Green Travel Guide to Marrakech
As you all may know, WOMB doesn’t have a full-time base in Hong Kong any more. And you know what? We are loving it! With moving and travelling come observations, and we are happy to share our travel-insights with all of you. This time: Marrakech, Morocco - a usual healthy dose of self-judgment as travellers and a few green tips too.
Getting to and around Marrakech (WOMB’s green score: 3/5)
Marrakech has its own international airport, so it is fairly easy to get to the city from Europe or other points in Africa. From the airport, one must take a taxi, but the city is not big so it will be a relatively short ride. Within the city itself - good news - walking is easy and pleasant. The wide boulevards, the clearly marked sidewalks make it easy to meander around, and even for first-timers, Marrakech will be easy to navigate in. We explored the city on foot with occasional taxi rides.
There are busses, however, they are slightly confusing, and especially if you don’t speak French, it can be difficult to go around the city by bus. A popular Marrakech tourist attraction is horse-carriages rides, and for ethical reasons, we suggest you not to use them. It is a sparkling show, and horses even get dressed up, but whether the animals are treated with care is very questionable.
Green eating in Marrakech (WOMB’s green score: 5/5)
Vegan in Marrakech? You are in for a treat! Moroccan cuisine is famous for its spicy, fragrant dishes. The popular Tajine (cooked/steamed vegetables and optional meat served with couscous) can be easily ordered vegan, and every restaurant will prepare it differently. Dig into Moroccan starters and salads too! Eggplant pastes, salads made of chopped zucchini and carrot as well as Taktouka (cooked tomatoes and peppers with cumin) are vegan!
Whereas veganism does not seem to be a thing in Marrakech (yet!), if you ask for a dish without meat, you can be sure that your order will be respected. If you want to check out eateries with a strict vegan or vegetarian, we have a few suggestions too! Gaïa is a cute café in Gueliz (the new town). They will serve you vegan coffee, vegetarian brunch and vegan bakes and cakes. It’s a nice workplace as well, so if you are in dire need of a caffeine injection, turn your way to Gaïa Marrakech! Another worthy mention is the Ayaso Concept Store. It is a health store and a café in one. On the menu, you have juices, coffees, snacks, but also daily lunch sets. It is a less atmospheric place than Gaïa, but it is slightly cheaper, and you can get your “healthy” groceries, essential oils and natural cosmetics there too!
We were in for a nice surprise when we bought a snack from a local street vendor - the foods don’t come wrapped in plastic! Everyone uses paper bags (we examined, and they are not lined with plastic!), and sometimes, eg. when buying grilled skewers or veggies in the streets, the food is wrapped in leaves.
Do bring your own reusable cup when buying drinks though! Marrakech is filled with sellers who can make you the most delicious fruit and vegetable juices, but it is still common to receive those in plastic cups with a plastic straw, so remember your reusable cup!
Conscious shopping in Marrakech (WOMB’s green score: 4/5)
Walking through the souk, our inner vegan was crying. Loads of leather stores, tanneries, leather produces. It was not easy, but we also knew what we were going into. That said, we do acknowledge the fact that leather manufactures are local businesses, and the processes are still “slow” with a lot of handcrafted details, compared to eg. mass productions in Bangladesh.
While the leather industry is still dominated by men, production of Moroccan Argan oil help employing women, especially in rural areas of the country. Looking for a typical Moroccan souvenir? Bring home a bottle of locally pressed Argan oil. In the Marrakech Medina, you will find several stores selling certified organic oils, so you can also be sure of the quality of the purchased product.
Handcraft is cherished in Morocco, and you can buy locally made ceramics, home decor and hand-woven rugs. Many places in the Souk the products aren’t authentic, but you can also find hidden boutiques that promote original Moroccan craft and design.
Zou & Co promotes locally made home design and is a great place to buy scented candles, vases and rugs. They have some clothes too, but you will find more garment variety in Jannah Marrakech. Beautiful, colorful kimonos and blouses by local design brand Fin Awa are retailed in the design store at the Mövenpick Hotel and 33 Rue Majorelle - still at very affordable prices. We were very happy to see that a giant like the Mövenpick is on-boarding local producers and promoting products made in Marrakech.
If you still havn’t got enough of local Moroccan design, you should make your way to Max & Jan. Founded by Belgian/Swiss design duo Jan Pauwels and Maximilian Scharl. The boutique is a beautiful mix of Moroccan heritage and craftsmanship with hip, international fashion. Less about sustainable fashion, but very much about local and slow produce, Max & Jan is still an inspiring place to visit. Expect a full-blown cultural and aesthetic experience for… much higher prices than anywhere else, but it is a great sneak peek into contemporary Moroccan design.
Last, but not least, we recommend a visit to SOME Slow Concept Store. Filled with “slowly” manufactured, locally made homeware and decoration items, SOME is both a design boutique with fashion and home decor, an art gallery and a café. Whereas the café serves a variety of vegan and vegetarian options (absolutely delicious - WOMB’s word of honor!), the selection of design goods includes locally sourced leather produces - not a 100 % match for strict vegans, but great and inspiring sneak peek into the local design scene.
Waste (WOMB’s green score: 2/5)
Ouch! We know very little about recycling policy in Morocco / Marrakech (we cannot know if the legislation varies from city to city), but the amount of trash in the streets of Marrakech is alarming. There are litter bins (more so in the new city, Gueliz than the old Medina though), but many places you can see large, displaced containers and unsegregated waste. We have not encountered recycling facilities, nor have we seen people with their own water bottles etc.
The Moroccan tap water isn’t suitable for drinking, and people tend to buy water in single-use plastic bottles. There are no drinking water dispensers either! So even eco-anxious WOMB had to buy water in plastic bottles, even though we had our reusable bottles with us (hence the dive in our green score)! It is common for cafés to serve plastic straws as well, and in general, there seems to be no common awareness of the pollutants and the plastic-problem.
What we learned: The smaller the production, the easier it is to maintain not only the love for handcraft but also the slow, natural and sustainable approach. Looking at single makers, small producers and local designers we gained even more respect and love for hand-made good and products. The world’s megalomania, the upscaling, the fast pace are pressing producers to use “dirty tricks” - and we mean dirty, because the bigger the production, the more pollutant it naturally becomes!
We slowed down in Marrakech and are happy with WOMB’s overall green score of 14/20.
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