewhere similar again that I would be much more prepared for what I may or may not face.
Thank you all once again for your replies - very interesting to hear your thoughts and experiences.
I didn't knew there were casinos in Marrakech. Yes there was one attached to a large hotel that the driver pointed out on my caleche tour through the new-town - I was pretty surprised to learn of that too! I am, as well as the others, sorry about your experience. Another one saying sorry that your trip didn't turn out to be as fabulous as they can be in Morocco. I'm also a great believer and often get flamed on this forum for suggesting it by the ones who insist on doing it themselves , in what I consider is money well spent and hiring a licenced guide from my accommodation provider for the first couple of days.
A licenced guide automatically gives you protection from the faux guides and allows you to become familiar with how to deal with taxi drivers, nice places to eat and basically to get a feel for Morocco before heading out for more experiences on your own. Please don't give up on Morocco - it has a lot of fabulous things to see and do and the experience can be very different from the one you had particularly if you choose time when the heat is not so oppressive and avoid Ramadan. All of your saved places can be found here in My Trips. Log in to get trip updates and message other travelers.
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