Location: Marrakech, Morocco
Happy Friday! Crazy how quick the time is passing and it feels like yesterday that I was publishing Part I! I hope you enjoyed the first part of my two-part series, which ended up being a lot longer than expected. To me though, there was no better way to show off the beauty of Marrakech than by sharing many of the images I had taken during my time there. Today, I am back with more colour, more photography and more insights into what we got up to. We left off at Bahia Palace, and it’s now onto the souks!
From there the real colour explosion started – from the kasbah to the souks. I cannot stress enough how easy it is to get lost in the souks and I’m not sure whether a map will help or make it worse! This is why it is worth investing in a guide. Najib himself admitted that he spent his childhood getting lost in them and that it takes years to learn your way around. We were guided to a number of different stalls worth pointing out. The first was a traditional apothecary selling all different kinds of oils, lotions and potions. We were warned to be careful of where we purchase oils from as many take advantage of the well-known Moroccan argan oil and try to sell a watered down version at elevated prices to gullible tourists.
From oils to rugs, we were then taken to a beautiful carpet shop where we were served tea and given a display of carpets. I confess, we bought one that now lives in our living room. A fluffy Moroccan Berber rug that our dog absolutely loves rolling around on. Don’t be fooled by the fact that these stalls do not look very fancy – they accepted all forms of credit cards and were happy to organise international shipping… We decided to have the rug dropped off at our hotel and we brought it back on the plane ourselves.
From there we continued our tour around the souks and were guided to the best stalls for lanterns, carved wooden objects, traditional clothing – pretty much everything you can imagine. This whole experience can be a little daunting and exasperating, but here are a few things for tourists to keep in mind:
- Don’t be afraid to haggle. I suppose most already know this but haggle hard. If you aren’t happy with the price being offered, don’t be afraid to walk away. Rest assured they will likely call you back over. Most of these shops sell similar or identical items and they don’t want to lose the sale.
- You may be coerced into stalls that you don’t really want to see. They can lure you in with free ornaments or tea with the aim of getting a sale. Appreciate that this is how they make their livelihood so just politely decline and keep moving. Never feel pressured into buying something you don’t want to buy.
- Always ask permission to take pictures – and expect to be asked to enter the shop if you do.
- If visiting in the summer months, it can be very crowded and very hot. Be sure to take water with you and visit early to avoid the large crowds. Opening hours of the souks are between 8am and 10am and they close anywhere from 7pm to 9pm – all depending on the store.
- Dress respectfully to avoid unwanted attention and always visit with a positive attitude, no matter how chaotic and overwhelming it can seem.
You’ll end your tour by exiting at Jemaa el-Fnaa – the main square of Marrakech. During the day, expect to find juice and water stalls. You’ll probably find many beggars with chained Barbary apes and snake charmers. These are protected species under Moroccan law so please don’t entertain the beggars’ requests for a picture. As night falls, the atmosphere of the square changes. Gone are the snake charmers and in come the local storytellers, magicians and peddlers of medicine. The water and juice stalls transform into a plethora of food stalls with seating areas. You will be asked by each and every stall owner to have a seat, and be told that their stall is the best. Just like with the souk, politely decline and keep walking if it’s not for you. As smells of exotic foods fill the air and the intensity of the crowds and vendors increases, it was a sign for us to call it a day.
Have you been to Marrakech? Share your recommendations of places to visit in the comments below!