Meandering Through the Souks of Marrakesh
Welcome to the souks of Marrakesh. Where the streets are filled with snake charmers, storytellers, and minstrels filling the air with their sweet sounds. Anything that you could possibly desire is found in this chaos of color.
As we approached Jamaa El Fna Square, the central square in Marrakesh's "old city", I was filled with excitement. Despite the overcast weather, the square was bustling. I started rambling off all the things that I wanted to see and do while we were there and I was kindly reminded us to take my time and relax- we would get to see it all! Before we met our tour guide for Ben Youseff Madrasa, we stopped in Cafe de France where I was introduced to my first Nos Nos, a half espresso half milk drink that would give me that much-needed caffeine jolt to kick the jetlag. Having refueled my tank, I was ready to take off.
As I entered the main square, I was overwhelmed by the number of people wandering around. People were flocking to our group trying to pedal their goods and sometimes they didn't take the first "no" for an answer. A bit of advice- be firm or they will continue to pester you. Being blonde, I stood out like a sore thumb. I can't recall how many times I was called "Spice Girl" or "Lady Gaga", but in the grand scheme of things, it could have been worse!
While the options are endless, here are a few of my favorite highlights I captured while wandering the serpentine paths.
The Olive Souk:
How could this place not catch your eye? I have never seen this many olives and the varieties were endless. Marinated, stuffed, shaved or spiced, you really could have it your way! We picked up a few to have as snacks and these were seriously some of the BEST olives I have ever tasted. In addition to these mouthwatering gems, most of the places had other items like preserved lemons that were for sale.
The Spice Souk:
Whether you have a penchant for cooking or you just want to pop and soak up the aromas, the spices are splendid. I was lucky enough to pick up some lemon pepper(which is totally different than what you find in the states) and Ras el Hanout. Ras el Hanout is a Moroccan blend of spices for which there is no one authentic recipe. There are hundreds of variations of this spice concoction. Every family, store owner and butcher has its own special blend. Some of them mix 15-20 different spices while others mix as many as a hundred to create the best aromatic blend which is why this name was chosen as it means "best in shop."
The Clothing Souk:
Having a total Sex and the City moment, I had to check out the babouches, Moroccan Slippers. The brilliant colors and hand detail in each pair truly caught my eye.
The Potters Souk:
As you wander around the souks, you will find the tagine pots everywhere. Ranging in colors and sizes, snag one so you can create your favorite Moroccan dish at home.
The Carpet Souk:
Contemplating that perfect Moroccan accent for your home? One of the oldest Moroccan traditions is its weaving of tribal rugs. With over 40 tribes, Moroccan rugs differ in design, color, and texture. Some are thin enough, like wedding blankets, and can be used as a decorative throw blanket on a bed or couch, while others have dense piling making them perfect for those cold winter months. The brilliant colors you see here are created using natural ingredients like henna, saffron, and indigo.
If you are in the market to purchase a rug, make sure you have ample time. We were served some refreshing mint tea while the shop owner opened up over a hundred rugs for us to view. Find one you like? Grab it and put it aside because it's highly likely there will be more than one that catches your eye in those stacks.
Just a piece of advice, if you find something you love go ahead and purchase it but keep in mind that you will likely find the same or similar item just a quick walk away. If you have been holding onto your dirham and have narrowed down your selection, remember that haggling with the store owners is completely acceptable and they welcome the banter.
Enjoy the sinuous streets of the souks and all that Morocco has to offer. It is truly one experience I will never forgot. Below are a few more photos that I snapped that caught my eye. The lanterns are simply gorgeous and when they light up at night, it looks like a scene from Aladdin.
Until next time!