Why I won’t go back to Marrakech, Morocco (unfortunately)

| July 29, 2011 | 43 Comments
I have been very fortunate over my short travelling years, with several dodgy and not so dodgy places visited under my belt, in that I have never once had a bad trip.  Sure there are always disappointments, tragedies, mistakes, general cock-ups and the rest, but they have always paled insignificance to the positives of travelling and left me wanting to go back time and time again.  This is one of the reasons why we all love to do it.  Unfortunately for me it was time for that to all change.

We flew over to Marrakesh on the 28th May 2011 as a group of 8 which is always going to be a struggle when organising each day but as we were all good mates and staying in one spot for 4 days/3 nights there were not perceived to be any concerns.  And by and large there were not.  Everyone, thankfully, just got on with doing what they wanted to do and see with only several minor bickerings and squabbles.  

The Spice Stalls in the Souk
Upon arrival in to the Old Medina, we were dropped off next to the friendliest little kids playing football and they were kind enough to show us to our hotel, the fantastic Riad La Maison Rouge (converted hotel), for a small fee of course.  For some reason they managed to take us the longest way possible through the winding narrow alleys and in the morning we realised we had basically walked in circles to get to the riad.  All good fun though to support the locals.  After a beautiful peppermint tea we headed down town to the amazing souks (markets) and Djemaa el Fna Square for some late night shopping and dinner.  What an amazing/crazy/mind blowing experience.  I have been to Bali before and while I thought that was crazy, while this was another whole level.  The colours, sights, people, sounds and smells were overwhelming, in a good way, with everyone enjoying themselves and trying to haggle over everything.  The sad parts are the chained monkeys who are getting dragged around by the owners trying to entice people to take pictures with them.  Please please please, whatever you do never support this sort of animal cruelty.  However, while avoiding the monkeys is a must, another must is trying the street stall foods.  We managed to find ourselves a table after strolling around in our jandals for half an hour and tucked into some beautiful food.  I had the traditional tagine, a sort of crock pot of yumminess.  The total meal only came to <£15 per couple and was well worth it with full bellies for tomorrows adventures.
Idiots abroad

With the mornings and evenings reserved for the souks and sightseeing and the afternoons reserved for lounging by the pool we were set.  Coming over from Scotland didn’t really help us to acclimatise to the weather with 30+ degree days melting us and the plunge pool at the riad was welcomed with open arms.  I unfortunately suffered pretty badly with mild dehydration kicking in after we had toured the souks for the better part of the morning.  Adela wanted to buy everything in sight while I was conscious of our severely limited baggage allowances on Ryan Air.  With a new handbag, scarves and knick-knacks she was happy enough.  I must say though if we were as ingenious with our packing as the locals are with packing people and objects onto scooters from the 70’s then surely we could solve half the congestion issues in every city.  Its pretty daunting with no footpaths and blind corners to contend with although they are such experts that they put up with us crowding their roads as we stroll along craning our necks at every sights.

By day we took in the amazing sights of the Koutoubia Mosque, the alleys of the Medina and the new town outside the walls.  One of my favourite places was the Jardin Majorelle, which is home to a variety of plant species in a sub-tropical climate.  It was a great place to chill out and get away from the chaos outside the walls.  Highly recommended for anyone who heads in that direction.  The nights were filled with story telling between our friends as we recounted the crazy things we had seen and done while enjoying the sunsets. 


Sunsets not to be missed over the Medina
Jumping for joy at Jardin Majorelle prior to the incident

So you must be wondering about now why I had such a rough time and unfortunately don’t wish to head back to Marrakesh ever again.  Don’t get me wrong I loved every minute I was there and always love embracing the cultures that are so radically different to our own.  As you can see we had a fantastic time.  However, this is when it all seemed to go wrong.  We headed out on our last day for a quick bite to eat and to spend the last of our Dirham.  I made the mistake of catching the snake charmers eyes and knew I was in trouble.  Now I don’t like snakes in the slightest and he could tell I was not keen to get involved so we continued on our way and he knew he had lost a chance to make some quick cash so offered me his hand and I gladly shook it to carry on.  Unfortunately, as quick as a flash he had a snake around my neck and strolled away.  I was trying to be all calm, cool and collected but I had a freaking snake around my neck!  To cut a long story short we haggled over how much I owed him for “taking his snake for photos” and I left him with a few dirham in his back pocket.  Of course he made me kiss it for luck before he unwrapped it…

The suspect
Now I would never wish what happened to me at the airport for our return flight and subsequent days upon my worst enemies.  You may wish to skip this part… On getting to the airport my stomach took a literal turn for the worst and proceeded to outpour everything I had consumed over the past 25 years of my life.  I have never felt so rough.  I spent the next 72 hours hugging the sink with my arms and the toilet with my “cheeks”.  I managed to lose 5 kilo’s in the space of 5 days and it took me another 2 weeks after that to fully recover to eating properly again.  

Mum, being the super hero that she is googled my symptoms and apparently most snakes carry a form of Salmonella poisoning (food poisoning) that can be transmitted to humans.  Now I know its not Marrakech’s fault and it may not have even been the snakes fault that I got sick.  But we used hand sanitizer and were very careful with everything we touched and ate.  Unfortunately, even though it was a fantastic place while I was there, its a shame that just one little (maybe not so little) incident can ruin an entire destination for me.  Adela on the other hand cannot wait to get over there again and I am sure I might return one day once the memories have passed…

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (43)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Snake flu!!! You are going to start the next epidemic!

  2. Four Jandals says:

    Haha I will try to quarantine myself!

  3. Jerick says:

    That’s why I stayed with drinking orange juice instead. 😛

    • Haha the freshly squeezed Orange Juice was fantastic! I have never been that sick before in all my life. Put me off going back but hopefully I will return some day as it was a great place.

  4. Once I told my friend that not all titles posted on blogs are educating but this post is an special.

  5. Neil says:

    I thought this post might be really downbeat but if anything it made me want to visit Marrakesh even more … I just wont be snogging any snakes … not that I ever planned to.

    Thanks for the advice!

    • You definitely have to go Neil. Looking back on our trip (now that I have forgotten how sick I was) makes me think I had an awesome time. I really did, just unfortunately I got so sick at the end which totally ruined the whole experience. As you say, just stay away from the snakes!

  6. Rosemarie says:

    Oh my!! I have always dreamt of seeing Casablanca! If I ever do… I’m staying miles away from cunning snake charmers! But from the beginning of your story, it did seem like an fun and exotic trip 🙂

  7. That sounds awful! I know how painful it is to have stomach issues when traveling long distances. Yuck. Well, at least you have a cool story to tell! lol

  8. Angela says:

    Sorry you felt so sick, however this can happen in many places..ever been to India? I’ve had such a horrible food poisoning the first time I went to India that I literally fainted before being able to call for help. But it never happened again, and I went back twice and planning my fourth time..
    Probably, more than the snake, I would blame it on some expired ingredient they might have used cooking, even if not made on purpose, just locals can digest it better than foreigners just because they are used to it.
    As I’ve heard many times, it happens often that tourists get sick in Morocco, like it happens in India, but again, my cousin went to Morocco for about a week, tried all possible delicacies and nothing happened.
    Probably you just need to travel to other places, little by little this negative experience will become memory and you’ll feel like getting to Morocco again 🙂

    • It was most likely something I ate rather than the snake but it sounds better if I blame the snake haha 🙂 I would go again to be honest because it is just part of travelling. Just at the time of writing that post I was still 8 kilo’s lighter than I went to Marrakech so didn’t really feel up to it. Thanks Angela.

  9. Oh no. You got the two worst parts of travel-getting taken advantage of and getting sick. Stupid snake charmer. I really feel for you. I was conned in Bulgaria and vowed never to go back, but I’m coming around to it now. And deathly ill in Thailand, but I loved it too much to never go back. Awh I hope you got better quick!

    • He was just really aggressive which sucked big time. Oh well over it now. What sucks is that we are heading over to Egypt this weekend and I am actually scared to eat the food! And I am a foodie so that sucks. Hopefully it won’t happen again (touch wood).

  10. Pete Heck says:

    We’re heading there in a week!! Thanks for the heads-up on the snake charmers 🙂 Salmonella from a snake. Crazy.

  11. We ran into the guys with monkeys on leashes in St Kitts as well, and were definitely put off by both the way they treated the monkeys and their aggressive nature with tourists. As soon as it became clear he was trying to put the monkey on our necks we became insistent on walking away. Morocco is pretty high on our must-visit list, so thanks for the heads-up on the dangers of snake handling!

    • It is a shame they treat the monkeys so badly and people still pay to have their photo taken with them! I wish I had the balls to go up and tell the tourists to just stop and have a think about it. I understand people are trying to make a living but not through the exploitation of animals. You will love Morocco and realistically I would go back as these things happen when you travel 🙂

  12. cheryl says:

    WOW, that sucks. Sorry to hear you were so sick … I do hope you head back to Marrakech someday. It deserves another chance. 😉

  13. Lauren says:

    I had a terrible time in China – I was really ill whilst I was there and it affected my overall opinion of the place. Having said that, I’d still like to go back in a few years and try and have a completely different experience. Hopefully one day you’ll be able to go back to Marrakech and avoid the snake diseases! 🙂

  14. mfalme says:

    hi sorry to read about your experience in marakesh.its a beautiful city but some people at the market can easily spoil the experience.the henna ladies do the same.it happened to my wife she endend up paying for a bad henna that she didnt want. We go to marrakesh at least twice a year we haue learnt to refuse any offerr pokitely but firmly.i hope you will uisit marakech in the future.respect

    • Cole says:

      We had been warned about the Henna ladies actually so that was good. We would still go back definitely because it was brilliant. Just would be a little bit more careful but that is travelling and learning 🙂

  15. James says:

    I thought Marrakesh was ok (it was one of the first places I travelled to so probably liked it more than it deserved) but I got very frustrated in haggling for things you don’t want (like having a snake around your neck). Anytime I took a picture and it included someone they always demanded a fee – got quite tiresome after a while.

    • Cole says:

      Totally right. Marrakech was awesome itself and loved the majority of the people and the food. It was a shame that we were pestered so much.

  16. Marta says:

    We are going on a buying trip soon and I can’t tell you how much I fear these snake charmers. I have a totally irational phobia and will want to kill the snake to protect myself before it kills me. I’m thinking it is better to avoid anywhere the snake charmers hang out – can you give me advice on the areas to avoid pretty please? I really don’t care if I don’t see the main market as long as I don’t see one snake.

    • You can still wander the main markets and avoid them Marta so don’t worry about that 🙂 You will see all the hawkers and snake charmers and it is very easy to avoid them. I just made the mistake of speaking with them in the first place! Enjoy your trip and put your fears aside!

  17. Erica says:

    I actually had a pretty rough experience in Morocco as well. Mostly had to do with the tour guide I was working with, though.
    Erica recently posted..Tapas for Lunch

  18. I just got back from Marrakesh and I definitely got hustled into getting a few snakes draped on me (kind of horrifying–as were the monkeys you mentioned). Luckily I wasn’t asked to kiss the snakes… I adored Marrakesh, especially in comparison with Fez, a place that takes street hustling/harassing to new and terrible heights. But Chefchaoen totally stole my heart. Morocco–what an amazing place.

  19. Elodia Roessner says:

    Salmonella poisoning affects thousands of individuals each year. The good news is that it can be prevented. It is only a matter of proper hygiene and the practice of food safety in the kitchen. Here is a list of ways to prevent it: Wash hands frequently Dirty hands can bring about cross contamination.

  20. cheryl says:

    Hi there Im in Marrakech now and read your blog before going to the square it really helped me as the snake charmers were so aggressive…I kept my distance but when I exited I had one guy run towards me with snakes it was quite frightening….I find Marrakech the worst place iv ever visited and will not be back ever…..

  21. Marcus drake says:

    you are full of it. One measley episode and you’re dining on sour grapes. Can’t believe you didn’t proof read it before polluting the world with this BS. The city is amazing and yes, just like New York or london, when you eat street food or similar there’s a chance you will get ill. Get real son!

    • As you will read, it wasn’t the street food but instead it was the pushy snake charmers I believe. Love my street food and it’s always my go-to food when travelling. Thanks for your “insightful” comment though.

  22. Alex B says:

    I spent three weeks in Morocco, and honestly I had very few good experiences there. It’s not even worth going back to the country because every single city is the same as Marrakash. Moroccans are all after your money, and couldn’t care less about you and your well being and about what you want to and don’t want to buy from them.

    • Mike says:

      Kind of go along with that(80%)
      Just came back from a road trip around the country, pretty sick too 🙂

      Can you elaborate a bit more on your experience Alex?

  23. Morocco is a great place. I love the food there.You are so right that we should be careful with hygiene. It is not uncommon these people to cook with dirty hands.Unfortunately if you are not lucky enough you can find yourself in your position. Greetings!

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