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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!
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.
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.