Souk it all up

The heaving souks of Marrakech hit all your senses at once – the smell of spices mixing with the shouts of vendors and the vibrant colours of the goods.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


The souks of Marrakech, Morocco

“No, thank you. Merci.”

I’m becoming quite accustomed to saying this. Every thirty seconds or so.

It’s the foreigner’s armour in the souks of Marrakech. Every storeowner has the best quality, the best price, the only authentic goods. Or so they will want you to believe.

Whether you are actually looking to buy or just looking, you’ll need to fend off dozens of hopeful vendors as you navigate your way through the crowded and noisy alleys.

But here in the sweaty and smelly heart of Marrakech’s medina (old town) is one of the highlights of any visit to the city. Much of it may cater towards the tourists but overall the authenticity has not been lost.

This is the trading centre of the city – the reason that, many hundreds of years ago, people would walk through the desert with their goods-ladened camels. Those days may be behind us but the carts and motorbikes forcing their way through the bustle are probably even more hazardous!

Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco

The fake lamps, the mass-produced bowls, the carpets of questionable quality – they’re all here for the tourists. But you’ll see just as many locals going into unassuming shops to get their spices or clothes or homewares. You can bet they’re getting a better price than any foreigner will ever manage, though.

Through the medina, there are technically different souks (markets) but, without a map, they all seem to blend into one at times. Within the souks themselves, there are clear delineations, though.

From the silk-spinners to the spice sellers; from the carpets to the crystals; from drying dyes to the men melting metals. Each little street has its own identity and its own unique selling point.

Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco

And, with almost three thousands stalls in the souks of Marrakech, the only things that can compete with the sight of it all are the smells and the sounds. Whether it’s the owners shouting at you, or the recently tanned leather, or the piles of spices.

It’s an assault on all your senses but one that immediately transports you into this unique world that seems to have no borders. You very quickly forget how you came in and it can take a long time to find your way out.

If you are wondering how to tackle the markets of Marrakech yourself, perhaps you would find a guide useful. If so, one of these tours could be just what you’re looking for:


I’m sorry I can’t easily bring you the smells and the sounds of Marrakech’s souks myself but I am able to share with you some of the sights. Here is a small collection of my photos from inside the souks which hopefully give you an idea of what it feels like to be lost inside them.

Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco
Marrakech souks in the medina, Morocco


The most authentic style of accommodation is a riad in the medina – but they come in all shapes and sizes!


For a cool and safe hostel in a riad, have a look at Rodamón Marrakech.


A nice riad that is affordable and welcoming is Riad Dar Nadwa.


For a stunning boutique option, I think 72 Riad Living is one of the best in the city.


And Riad L’Hôtel Marrakech is an absolutely stunning hotel, if you feel like splurging!

13 thoughts on “Souk it all up”

  1. Ah, I loved the souks (love your title too!) We bought a leather bag there that wasn’t treated properly though and had to move it to the garage when it started to smell – and then it grew mould all over it so we ditched it. Haha. We also bought one of those ‘fake’ lamps which we still have in storage. It’s beautiful though, I love it.
    I’m sure we probably paid at least 100% more than what a local would’ve paid for it though

    • Yuck to the bag. Yay for the lamp!
      That’s the thing about the ‘fake’ items. They often look just as nice and are a lot cheaper. If all you want is a nice souvenir from your trip, it’s fine. I bought a nice big serving dish that I was guaranteed was ‘authentic’ and ‘handmade’. I’m sure it wasn’t but it still looked really nice and I could give it as a present and say “I got this from Morocco and was told it’s handmade!” 🙂

  2. I absolute adore markets even if I don’t like shopping and I never buy anything (there is not enough space in my backpack). These markets are very special for the many colors, the unusual stuff on sale and they are perfect for people watching, my favorite activity. I really want to go to Morocco, one day perhaps.

    • Yes, it’s all about the colours and the actions for me. I love the people-watching too and just wandering and seeing all the different things for sale. I even enjoy the banter with the store owners… if you know you definitely don’t want something you can have a bit of fun with them when they start hassling you 🙂

    • It’s hard to take bad shots when there’s so much going on in the markets like this. The trick is trying to get the photos without too many people standing or walking in the way!! 🙂

  3. Ha, you have the cleverest titles! 😉 If I were to set foot in a souk, I’d likely walk away with 3 new lamps. Sam had to keep an eye on me when I went shopping in the bazaar in Istanbul…

    • I was expecting the Marrakech souks to be similar to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul but they were much more confusing and organic. You have many more people actually creating the products in the Marrakech alleys (such as the clothes dying) and there is very little order to the whole thing.
      Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with going away with a few lamps… as long as you’ve got room for them in that backpack! 🙂


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