Marrakech has the largest collection of souks in Morocco which are justly famous for their exotic wares. The souks were traditionally (and still are) separated according to the items being made and sold, for example, leather goods, slippers, spices, jewellery or lighting.
Craftsman work in the areas where the items are sold too. So you can see pieces being made. The souks are just marketplaces and are locked overnight when the vendors leave for their homes.
We took a guide with us through the souks because they are a confusing rabbit-warren of streets. Although the guide gets a percentage of whatever you buy from any store, he did help with shepherding the children through the souks. If they could they would’ve stopped at everything, but, presumably, his interests lay in getting us to his friends’ stores! Interestingly, there were pockets of calm in the side streets. The locals still come here to shop but there are also lots of visitors. Some of the stalls are clearly geared towards attracting tourist money with cheap souvenirs.
I really enjoyed seeing the different patterns on the doors. Many were incredibly intricate. These were ordinary doors for souk buildings but so much work went into them. The hand of Fatima (lucky hand) on the door below was everywhere.
Be prepared to haggle. The vendors are ferociously good negotiators but, if you are happy with the price you pay, then I’d say you have done fine! If they accuse you of being a Berber, then that is a compliment because the Berbers are expert hagglers. By the way, don’t ask the price of something unless you are seriously considering buying it. Asking the price does not signal curiosity as in the West but an opening salvo in the negotiating process.
The medina opens out into the gigantic Djemaa-el-Fnaa square. Of course, there was street food, too, on one part of the square. There are gigantic oranges waiting to be squeezed into juice, Moroccan sweets by the cartload, grilled meats and just about every Moroccan food you could imagine. We had a delicious (and cheap) meal at Chez Aicha with sausages, salad and freshly made bread.
My children were a little freaked out by the square truth be told, between the snakes, the monkeys and the aggressive touting. They found it all fascinating but had no intention of holding a snake or monkey. To be fair, they found the souks fascinating – it was only the square they found chaotic. As children are likely to do in unfamiliar surroundings, they would stop and look which seemed an open invitation to any nearby nomad to bring out a snake, a monkey or a trinket.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Marrakech souks (even the children). What do you think? Have you been to a souk and walked away with a bargain? I’m pretty sure I did not.