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Destination Ink: Marrakech

Words by Adam Jolley
Tattoo artist Soraya of Kim Tattoo works on a client.
Tattoo artist Soraya of Kim Tattoo works on a client.

Renowned for its vibrant culture and artistic flair, Marrakech is emerging as an enticing destination for those seeking unique and meaningful tattoos. We speak with the artists that call the Red City home.

I love Marrakech. The smell of the souks packed with colourful spices, locally-made textiles, leather goods and wooden handicrafts. How Djemaa El Fna - the bustling square at the heart of the city - comes alive at sunset, full of snake charmers, acrobats, storytellers, musicians and street food stalls. And its quieter, more luxurious side; sipping mint tea on a rooftop terrace at sunrise, wandering the shady groves of Yves Saint Laurent's Jardin Majorelle, or relaxing in one of the city's world class hammams. And, as if this isn’t enough reason to visit, Marrakech is also home to an up and coming tattoo scene, where both local and international artists have set up shop and cater to a mix of local and foreign clients.

Soraya of Kim Tattoo (@kimtattoo_kech) is one of these local artists, who returned home to Morocco to pursue her passion for tattooing. "I was born in Morocco, with Italian roots. I grew up in the city of Bologna, studied there and then at age 20 I decided to buy a tattoo kit and learn by myself (just for fun). Once I learned the basics of tattooing, I decided to pursue this path professionally so I went to a tattoo school in Italy and had my diploma there. At the age of 24 I decided to quit my old job and open Kim Tattoo. I thought about it for a long time, it was the only light I could see in my career, nothing seemed to make me happy and satisfied. But once I opened my shop, everything changed for me. So now it's been almost 6 years!"

© Marrakech Art Tour 

Soraya says working as a tattoo artist in Marrakech is a unique experience filled with both rewards and challenges. "What I love about it is the opportunity to interact with clients from diverse backgrounds and create meaningful art that often reflects the rich cultural heritage of Morocco."

Despite tattoos stretching back centuries in Morocco, any sort of professional industry is still quite recent. "One significant challenge is navigating the regulatory landscape, as tattooing is still a relatively new industry in Morocco and regulations can vary," Soraya adds.

Showing just how new the industry is, Tattoo studio Morocco (@tattoostudiomorocco) was established in May 2016 by Samir Ennahdi (“the heart" of the studio), which he runs with his wife Julia ("the engine"), who says it was the first licensed tattoo parlour in the Arab World. Samir, a Morocco-Ukrainian, says their aim is “to transform the mindset of the local society and to bring tattoo culture to Morocco”.

“Back in the day, high-quality tattoos were not available to everyone. Due to the absence of experienced tattooists in Morocco, people had to go to the EU to get inked. That was expensive and time consuming.” Samir says it was obvious that this lack of a professional tattoo parlour had to be fixed. With a team of lawyers he took action and, within a few months of battle with local authorities, Tattoo studio Morocco was officially opened. Samir says demand for tattoos in Morocco has just started to increase. “When Tattoo studio Morocco just opened, our customer ratio was 25% of local people and 75% of tourists. But now after almost 8 years of practice, we have a 50/50 ratio. Moreover, a large community of expats living in Morocco prefers our tattoo studio over familiar tattooists in their home countries.”

Tattoo by Tattoo studio Morocco

Both Kim Tattoo and Tattoo studio Morocco participate in local cultural events, helping push tattooing in Morocco to new audiences.

Kim Tattoo was one of the first tattoo shops to participate in techno events, Soraya says. “It started in 2021 and we've done many festivals around Morocco. It's been a great experience and it gave the opportunity for tattoos to be known more and appreciated more, especially in the Moroccan rave scene. We're still thinking about organising a big tattoo convention and to reunite all the tattoo artists in Morocco, it's something that is on the way."


According to Samir, "Flash Tattoo Corner is the hot new trend in Morocco. Watching our artists in action as they ink party-guests adds a lot of fun and excitement to many events held in bars, private villas, weddings, and music festivals in Marrakech, Casablanca and Essaouira. From time to time we organise our own Rock Tattoo Party with a live band and of course flash tattoos."

Alongside tattooing, the city is home to a vibrant community of artists, supplying added interest for tattoo tourists. Perhaps one of the best places to witness what’s on offer is via a tour of the city’s street art scene.

Emilia, a freelance project manager originally from Berlin, runs Marrakech Art Tour (@marrakecharttour). "It was during the lull of the pandemic, amid the quietude of Marrakech's alleys, that I discovered the full spectrum of street art ingrained in the city's many neighbourhoods," she says. "Inspired, I began documenting these vibrant expressions on an Instagram page." Soon after, as tourism began to rebound post-pandemic, demand for her services as a guide increased.

Emilia describes her walking tours as an "immersive journey through Marrakech's cultural tapestry." Spanning approximately three hours, each tour — whether in the labyrinthine Medina or the modern enclave of Gueliz — is tailored to individual interests. "Every single tour is different," she says. "From creative hubs to hidden gems, the tour unfolds an alternative narrative of the city." Meanwhile, "galleries, museums, and historic landmarks add depth to the experience, enriching our understanding of Marrakech's evolving cultural landscape."

© Marrakech Art Tour 

Looking at some of the influences of these artists, Emilia says that "notably, more and more murals celebrating the Marrakchi football team have emerged, distinguished by their bold red, black, and white palettes." Yet it’s "the unassuming charm of residential neighbourhood art depicting everyday Moroccan life that resonates most with me," she says. "These often unsigned gems epitomise the transformative power of public art, infusing neighbourhoods with vibrancy."

© Marrakech Art Tour

Back in the city’s tattoo studios and, for people looking to get some ink, the artists have some words of advice.

"For visitors looking to get inked in Marrakech, one unique aspect is the blend of traditional Berber, Arabic, and contemporary styles that many local tattoo artists specialise in," Soraya says. "Henna tattoos are deeply rooted in Moroccan culture, and you can find skilled henna artists in the Medina."

She advises tourists "take the time to research different tattoo studios and artists in Marrakech to find one whose style aligns with your vision. Look at their portfolios and read reviews from previous clients. After getting a tattoo in Marrakech, it's crucial to be extra cautious about sun exposure during the healing process, especially considering the city's intense sunlight. Last thing, if you're happy with the service and the final result, consider tipping the tattoo artist as a gesture of appreciation! It's really common here."

Samir also has some useful advice for visitors. "Pay attention to feedback on Google Maps, as sometimes tattoo beginners buy fake reviews," he says. "For example, our tattoo studio has about 170 reviews from real people, while some recently opened shops already have 300-500 fake ones. Also, look carefully at all the works on the [artist’s] page. Very often non-reputable artists copy and post pictures from Pinterest, and you can see the difference in quality when you find real tattoos on the page done by them. We encourage all visitors of Marrakech to be cautious and stay step one ahead of the scammers."

Tattoo by Tattoo studio Morocco

As with getting a tattoo anywhere in the world, hygiene is paramount to a successful experience. "The tattoo procedure carries a risk to health, so it is very important to choose the right tattooist," Samir adds. "Only beginners make cheap tattoos. They work at home and make tattoos of poor quality. Amateurs save on materials, work without gloves and use the same needle for several customers. This is against all hygiene rules. Think twice before getting inked cheaper somewhere outside the city centre. As you know, free cheese is in a mousetrap only!"

Armed with some knowledge, and careful research, tattoo tourists should enjoy a magical trip. Just make sure you leave enough time to soak up some of the city's best experiences.

"To truly savour Marrakech's essence, I encourage visitors to embrace its contrasts and immerse themselves in local life," Emilia says. “Beyond the well-trodden paths, seek out authentic snack spots and witness the pulse of Marrakech's streets firsthand. Whether savouring tea at a neighbourhood haunt or leisurely observing street life unfold, the city's beauty reveals itself in moments of quiet observation and interaction with its inhabitants.”

“The Red City gives a lot of inspiration for travel tattoos - the best souvenir to ever exist,” Samir says, advising tourists to look beyond cliched "camels, palm trees, and words in Arabic."

"Look around, there are so many unique and amazing things in Morocco that can make great tattoos. Unleash your imagination and creativity! Ask your tattoo artist for flash designs, and don’t be afraid to get a tattoo in colours. We are in the colourful Morocco, enjoy the moment and commemorate your special trip with some bright fresh ink!"

Tattoo by Tattoo studio Morocco