Marrakech is unlike anywhere else on earth. Spices from simmering tagines invade your nostrils and your eyes dart from building to building, trying to take in all the colorful textiles and ceramics displayed for tourists to purchase. Cats roam freely, looking for their next meal and if you’re not paying attention, you may be pushed off the road by a singularly-focused donkey.
When you visit Marrakech, you’ll find it is a completely unique place, with new experiences around every corner. If you’re looking for over-the-top unique, read on for Marrakech activities you won’t find in a guide book.
Unique things to do in Marrakech, Morocco
Stay in a jazz era icon’s home
Josephine Baker was once called the “the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville.” She was known for dancing in a banana skirt (and not much else) and for bringing her pet cheetah, Chiquita, on stage with her during performances.
For all the glitz and glamor, she was fierce in the fight for doing what was right. As an African American born in the USA, she fought for civil rights, refusing to perform for segregated crowds. She married and moved to France, where she became an integral member of the French Resistance during WWII, establishing a base in Morocco from which she made tours to entertain soldiers and pass on important intelligence.
You can stay in Josephine Baker’s home, now Riad Star by Marrakech Riads. Throughout the gorgeous riad, you’ll find nods to the home’s famous former occupant. From rooms named for her and her children (the Rainbow Tribe, adopted children of different races and religions) to a dress up closet full of 1920s-style clothes, you’re sure to feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to an era of luxury.
Fill your own donuts
When you set foot in Le Trou Au Mur (the hole in the wall), you know you’ve arrived somewhere special immediately. Pass the traditional clay mechoui on your way to the stairs, where the dining room vibe is both casual and special simultaneously.
After spending more than a day or two in Morocco, you’ve surely noticed the lack of alcohol. It’s likely that the first thing you’ll notice at Le Trou Au Mur are the wine glasses on the tables, signifying the sale of the forbidden (for locals) drink.
Don’t get distracted, though, because you’re not here for a drink. Ok, ok, you can have one if you want! But you’re here to try the donuts! Served fresh out of the fryer in an individual basket accompanied by three syringes full of local flavors. Taste cardamom and ginger, caramel and chocolate with argon oil.
Visit a Sex and the City filming location
Although Sex and the City is set in Abu Dhabi, it was filmed in Morocco.
Aidan and Carrie run into each other in the Marrakech medina, and you can meet the man who saw it all happen!
Shop like Carrie, Samantha and Aidan at Aziz, a shop run by a man with the same name. His shop has been open for 40 years, where he sells items he’s made and antiques collected from around Morocco.
He recounts that SJP has very small fingers, so he had to make the ring smaller for her. And he let us in on the fact that shoe shop from the movie is not real, but it was designed as a set on this very street!
You can find him from 10:30am- 6pm daily except Friday at 17 Rue Fehl Chidmi. Walk South on Rue Mousssine until you come to a dead end. Take a right on Rue Sidi el Yamani and your first left onto Rue Fehl Chidmi. You’ll see Aziz’s shop on the right hand side with photos of the celebrities taped to the window.
Visit the Hollywood of Morocco
If you’ve seen a movie anytime in the past 50 years, chances are, you’ve seen Aït Ben Haddon already. This ksar (fortified village) has been around since the 11th century and has recently become a favorite film location. Just a few of the 20+ films include Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Prince of Persia, AD The Bible, The Mummy and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Purchase shoes fit for a king
At Sabir Cuir, the custom-made shoes are fit for royalty. Literally. King Mohamed VI has shoes made of Senegal fabric from this very shop and now you can, too.
Pay a visit to this shop to have your feet measured and shoes created by hand. Typically, the shoes are made of leather, but vegetarian-friendly shoes are possible, too.
Purchase a pair off the shelf (shoes 450dh/ boots 700dh) or get measured for a custom fit (shoes 550dh/ boots 800dh). Have something else in mind? Work with the master cobblers to dream up a one-of-a-kind pair just for you. Custom ordered shoes can be made in two days, so check this one out at the beginning of your trip!
Ask for the “Made in Italy” shoes, designed for a business owner in Italy who decided after the shoes were made that the customs price was too high. His “no” could be your “yes” since these shoes are available at a discounted rate!
Visiting Morocco, you’re sure to be offered henna at every turn. While the roadside stands may seem cheap and convenient, there’s a very real possibility that they’re using black henna.
Before traveling to Morocco, I was unaware that the p-phenylenediamine (PPD) found in black henna can cause chemical burns and allergic reactions. It’s illegal in many places, but tends to be found in touristy areas.
At Cafe Henna, only the best, natural henna is used with no additives. The women who apply henna are true artists and care is given to render the design exactly as you desire. The artist who applied my henna perfectly copied the design (which I showed her on Instagram) in under 10 minutes.
Don’t miss the hummus and falafel while you wait for the henna to dry. Enjoy your henna for 1-2 weeks!
Moroccan Darija class
Did you know that the Arabic spoken in Morocco is different from that spoken in other Arabic-speaking nations? Their dialect is called Darija. Although they share many of the same words, its been influenced by the Spanish and French. Many of the tour guides in Morocco are quick to point out that while they can understand other Arabic dialects, most others cannot understand them. Immerse yourself in the Darija dialect with a class at the Henna Cafe. Yalla, yalla (hurry)! For 20dh, join a daily group class from 3-4pm.
Experience the art of Hikayat (Moroccan traditional storytelling
In the ninth century, kings had storytellers. When this practice ended in 12th century, storytellers moved to the squares and made a living by taking a collection just before the story’s climax. With rise of media, though, the art of storytelling is becoming increasingly more rare. Back in 2014, a group of university students studying English began discussions to revive tradition by translating Dahlia Arabic stories into English. The last master storyteller, who’s been telling stories for over 50 years, shared his stories with these students. Now, those students share the great Moroccan stories with tourists at Cafe Clock twice a week. Visit for a story or a traditional concert.
Cafe Clock Marrakech Schedule (As of January 2019)
Monday: Hikayat / Traditional Storytelling 7pm (free)
Tuesday: Sahara Sounds 7pm (free)
Wednesday: Jam Session 7pm (free)
Thursday: Hikayat / Traditional Storytelling 7pm (free)
Friday: Classical Arabic Music 7pm (free)
Saturday: Houariyat ladies 6pm (50dh per person – includes a drink)
Sunday: Gnaoua sunset concert (30dh per person)
Eat a camel burger
If you visit the Sahara, it’s likely you’ll ride a camel. But would you consider eating one? Cafe Clock makes a camel burger with taza ketchup that is worth trying! Its 95dh price tag is a bit higher than many meals, but for good reason. Ten dirhams from every camel burger sold is given back to local charities promoting the welfare of women and children and education for all Moroccans.
Rooftop cafe in Jema el-Fna
Jema el-Fna is the most stereotypical part of Marrakech. Expect to see monkeys on leashes, snakes being charmed and bands performing in the square. You can also expect to see an upturned palm in your direction if you take a photo of any of the above. Escape the madness of the square and enjoy the scene from above on a rooftop terrace on the outskirts of Jema el-Fna.
I enjoyed an apple soda at Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier, where I could witness all the chaos of the square without fear of being pickpocketed.
Moroccan music at Kui-Zin
Music is inextricably laced with culture, and Kui-Zin offers an opportunity to experience Andalusian music from 7-10:30pm every night. While Andalusian music began in Spain, its been an important part of Moroccan culture for hundreds of years.
Want to see a belly dancing show in Marrakech? Visit on a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday from 8-8:30pm and you may just get your wish!
The recommendations in this post are ones you’re not likely to see in a guidebook. I hope you enjoy the lesser-known side of Marrakech on your next trip to Morocco! Looking for more fun things to do in Morocco? Check out this itinerary for an amazing two weeks in Morocco, a food tour in Rabat or a surf and yoga retreat in Tamraght.
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