MARRAKECH FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

Visitors will fly into Marrakech Menara International Airport (IATA code RAK), located three miles from the Jemaa el-Fna and one mile from Menara Gardens. With over four million passengers served in the year 2014, it is the second-busiest airport in Morocco. It is a `focus city` for flights originating with the flag carrier, Royal Air Maroc, and seasonal flights from Europe via Ryanair.

ALSA Bus Line 19: Entree Aeroport - Jemaa el Fna runs through the airport, picks up at the arrivals hall and just outside the entrance, and stops at Menara Gardens, Menara Mall, Marrakech railway station (noted on timetables as Gare Train ONCF), and various luxury hotels before ending its route at the Jemaa el-Fna. Frequency on this route ranges between 20 minutes and 45 minutes, with the first bus leaving the airport at 6 a.m. and the last bus leaving Jemaa el-Fna at 11:30 p.m. The route takes approximately 25 minutes to complete with stops. Tickets cost 5 dh and can be bought on the bus as well as from vending machines at bus stops. For more information, visit www.alsa.ma (website in Arabic, French, English and Spanish).

Grands taxis (Mercedes model sedans) seat six passengers and will be waiting in front of the arrivals hall at the airport. Expect to pay about 150 dh to have you and your bags transported to your hotel from the airport. Petits taxis are smaller and seat three; you will pay half the grand taxi fare or less to get to your hotel.

Driving directions from Marrakech Menara Airport: When leaving the airport, take a left on Avenue de la Menara. After a mile driving with Menara Gardens on the left and L`Oliveraie on the right, turn right onto Avenue Prince Moulay Rachid. After about 2.1 miles, turn left onto Avenue El Mouahidine. The Jemaa el-Fna and Koutoubia Mosque will be directly to your right; navigate your way to the hotel from here.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

There is a taxi rank in front of Marrakech train station, where grands taxis and petits taxis wait during business hours. Petits taxis require the meter to be running, so make sure your driver does that before you depart. You agree on a price if taking a grand taxi; pay in the neighborhood of 50 dh from the train station to your hotel, and tip 10 dh afterward. Fares shouldn`t exceed 30 dh if you are taking a petit taxi.

Driving directions from Marrakech railway station: Turn right onto Avenue Hassan II. After 0.7 miles, turn left onto Avenue de la Menara. After a mile, turn left onto Avenue Prince Moulay Rachid. After about 2.1 miles, turn left onto Avenue El Mouahidine. The Jemaa el-Fna and Koutoubia Mosque will be directly to your right; navigate your way to the hotel from here.

How do I get around Marrakech using other modes of transport?

Marrakech`s bus system is run by ALSA (www.alsa.ma, website in Arabic, French, English and Spanish), which operates 22 bus lines daily from roughly 6 a.m. to midnight. The highest-frequency lines run buses every 10 to 20 minutes; the slowest line runs buses once every hour. Bus lines do not run through the Medina, which means you will be walking to many things. The bus line that will be of most use to travelers is the aforementioned Line 19, which connects the airport with Menara Gardens, Menara Mall, Marrakech railway station, luxury hotels, and the Jemaa el-Fna. Many routes which leave the Jemaa el-Fna also stop at Koutoubia Mosque which is a few blocks away.

One popular way for tourists to see the sights of Marrakech, including the areas of Gueliz and The Medina, is by a horse-drawn carriage called a caleche. Caleches can be hired from popular tourist areas such as the Jemaa el-Fna; they are also available for rental through the concierge desks of many hotels and riads. Expect to pay between 120 dh and 200 dh per hour of carriage hire. Few caleches travel all the way to La Palmeraie, but some of them do. Expect to pay 400 or 500 dh for that luxury.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Taxis are split into two categories: red late model sedans (`petits taxis`, or little taxis) and Mercedes model sedan taxis (`grands taxis`, or big taxis). Marrakech is a popular tourist destination, so some taxi drivers take advantage of travelers who might not have all their bearings in an unfamiliar city. For that reason, it is advisable to have someone call a taxi for you if at all possible. With that said, it is possible to hail a taxi from the street, and many people do.

Some rules to know: Petits taxis are required to run the meter; if they refuse to turn the meter on, exit the taxi and find another one. Keep in mind that you may have to do this a few times before you will find a driver who will agree. The meter will be cheaper nearly every time, unless you are traveling to a nearby city, then it is acceptable to haggle on a base fare. Grands taxis do not have meters so a fare must be agreed upon before departure. For example, a sample fare for a grand taxi from the airport to the Jemaa el-Fna is about 150 dh. A petit taxi will cost about 50-60 dh. Grands taxis can hold six passengers and petits taxis hold three; in the case of petits taxis, if you are a single traveler or a couple, you will be joined by however many passengers is needed to fill the three seats. In that case, you will split your fare with the other passengers. The base fare in petits taxis is 7 dh, with that fare rising to 10 dh between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Fares in the city should not exceed 20 dh, while trips to the suburbs would cost 30-40 dh. A ride to La Palmeraie will cost at least 50 dh.

A warning: Have someone trustworthy call your taxis in the evenings, particularly if you will be visiting nightlife locations such as bars and nightclubs. The taxis waiting outside these locations tend to be shady and prey upon drunk tourists, hoping they can take the vulnerable visitors for as much money as they can feasibly get away with. Calling the dispatch office should ensure that the ride will be less risky.

I will have a car in Marrakech. Where can I park?

Parking lots exist to the west of The Medina, along Boulevard Fatima Zahra, Rue Dar El Glaoui and Avenue El Glaoui. Free and paid parking lots exist in the Menara and Hivernage area, and street parking is the most common form of parking in Gueliz. Parking on the street will cost approximately 5 dh for two hours, and you might have to pay an extra 5 or 10 dh fee to a guard who watches the cars.

Ask during the booking process if your accommodations include parking and inquire about any possible fees for parking at hotels.

Is Marrakech a dangerous city? Are there any places I should avoid?

Morocco has a lower rate of crime than the United States in nearly every category except for robberies and thefts. The biggest concern travelers will encounter in Morocco (and Marrakech) is the possibility of something being stolen from you while you are on your trip. Don`t talk on your cell phone while walking on a busy street, leaving you distracted when someone comes up to you and snatches it from your hand. If you are riding a bicycle or motorbike, don`t ride with your bag out toward the sidewalk or toward the road, as thieves have been known to snatch bags from bikers as they are on their bikes. Try not to display much wealth outwardly and blend in with the crowd. Don`t wear watches or flashy rings, and make sure money and valuables are broken up into various pockets on your person.

Much of The Medina, such as the souks, are recommended to visit only during the day. Jemaa el-Fna is acceptable to visit at night, but keep in mind that some of the vendors might try to swindle you out of extra money, and that`s not to mention some of the `nice guys` that wander the medina. Some men will offer to assist you in finding your destination if you are lost, only to demand payment of 100 dh for the task. Look purposeful while walking and ignore these requests. In the Jemaa el-Fna, you will encounter some entertainers who own Barbary apes and snakes, and their task is to put on shows with the animals for tourists` amusement. The snake charmers in particular are known for presenting tourists with the snake, and after photographs and selfies have been taken, the charmers insist on a 100 dh fee for the experience. Haggle with them; a 50 dh fee for the experience is a reasonable cost. Also, if you look at rugs in The Medina, some rug salesmen will attempt to seat you and serve you tea. They want you to buy rugs; if you don`t purchase anything, they will attempt to charge you for the tea. Refuse the tea and only engage if you know you want to buy a rug. It is acceptable to haggle at most markets, while storefronts tend to have fixed pricing.

Can I pay/tip in U.S. dollars?

The official currency of Morocco is the dirham (abbreviated on this page and other ones as `dh`), which is broken down into 100 centimes. Morocco is a very tourist-centered economy, so hospitality workers are sometimes put in the position of accepting U.S. dollars. When paying for goods and services, dirhams are the only currency accepted. However, the final verdict on tipping in U.S. dollars is that people will accept them, but they are not legal tender, and your life will be a lot easier if you just tip in dirhams like locals would do. Dirhams are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 in banknotes and 1, 5, 10 dh and 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes in coins.

The easiest way to receive Moroccan dirhams is to visit a bureau de change or ATM upon entering the country. Bureaux de change are available in the airport, at luxury hotels, and at many banks. Banque Commercial du Maroc and Credit du Maroc are two banks that will accept cash advances on Visa and MasterCard. You will get the best exchange rate from these bureaux de change and from ATMs. ATMs typically allow the withdrawal of 2,000 dh (approximately $200) per day from one`s bank account. If you do use your card from an ATM in Morocco, tell your banking institution that you will be traveling overseas before you leave, or else your bank may freeze your account. Banks are open across Morocco weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. During the month of Ramadan, and through the `summer period` of June 15-September 15, hours are reduced from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I don't speak Arabic. Will many people speak English?

Moroccans start to learn English in the seventh grade. It has quickly become a popular language with the younger generation, which tends to watch television from the U.S. and the U.K. with English audio and subtitles in either Arabic or French. 14% of Moroccans can speak English on a conversational level, which is lower than most European nations, but still higher than other destinations in North Africa, such as Tunisia and Algeria.

You will have more luck if you speak French as a foreign language. Considered a `prestige language`, French is taught from a very early grade in Moroccan schools, and nearly all university majors are presented and taught in French over Arabic. Over half of Moroccans can speak French fluently, with about an eighth of the population speaking only French. You will find that signs in many public areas are labeled in Arabic and French, with English sometimes being offered and sometimes not. While it is not an official language of Morocco, it will be looked upon favorably by locals if you initiate conversation with them in French as it would in Arabic. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Parlez-vous anglais?`

Are there any basic Moroccan customs or etiquette tips I should be aware of before arriving?

Let`s start with clothing choices, as this is one of the largest areas for `culture shock`. Moroccans tend to dress conservatively, which means short or long-sleeved shirts and pants for men and long dresses or pants and blouses for women. Blouses shouldn`t be too tight and should cover the shoulders and a certain amount of cleavage. Sleeveless shirts and shorts are only acceptable for men and women in the context of going to the beach or relaxing at the hotel; wearing them any other time would be something that locals find offensive.

Now that we touched briefly on the status of women and how they should (or, more importantly, should not) dress to avoid offense, let`s run down what female travelers can expect when visiting Marrakech. Women are allowed to drink in bars and nightclubs, which is worth mentioning because not too long ago, women (locals and visitors) were barred from doing so. Also expect attention from men, which will range from annoying and persistent to mildly alarming. Foreign women tend to be targets for harassment from Moroccan men because they have viewed Western media and many of them have reached an erroneous assumption involving Western women and their desire for sex. That assumption, erroneous of course, is that Western women are more sexually free and more apt to consent, especially when contrasted with local women. This assumption is rather widespread, and might give women pause, but it is important to stand your ground and to make it known that you will not put up with harassment that goes too far, i.e. body contact. Moroccan women would not stand for it if someone grabbed them while in a public place, and neither should you.

Moroccans tend to be very friendly, and personal questions are considered to be polite as it shows an interest in the other person. Women should be conscious of being `too friendly` with men, as it may very well be seen as a come-on. In mixed company, however, you should expect to be asked questions about America and your family. For women, this will mean questions about husbands and children. Morocco is still a fairly conservative country so people may not understand if they ask you about marriage and you are not married and have no interest in doing so right away. They will similarly fail to understand if they ask about children and you tell them that you don`t want them. Be polite when answering and don`t take too much offense. Taboo topics in conversation include the Royal Family (revered among many Moroccans) and Western Sahara (which is home to a land dispute). Also be careful when discussing Islam and be respectful of the subject.

Be careful to shake hands and accept items with the right hand only, as the left hand is associated with the upkeep of personal hygiene and is considered to be unclean. Kisses on both cheeks (bises in French) are acceptable between the sexes, as in between men and men and women and women, but male/female mixed company tend to shake hands or hug instead of kissing. Moroccans will offer food and drink until made explicitly clear that they should not, so if you are full, decline by patting the stomach and saying `moi non plus`. It is important to arrive at someone`s house on time, but if plans are made to go to lunch at a restaurant or a cafe or patisserie, Moroccans do tend to be `fashionably late`. That could mean a half-hour or more. They feel it adds to their character, which is very carefree.

What time do Moroccans usually eat? Do I need to make reservations to fancy restaurants in advance?

Moroccans start the day with breakfast, usually eaten between 7 and 10 a.m. It can be quite basic, with Moroccan breads and French baguettes or croissants, served with coffee, tea and juice. Fresh fruit, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs are less common selections. The largest meal of the day is lunch, and you will find that many businesses close between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. Lunch consists of multiple courses, including `meze` appetizers and salads and a dish of either tahine or couscous. It is popularly enjoyed with mint tea and plentiful sides of bread, which is used to sop up juices and sauces from the main dish. Pastries may be served for dessert. Dinner is served after evening prayers, with restaurants opening up after prayers at 7 or 7:30 p.m. Restaurants tend to be at their most packed between 9 and 10 p.m., similar to dinner times found in countries all over the Mediterranean.

Most of the popular restaurants in Marrakech need reservations, so please make arrangements for your hotel to call reservations to certain restaurants as soon as you arrive. La Grande Table Marocaine at the Royal Mansour Hotel comes highly-regarded, as the main chef has been the recipient of a Michelin star. The Al-Fassia Restaurant, serving classic Moroccan dishes, is also a well-regarded restaurant that requires reservations days and sometimes weeks in advance.

Note: Smoking is permitted in restaurants and bars in Morocco.

What is nightlife like in Marrakech?

Marrakech`s nightlife scene is the largest in the country. Many bars and nightclubs are located west of The Medina, in the neighborhoods of Gueliz, El Hara and Hivernage. These areas were planned during the French colonial period and are sometimes referred to as the `New Town`. The New Town`s reputation for nightlife is at direct odds with The Medina, which is not as well-known for parties. Bars and nightclubs are clustered around Avenue Echouhada in Hivernage and Avenue Mohammed V in Gueliz especially.

Women should go to bars and nightclubs in a group, preferably with some men. Unmarried women will find themselves the object of unwanted male attention.

Where are the best areas for shopping?

Marrakech is particularly well-known for its tanneries. You can find numerous tanneries west of the Oued Issil near Bab Debbagh; look down the streets Avenue Bab Debbagh and Toudgha Bab Debbagh. You can tour the grounds of the tanneries and then stop in at a few leather goods shops. Be prepared to haggle if purchasing leather goods from these shops. For other authentic handicrafts, visit the souks north of the Jemaa el-Fna. Souk Semmarine is a favorite with tourists, and the best carpet sales can be found at the Creiee Berbere souk. Another noteworthy place for handicrafts, such as furniture and ceramic dishware, is Mustapha Blaoui, located in Bab Doukkala (www.mustaphablaoui.com).

Western-style shopping malls exist in Marrakech: the main ones are Carre Eden Shopping Center (Avenue Mohammed V and Rue de la Liberte), Menara Mall (Avenue Mohammed VI and Avenue Moulay Rachid), and Al Mazar Commercial Centre (Avenue du Septieme Art and Route d`Ourika).

Where can I rent a bicycle in Marrakech?

You can rent a bike for 250 dh a day from AXS (www.argansports.com, website in English), or you can pick up a road bike via a government-supported bike sharing service called Medina Bike (www.medinabike.ma, website in French and English). A seven-day pass costs 150 dh, with overage fees of 10 dh per 30 minutes when riding the bike for more than three hours per day. Bike pickup/dropoff locations are located all the way from Gueliz to Agdal Gardens.

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MARRAKECH FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

Visitors will fly into Marrakech Menara International Airport (IATA code RAK), located three miles from the Jemaa el-Fna and one mile from Menara Gardens. With over four million passengers served in the year 2014, it is the second-busiest airport in Morocco. It is a `focus city` for flights originating with the flag carrier, Royal Air Maroc, and seasonal flights from Europe via Ryanair.

ALSA Bus Line 19: Entree Aeroport - Jemaa el Fna runs through the airport, picks up at the arrivals hall and just outside the entrance, and stops at Menara Gardens, Menara Mall, Marrakech railway station (noted on timetables as Gare Train ONCF), and various luxury hotels before ending its route at the Jemaa el-Fna. Frequency on this route ranges between 20 minutes and 45 minutes, with the first bus leaving the airport at 6 a.m. and the last bus leaving Jemaa el-Fna at 11:30 p.m. The route takes approximately 25 minutes to complete with stops. Tickets cost 5 dh and can be bought on the bus as well as from vending machines at bus stops. For more information, visit www.alsa.ma (website in Arabic, French, English and Spanish).

Grands taxis (Mercedes model sedans) seat six passengers and will be waiting in front of the arrivals hall at the airport. Expect to pay about 150 dh to have you and your bags transported to your hotel from the airport. Petits taxis are smaller and seat three; you will pay half the grand taxi fare or less to get to your hotel.

Driving directions from Marrakech Menara Airport: When leaving the airport, take a left on Avenue de la Menara. After a mile driving with Menara Gardens on the left and L`Oliveraie on the right, turn right onto Avenue Prince Moulay Rachid. After about 2.1 miles, turn left onto Avenue El Mouahidine. The Jemaa el-Fna and Koutoubia Mosque will be directly to your right; navigate your way to the hotel from here.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

There is a taxi rank in front of Marrakech train station, where grands taxis and petits taxis wait during business hours. Petits taxis require the meter to be running, so make sure your driver does that before you depart. You agree on a price if taking a grand taxi; pay in the neighborhood of 50 dh from the train station to your hotel, and tip 10 dh afterward. Fares shouldn`t exceed 30 dh if you are taking a petit taxi.

Driving directions from Marrakech railway station: Turn right onto Avenue Hassan II. After 0.7 miles, turn left onto Avenue de la Menara. After a mile, turn left onto Avenue Prince Moulay Rachid. After about 2.1 miles, turn left onto Avenue El Mouahidine. The Jemaa el-Fna and Koutoubia Mosque will be directly to your right; navigate your way to the hotel from here.

How do I get around Marrakech using other modes of transport?

Marrakech`s bus system is run by ALSA (www.alsa.ma, website in Arabic, French, English and Spanish), which operates 22 bus lines daily from roughly 6 a.m. to midnight. The highest-frequency lines run buses every 10 to 20 minutes; the slowest line runs buses once every hour. Bus lines do not run through the Medina, which means you will be walking to many things. The bus line that will be of most use to travelers is the aforementioned Line 19, which connects the airport with Menara Gardens, Menara Mall, Marrakech railway station, luxury hotels, and the Jemaa el-Fna. Many routes which leave the Jemaa el-Fna also stop at Koutoubia Mosque which is a few blocks away.

One popular way for tourists to see the sights of Marrakech, including the areas of Gueliz and The Medina, is by a horse-drawn carriage called a caleche. Caleches can be hired from popular tourist areas such as the Jemaa el-Fna; they are also available for rental through the concierge desks of many hotels and riads. Expect to pay between 120 dh and 200 dh per hour of carriage hire. Few caleches travel all the way to La Palmeraie, but some of them do. Expect to pay 400 or 500 dh for that luxury.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Taxis are split into two categories: red late model sedans (`petits taxis`, or little taxis) and Mercedes model sedan taxis (`grands taxis`, or big taxis). Marrakech is a popular tourist destination, so some taxi drivers take advantage of travelers who might not have all their bearings in an unfamiliar city. For that reason, it is advisable to have someone call a taxi for you if at all possible. With that said, it is possible to hail a taxi from the street, and many people do.

Some rules to know: Petits taxis are required to run the meter; if they refuse to turn the meter on, exit the taxi and find another one. Keep in mind that you may have to do this a few times before you will find a driver who will agree. The meter will be cheaper nearly every time, unless you are traveling to a nearby city, then it is acceptable to haggle on a base fare. Grands taxis do not have meters so a fare must be agreed upon before departure. For example, a sample fare for a grand taxi from the airport to the Jemaa el-Fna is about 150 dh. A petit taxi will cost about 50-60 dh. Grands taxis can hold six passengers and petits taxis hold three; in the case of petits taxis, if you are a single traveler or a couple, you will be joined by however many passengers is needed to fill the three seats. In that case, you will split your fare with the other passengers. The base fare in petits taxis is 7 dh, with that fare rising to 10 dh between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Fares in the city should not exceed 20 dh, while trips to the suburbs would cost 30-40 dh. A ride to La Palmeraie will cost at least 50 dh.

A warning: Have someone trustworthy call your taxis in the evenings, particularly if you will be visiting nightlife locations such as bars and nightclubs. The taxis waiting outside these locations tend to be shady and prey upon drunk tourists, hoping they can take the vulnerable visitors for as much money as they can feasibly get away with. Calling the dispatch office should ensure that the ride will be less risky.

I will have a car in Marrakech. Where can I park?

Parking lots exist to the west of The Medina, along Boulevard Fatima Zahra, Rue Dar El Glaoui and Avenue El Glaoui. Free and paid parking lots exist in the Menara and Hivernage area, and street parking is the most common form of parking in Gueliz. Parking on the street will cost approximately 5 dh for two hours, and you might have to pay an extra 5 or 10 dh fee to a guard who watches the cars.

Ask during the booking process if your accommodations include parking and inquire about any possible fees for parking at hotels.

Is Marrakech a dangerous city? Are there any places I should avoid?

Morocco has a lower rate of crime than the United States in nearly every category except for robberies and thefts. The biggest concern travelers will encounter in Morocco (and Marrakech) is the possibility of something being stolen from you while you are on your trip. Don`t talk on your cell phone while walking on a busy street, leaving you distracted when someone comes up to you and snatches it from your hand. If you are riding a bicycle or motorbike, don`t ride with your bag out toward the sidewalk or toward the road, as thieves have been known to snatch bags from bikers as they are on their bikes. Try not to display much wealth outwardly and blend in with the crowd. Don`t wear watches or flashy rings, and make sure money and valuables are broken up into various pockets on your person.

Much of The Medina, such as the souks, are recommended to visit only during the day. Jemaa el-Fna is acceptable to visit at night, but keep in mind that some of the vendors might try to swindle you out of extra money, and that`s not to mention some of the `nice guys` that wander the medina. Some men will offer to assist you in finding your destination if you are lost, only to demand payment of 100 dh for the task. Look purposeful while walking and ignore these requests. In the Jemaa el-Fna, you will encounter some entertainers who own Barbary apes and snakes, and their task is to put on shows with the animals for tourists` amusement. The snake charmers in particular are known for presenting tourists with the snake, and after photographs and selfies have been taken, the charmers insist on a 100 dh fee for the experience. Haggle with them; a 50 dh fee for the experience is a reasonable cost. Also, if you look at rugs in The Medina, some rug salesmen will attempt to seat you and serve you tea. They want you to buy rugs; if you don`t purchase anything, they will attempt to charge you for the tea. Refuse the tea and only engage if you know you want to buy a rug. It is acceptable to haggle at most markets, while storefronts tend to have fixed pricing.

Can I pay/tip in U.S. dollars?

The official currency of Morocco is the dirham (abbreviated on this page and other ones as `dh`), which is broken down into 100 centimes. Morocco is a very tourist-centered economy, so hospitality workers are sometimes put in the position of accepting U.S. dollars. When paying for goods and services, dirhams are the only currency accepted. However, the final verdict on tipping in U.S. dollars is that people will accept them, but they are not legal tender, and your life will be a lot easier if you just tip in dirhams like locals would do. Dirhams are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 in banknotes and 1, 5, 10 dh and 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes in coins.

The easiest way to receive Moroccan dirhams is to visit a bureau de change or ATM upon entering the country. Bureaux de change are available in the airport, at luxury hotels, and at many banks. Banque Commercial du Maroc and Credit du Maroc are two banks that will accept cash advances on Visa and MasterCard. You will get the best exchange rate from these bureaux de change and from ATMs. ATMs typically allow the withdrawal of 2,000 dh (approximately $200) per day from one`s bank account. If you do use your card from an ATM in Morocco, tell your banking institution that you will be traveling overseas before you leave, or else your bank may freeze your account. Banks are open across Morocco weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. During the month of Ramadan, and through the `summer period` of June 15-September 15, hours are reduced from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I don't speak Arabic. Will many people speak English?

Moroccans start to learn English in the seventh grade. It has quickly become a popular language with the younger generation, which tends to watch television from the U.S. and the U.K. with English audio and subtitles in either Arabic or French. 14% of Moroccans can speak English on a conversational level, which is lower than most European nations, but still higher than other destinations in North Africa, such as Tunisia and Algeria.

You will have more luck if you speak French as a foreign language. Considered a `prestige language`, French is taught from a very early grade in Moroccan schools, and nearly all university majors are presented and taught in French over Arabic. Over half of Moroccans can speak French fluently, with about an eighth of the population speaking only French. You will find that signs in many public areas are labeled in Arabic and French, with English sometimes being offered and sometimes not. While it is not an official language of Morocco, it will be looked upon favorably by locals if you initiate conversation with them in French as it would in Arabic. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Parlez-vous anglais?`

Are there any basic Moroccan customs or etiquette tips I should be aware of before arriving?

Let`s start with clothing choices, as this is one of the largest areas for `culture shock`. Moroccans tend to dress conservatively, which means short or long-sleeved shirts and pants for men and long dresses or pants and blouses for women. Blouses shouldn`t be too tight and should cover the shoulders and a certain amount of cleavage. Sleeveless shirts and shorts are only acceptable for men and women in the context of going to the beach or relaxing at the hotel; wearing them any other time would be something that locals find offensive.

Now that we touched briefly on the status of women and how they should (or, more importantly, should not) dress to avoid offense, let`s run down what female travelers can expect when visiting Marrakech. Women are allowed to drink in bars and nightclubs, which is worth mentioning because not too long ago, women (locals and visitors) were barred from doing so. Also expect attention from men, which will range from annoying and persistent to mildly alarming. Foreign women tend to be targets for harassment from Moroccan men because they have viewed Western media and many of them have reached an erroneous assumption involving Western women and their desire for sex. That assumption, erroneous of course, is that Western women are more sexually free and more apt to consent, especially when contrasted with local women. This assumption is rather widespread, and might give women pause, but it is important to stand your ground and to make it known that you will not put up with harassment that goes too far, i.e. body contact. Moroccan women would not stand for it if someone grabbed them while in a public place, and neither should you.

Moroccans tend to be very friendly, and personal questions are considered to be polite as it shows an interest in the other person. Women should be conscious of being `too friendly` with men, as it may very well be seen as a come-on. In mixed company, however, you should expect to be asked questions about America and your family. For women, this will mean questions about husbands and children. Morocco is still a fairly conservative country so people may not understand if they ask you about marriage and you are not married and have no interest in doing so right away. They will similarly fail to understand if they ask about children and you tell them that you don`t want them. Be polite when answering and don`t take too much offense. Taboo topics in conversation include the Royal Family (revered among many Moroccans) and Western Sahara (which is home to a land dispute). Also be careful when discussing Islam and be respectful of the subject.

Be careful to shake hands and accept items with the right hand only, as the left hand is associated with the upkeep of personal hygiene and is considered to be unclean. Kisses on both cheeks (bises in French) are acceptable between the sexes, as in between men and men and women and women, but male/female mixed company tend to shake hands or hug instead of kissing. Moroccans will offer food and drink until made explicitly clear that they should not, so if you are full, decline by patting the stomach and saying `moi non plus`. It is important to arrive at someone`s house on time, but if plans are made to go to lunch at a restaurant or a cafe or patisserie, Moroccans do tend to be `fashionably late`. That could mean a half-hour or more. They feel it adds to their character, which is very carefree.

What time do Moroccans usually eat? Do I need to make reservations to fancy restaurants in advance?

Moroccans start the day with breakfast, usually eaten between 7 and 10 a.m. It can be quite basic, with Moroccan breads and French baguettes or croissants, served with coffee, tea and juice. Fresh fruit, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs are less common selections. The largest meal of the day is lunch, and you will find that many businesses close between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. Lunch consists of multiple courses, including `meze` appetizers and salads and a dish of either tahine or couscous. It is popularly enjoyed with mint tea and plentiful sides of bread, which is used to sop up juices and sauces from the main dish. Pastries may be served for dessert. Dinner is served after evening prayers, with restaurants opening up after prayers at 7 or 7:30 p.m. Restaurants tend to be at their most packed between 9 and 10 p.m., similar to dinner times found in countries all over the Mediterranean.

Most of the popular restaurants in Marrakech need reservations, so please make arrangements for your hotel to call reservations to certain restaurants as soon as you arrive. La Grande Table Marocaine at the Royal Mansour Hotel comes highly-regarded, as the main chef has been the recipient of a Michelin star. The Al-Fassia Restaurant, serving classic Moroccan dishes, is also a well-regarded restaurant that requires reservations days and sometimes weeks in advance.

Note: Smoking is permitted in restaurants and bars in Morocco.

What is nightlife like in Marrakech?

Marrakech`s nightlife scene is the largest in the country. Many bars and nightclubs are located west of The Medina, in the neighborhoods of Gueliz, El Hara and Hivernage. These areas were planned during the French colonial period and are sometimes referred to as the `New Town`. The New Town`s reputation for nightlife is at direct odds with The Medina, which is not as well-known for parties. Bars and nightclubs are clustered around Avenue Echouhada in Hivernage and Avenue Mohammed V in Gueliz especially.

Women should go to bars and nightclubs in a group, preferably with some men. Unmarried women will find themselves the object of unwanted male attention.

Where are the best areas for shopping?

Marrakech is particularly well-known for its tanneries. You can find numerous tanneries west of the Oued Issil near Bab Debbagh; look down the streets Avenue Bab Debbagh and Toudgha Bab Debbagh. You can tour the grounds of the tanneries and then stop in at a few leather goods shops. Be prepared to haggle if purchasing leather goods from these shops. For other authentic handicrafts, visit the souks north of the Jemaa el-Fna. Souk Semmarine is a favorite with tourists, and the best carpet sales can be found at the Creiee Berbere souk. Another noteworthy place for handicrafts, such as furniture and ceramic dishware, is Mustapha Blaoui, located in Bab Doukkala (www.mustaphablaoui.com).

Western-style shopping malls exist in Marrakech: the main ones are Carre Eden Shopping Center (Avenue Mohammed V and Rue de la Liberte), Menara Mall (Avenue Mohammed VI and Avenue Moulay Rachid), and Al Mazar Commercial Centre (Avenue du Septieme Art and Route d`Ourika).

Where can I rent a bicycle in Marrakech?

You can rent a bike for 250 dh a day from AXS (www.argansports.com, website in English), or you can pick up a road bike via a government-supported bike sharing service called Medina Bike (www.medinabike.ma, website in French and English). A seven-day pass costs 150 dh, with overage fees of 10 dh per 30 minutes when riding the bike for more than three hours per day. Bike pickup/dropoff locations are located all the way from Gueliz to Agdal Gardens.