× Our top Marrakech Travel Tips ×
5 Helpful Phrases in Arabic/French to Know
The two most common languages in Morocco are Arabic and French, although many are conversationally fluent in English and Spanish, too. The husband knew a few phrases in Arabic and understands French (he went to school in Canada). However, I came in somewhat ignorant of Arabic and only know the common French phrases (Bonjour, Merci, etc.). Here are the top phrases I ended up learning and finding most useful:
- Shukran/Merci (Arabic/French) – This means “thank you.” Even if you flub it a little, this one word will score you points with the locals.
- La (Arabic) – Meaning “no,” this is a must to know when going through the souks. La, Shukran was our most used phrase as the merchants are so persistent.
- Salama ‘laykum/Bonjour (Arabic/French) – Salam-oo ‘laykum is the standard greeting in Arabic. Some may greet you with the French, “Bonjour!” (especially if you look western), but the Arabic was received better by the locals for us.
- Ma’a as-salāmah (Arabic) – There are a few ways to say “Goodbye” in Arabic, but this is what we heard used the most.
- La afham (Arabic) – “I don’t understand” is always a practical term, where ever you are.
Aside from these terms, we mostly spoke broken English. We laughed because it started to become our standard way of speaking, even when we were alone in our room. If you want to use more Arabic, Maroc Mama has a great list of useful phrases.
5 Tips for Female Travelers in Morocco
If you’re female, you might want to know what to expect when traveling in Morocco. I never felt threatened, but here are a few tips.
- The most important tip is to dress modestly. You’ll avoid getting rude comments (i.e., cat calls), and it’s respectful. In Marrakech, you can wear shorts, skirts, and other revealing clothes as you like, but you’ll probably make your life easier if you heed my advice.
- You should wear dark sunglasses when walking around the streets. It saves your eyes from the bright sun but, most importantly, camouflages your gaze so that you can admire goods in the stores without anyone knowing what you’re looking at.
- Be stingy with your smiles – a smile is considered an invitation. Whether it’s an invitation for just conversation or more, depends on the person receiving it.
- Don’t be offended if men greet your male companion before you. It’s considered rude to address the woman first in many peoples’ custom. International travel is not the proper place to assert women’s equal standing in society, even though you may want to so badly.
- Carry a scarf with you. In Marrakech, non-Muslim people are not allowed in mosques, so it’s likely you won’t be required to wear your scarf. Nevertheless, I found it handy when I observed I was in the company of a more conservative group. See note #4 above.
5 Things we wish we knew before we went
- Stay in a Riad. We lodged in a hotel because I had some loyalty points saved up, which made our stay free. However, if you’re looking for accommodation, riads are totally the way to go. They’re old, traditional Moroccan homes that have been converted into small hotels. Some of them are breathtaking.
- Moroccan drivers can be a bit crazy. Especially in contrast to how roads run in the US. Lines on the road are merely suggestions to be ignored. However, they’re skilled drivers and evidently know the dimensions of their vehicles.
- Be extremely aggressive on bargaining. The first day we were a bit unsure where to start on our bargaining in the souks. We hadn’t been through all the shops yet to realize that much of what’s being offered for sale is sold much cheaper in another souk or the Mellah. After the second day, we got the hang of it and realized the first number quoted to you is usually much higher.
- Non-Muslims cannot enter mosques. If you’ve traveled to Turkey, you may be excited to see how Moroccan mosques compare. If you’re not Muslim, however, you can’t enter any mosques in Marrakech.
- It’s safe! Marrakech relies heavily on the tourism industry, so they protect the tourists well. Armed guards and plainclothes police are everywhere.
Moroccan Kefta Tagine
Now that you know our Marrakech travel tips, let’s move on to another favorite Moroccan dish. This dish is probably best described as a meatball stew. Warm, comforting, and spicy, it brings me right back to Marrakech. You start by making tiny meatballs, nestle them in a delicious tomato-based sauce, and then poach eggs in the simmering sauce. Serve family style and if you have leftovers, it takes even better the next day!
Have you traveled to Morocco? Do you have any Marrakech travel tips of your own? We’d love to hear your top tips in the comments below!