I'm often asked, "is it necessary to get a guide when visiting Marrakech"? With its myriad of alleyways and shops selling carpets and lamps, that end up all looking the same, it is very easy to get lost in old Marrakech (the medina). But personally, I don't think that's such a bad thing. There are food stalls everywhere, so you won't starve. There are fascinating little shops and courtyards every square inch, so you'll never be bored. There are palaces and mosques to visit, Riad's to marvel at, artisans to photograph, and fresh orange juice to quench your thirst. And there's the marvelous Djemma el Fnaa, the main city square, that is unmissable. It's simple: if you get lost just ask for directions to the Djemma.
But I would recommend a guide if this is your first time in North Africa. The official guides are very well qualified historians for the most part, and will no doubt speak your language. They'll help you focus on the details that make this medieval walled city so unique. It will also help acclimatize you if you feel a little overwhelmed in the bustle. A half day personal tour is just right to orient you, and make you feel comfortable enough to get lost and do some real exploring later on.
But be warned, any tour will take you to a "perfume" shop as well as a carpet shop. It's unavoidable, you just have to go with it. Enjoy it. Accept the cup of tea and don't feel pressure to buy anything. Just give the guy who rolls out the hundred carpets for you to look at, a little tip.
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