Opposite to Europe, the old towns of Moroccan cities are not a dream place to live. Many expats and even Moroccans avoid old towns (called Medina) because of hectic small streets and noisy traffic. And even more nosy traditional neighbours.
Despite contrary opinions, in 2017 I decided to leave my apartment with a 24/7 guard downstairs in the new town of Marrakech. I moved to Medina. Only a few minutes’ walk from the main touristic square Jamaa el Fna, my dream house had a terrace, 2 bedrooms and a living room. The price was reasonable, and no agency involved meant no commissions.
Relocating to Marrakech can be an exciting adventure, especially if you dream of living in a beautiful riad or a palm tree surrounded by the villa. However, finding a long-term property to rent in Marrakech can be challenging. You will save yourself a lot of headaches following my tips.
I was a bit tired of all the fancy riads (a riad is a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard) were many expats were living or establishing businesses. They all looked so similar and were not cheap either. I wanted something different. The new place was exactly what I was looking for. It was a mix of a traditional Moroccan house and loft. So, I called my new home “Loft”.
The unfurnished loft was located on a very narrow street, and it wasn’t easy to move everything inside. Even the tuk-tuk motorcycle got stuck, so we had to carry everything by ourselves. Even more, the main square is only open for vehicles till midday, and I had a hard time finding someone who could help me early.
Because of the tight staircase to the first floor, half of the furniture didn’t fit inside. So I had to return the double bed box, table and closet.
Loft didn’t have hot water, as common in the old Moroccan houses. My landlord was not worried much about this issue, so I had to buy and install a hot water tank (around 85 euro for a small 30 l tank). I didn’t use the hot water yet, as it is extremely hot in the summertime, around +45C daily (more about the weather in Morocco you can read in my article Weather in Morocco. When Is the Best Time to visit?)
The layout of the loft is unusual. On the ground floor, there is a small kitchen and shower. The entrance is so narrow that half of it is inside the shower when I park my bicycle. The wall tiles are a bit rusty. The kitchen was newly done as well as the shower and the stairs.
There is a cosy living room and two bedrooms on the first floor. What I love about my loft are the stairs to the terrace. Because of the high ceilings, the grey/white painted stairs are the axis of the whole space.
The bathroom is located inside one of the bedrooms and has no door. I’m guessing before I moved in, there was no toilet at all and the landlord made it recently. In the traditional Moroccan houses, it is normal not only to live without hot water but also without an inside toilet.
The second bedroom is bigger and has a mezzanine floor. I am planning to use it as a sleeping space in the future.
Usually, I wouldn’t say I like many colours and patterns in the house. However, it looks like in Morocco; all colours fit together. I was even immersed in the patterns with my everyday dress. I bought all carpets from the Bab el Khemis flea market, 25 DH for 1m2. Many types of furniture came from the villa where my friend and I were running an artist residency.
Let’s continue to the terrace! It is divided into 2 spaces – one open and another with a squat toilet, shower and a small room. It is extremely hot on the terrace; only possible to enjoy it in the evenings. To hide from the noisy neighbours, I found some bamboo sheets in the street and attached them to the frame with the carpet cut-offs.
Before I built the bamboo wall, the temporary protection from nosy neighbours looked like this:
This shower is a hipster’s dream – get naked and take a hot shower (heated by the sun), watching the stars or anything else you want in the sky. A squat toilet is another cool thing in my house. We still have these toilets in Lithuania, so nothing new!
This house was built in an old-school way, covering the roof with bamboo:
Life in the Loft is not perfect. My street is noisy, and kids love playing, talking loud till midnight. If the windows are open, you can hear everything. Often it feels like I am living on the street.
I got even more unlucky because my neighbours decided to demolish their house the week I moved in. Imagine the daily noise of hammer mixed with street kids! Something to consider next time renting a place in Medina. Of course, a solution is to change all the windows and install the air conditioning. But I prefer fresh air and street life. You get used to it.
The Medina of Marrakech contains all essence of Moroccan life. And I want to feel Marrakech in all meanings, not to hide against the protected modern walls. It is an experience if only you are not afraid to take it.
Update 2020: I lived in this house for 9 months in 2017. Why did I move out? Even though it was a great experience to see the authentic daily life of Medina, I got tired of the attention and constant noise. Also, I was not particularly eager to cross the busy streets of Medina and the Jemaa El Fna square each time I wanted to go to the new town.
Would I move back to Medina? Probably no. I like having more privacy and light apartments with windows while many riads/houses in Medina are pretty dark. Maybe, I would move to a riad/house close to the main road, so I don’t need to walk forever to reach taxis… However, I would recommend anyone moving to Marrakech to try out Medina. Even for a few months.
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