To say that Moroccan cuisine is eclectic and exciting is an understatement and anyone eating out in Marrakech will learn this fairly quickly. An exotic mix of Arab, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and African influences, dining in Marrakech is an unforgettable experience.
Spices are a major part of Moroccan cuisine with cumin, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, coriander and saffron being the most commonly used. Travellers cannot eat out in Marrakech without sampling a Tagine, a traditional lamb or chicken stew, which has been slowly braised in a clay pot resulting in delicately tender meat and an intensely aromatic flavour. Some of the most popular dishes include harira soup, couscous, jaouhara (fried phyllo pastry with cream) and bastilla (phyllo-pastry pie with pigeon, egg and almonds).
Visitors can sample street-side barbeques or splash out at upmarket restaurants throughout the city, where palatial-style eateries can be found as well as top-class French, Asian and Italian restaurants. For a truly authentic experience, visitors should head to the Medina at sunset and watch as over 100 kitchens and stalls specialising in different dishes are set up in Djemaa el-Fna Square to become one of the world's largest open-air eateries.
Shopping in Marrakech is an experience not to be missed. From the bustling labyrinth of the souks (an area of market stalls) to handcrafted pottery, contemporary art, couture kaftans and priceless antiques, Marrakech is a treasure trove of exotic goods.
From the souks, shoppers can purchase anything from traditional belgha (leather slippers) to magical potions, while La Porte d'Or is home to some invaluable antiques. The biggest souk in Marrakech is adjacent to the Djemaa El-Fna; while in Gueliz, Intensite Nomade sells trendy kaftans, and contemporary art is available from the Matisse Art Gallery. The Gueliz area also hosts some very upmarket, boutiques. Akkal, in Sidi Ghanem, is renowned for its beautiful, handcrafted pottery. Other popular souvenirs from Marrakech include 'cactus silk', spices, camel leather goods, and cashmere shawls. Many visitors to Marrakech leave having bought a rug. One of the largest and best-known shops is Les Nomades, an Aladdin's cave of carpets with rugs from floor to ceiling. Travellers should do some research before buying a rug, as it's very easy to overpay and buy a poor quality rug that was marketed as an antique.
In the souks of Marrakech, bargaining is essential (asking prices may be as much as five times what the salesman will eventually take), and the attention of shop owners or staff can be overwhelming. Travellers should be aware that when shopping in the medina with a tourist guide, his commission will be added to the price of the goods purchased. Most small shops are closed on Friday afternoons and on Sundays, although the big bazaars are open every day. Opening times may vary during the month of Ramadan and visitors should research any potential changes.
Morocco is not renowned for a glitzy or exciting nightlife, but Marrakech is something of an exception, offering visitors some captivating experiences after sunset. Nightlife in Marrakech is a unique combination of sophistication and tradition, offering everything from local storytellers and dancers to international festivals, lounges, bars and energetic dance clubs. Flyers and posters around town advertise upcoming events and venues, and it isn't difficult to find something entertaining to do at night.
The best of Moroccan entertainment can be experienced at Djemaa el Fna square, where local musicians, storytellers and dancers entertain visitors into the night. The square is truly the heart of Marrakech and an entertainment hub for tourists. This traditional nighttime entertainment is really the best nightlife option in the city, but there is a bar and nightclub scene. Travellers should bear in mind that in Morocco locals refer to nightclubs as 'discos' and to cabaret venues as 'clubs', which are often great fun! The best areas to find bars and dance clubs are the districts of Gueliz and Hivernage, particularly along Avenue Mohammed V.
Morocco is an Islamic country and alcohol is not always available in restaurants and entertainment venues, although the attitude towards alcohol is somewhat laid-back in Marrakech in comparison to the rest of the country. The exception to this is the month of Ramadan, when foreigners need to exercise restraint and should only drink in hotels. The hotel bars and restaurants in more tourist-centric areas of the city can usually be relied upon to serve alcohol.