I remember very clearly the moment during my Morocco solo trip when the bus from the airport slowly approached the medina of Marrakech. Suddenly there was a flood of people squeezing next to each other in the narrow streets, many of them carrying objects various in size, often on their heads. I was just staring speachlessly at this image as this very first impression of Morocco was exactly how I imagined medinas!
Besides amazing landscape (Sahara, Atlas Mountains, Atlantic Ocean!!!) one of the reasons why people decide to visit Morocco is its colorful medinas. The old town (as that’s what the word “medina” means) is Moroccan cities is an incredible maze of extremely narrow streets. The area inside the city walls is often really big and walking around there is challenging because of the constantly busy streets suddenly turning right and left at various angles. Even if medinas are car free you still have to be really careful, there’re lots of local people riding a bike, a motorbike or even a donkey.
Don’t even try to focus on finding your way around, don’t bother with carrying a map – there’s no point in that as you’ll get lost anyway. And that’s the part of the fun! There’s no way to keep the track of where you are so the best you can do is to just follow the crowd. But be sure to look carefully around as there are wonders waiting around each corner – yet another pretty narrow street, a mosque, a beautiful little fountain with incredible Arabic ornaments or a Koranic school you can visit.
Try not to be overwhelmed with medinas. It’s easier said than done, I know, but in the second you feel lost or confused there’ll be couple of Moroccan guys ready to help you, of course for the small (or more often not that small) tip. Surely, they just keep ensuring you it’s all in the sake of their friendship with us but never get fooled. Still, it happened to me couple of times that people were sincerely friendly and wanted to help.
Medinas are the heart of the city’s shopping. You can find everything there, from small shops with snacks and water to picturesque stalls with spices, colorful carpets, shoes, clothes, random things needed at home, souvenirs and so on and so on. There’s just a huge mix of everything, for tourists and locals. Off course everyone has the best price, everyone can give you discount and every seller can say few words in your language to make you smile and eventually buy something you don’t actually need from him.
Tourists often don’t even leave medina as most of the attractions are there (as well as beautiful riads – if only you have a chance stay in one of them, a truly unforgettable experience!) But that’s also the main meeting point for locals and you can expect so many of them there. Which is really great as the are feels so alive and definitely not like another tourists attraction. One of the best things to do there (besides walking and discovering all the hidden corners) is just sitting in one of the many restaurants with delicious food and just observing the world around you. You can spend hours like that and still you won’t be bored.
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Because of its rich historic and cultural values many medinas are on UNESCO World’s Heritage List. I managed to visit three of them: Marrakech (btw, check some amazing Marrakech travel tips), Essaouria and Fez and all of them were pretty similar yet each was incredibly amazing and a great adventure itself. There’s always something going on, always someone tries to talk to you. So just follow the flow and enjoy your time there!
Have you visited any medinas? Would you like to?
If you think of visiting Morocco or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
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