Destinations Northern Africa

Unmasking the Dark Side of Morocco’s Tourist Capital, Marrakesh

dark side of marrakesh
Avatar of Teresa Mwangi
Written by Teresa Mwangi

What could possibly be so wrong to make up the dark side of Marrakesh, the global tourist hub in Morocco?

Marrakech is a stunning city with a rich history, museums, culinary culture, stunning architecture, and fascinating culture. The Almoravids established this city between 1070 and 1072. Amazingly, it still stands centuries later as one of Morocco’s imperial cities centrally placed in the land of Berbers. The medina which is the oldest section of the city is the most popular and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.

With such a rich history, there are a few dots about it. As unfathomable as it sounds, it is an existential challenge plaguing the most famous region in North Africa. Persuasive traders yet sweet, a nearly cast-on-stone religious undertaking among many other things are light or darkness in Marrakech. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful city with great tales to tell – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Is It Safe To Walk Around Marrakech At Night?

Walking within Marrakech as nightfall kicks in is safe as the city transitions into vibrancy. However, nights in the outskirts of the city aren’t as safe and they will likely give you an unpleasant experience of the dark side of Marrakesh. The vicinity of the city remains safe as street performers and musicians congregate in Jemaa el Fena who largely birth the night vibrancy in this city.

dark side of marrakesh

Medina of Marrakech. Photo/The Travel

Moroccan street music animates the city, and so does the street food in this part of Morocco. However, Hivernage and Gueliz are crime hot spots that you should avoid. Beyond that, you also get to enjoy the city’s beauty in some streets infamously with the presence of twilight girls getting to or leaving nightclubs.

Ideally, it’s nearly impossible that you will be robbed in Marrakech, so you may stroll around the city with confidence. Despite this, it is advisable that you take necessary precautions to protect your personal property, especially when visiting Marrakech’s souks or street markets. Pickpocketing is a phenomenon in the narrow alleyways of these outdoor markets.

What To Avoid In Marrakesh?

You are better prepared to enjoy your time in this amazing Moroccan city if you know what to avoid. Keep off the following things and you won’t have a story to tell about the dark side of Marrakesh.

Staying Outside The Medina

Marrakech’s Medina is unquestionably the greatest neighbourhood to stay in, especially for visitors. You easily walk to all the famous sites in the city while here and it is also very safe. Being away means you will walk farther or use a cab which is quite pricey.

Book A Moroccan Riad and Not A Hotel

Marrakesh riad

Morocco riad. Photo/Trip Savvy

Riads offer better deals than hotels in terms of space and conduciveness. A riad is a traditional home or castle with a courtyard and garden within and have many rooms. Their architecture and interior designs are breathtaking and quiet unlike hotels located in busy streets.

Keep Off Tap Water

Stick to bottled or filtered water. While some locals comfortably take tap water, their tolerance levels are higher than of a visitor.

Be Careful When Asking For Direction

It’s normal to receive unsolicited assistance or directions when in Marrakech. Surprisingly, there isn’t any mention of payment for this assistance at first, but as soon as you admit to getting the direction right; they will hassle you for a tip. And they are stubborn too. This is an unspoken dark side of Marrakesh.

Animal Tourism is Illegal

As long as you are at Jamaa el Fna Square which is the heartbeat of Marrakesh, monkeys and snake charmers entertain you to the fullest. They will offer you the chance to engage with the animals and take paid photos with them. These monkeys and snakes serve as props for the amusement of visitors.

While it appears innocent and entertaining to take paid pictures with these macaques, these activities are actually part of the illegal trade that threatens Barbary macaque populations in the wild.

Never Board a Taxi Without Agreeing on The Price

Petite taxis and grand taxis are the main modes of transport in Morocco. You’re likely to use the petite taxi which you should agree on the price before boarding. Otherwise, you fall prey to driver gimmicks of ‘broken meter’ which is an excuse to overcharge you.

Three persons can fit in a little taxi, which is designed to bill you according to a metered fare. You can get a little taxi to take you within the city limits to particular areas.

Is Marrakech Safe For Women?

Despite the dark side of Marrakesh with pickpockets in the city alleys and persuasive traders; it is very safe for women. You can travel solo or as a group


Marrakech is a beautiful city to be and visit despite its dark side which is normal in every city, even those touted as the most secure. Gladly, the violent crime rate is low, but you will have to deal with traders who will most probably get on your nerves.

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About the author

Avatar of Teresa Mwangi

Teresa Mwangi

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, loves travelling and telling stories about tour and travel in Africa by every angle.

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