Out and about in Marrakech: The Souks

You will never be underwhelmed by Marrakech, it lives up to it’s reputation and has you in a trance the moment you arrive. Marrakesh is the centre point of Moroccan tourism, bursting with colour, movement, smells and sounds to make you forget the world you left behind when you stepped of the plane.

Let there be light!! Marrakech souks

I enjoyed walking through the souks, especially when we went through a section that was all lamps and lanterns beautifully lit up and glowing gold on every turn. Some areas were passageways of nothing but glowing gold, making me feel like I was in a dream.

(I thought I was filming it but my camera wasn’t on record – so annoying).

The medina and one of the many entrances to the souks

The city seems to come alive at night, this surprised me the most. Men, women and children were out full force, walking at a leisurely paceΒ  – though many of the men were seated outside the many late night cafes you see lining the busier streets.

The alleyways and narrow turns seem to go on and on, and the array of beautiful items for sale are a dreamy sight to behold with an ocean of gleaming and colourful goods. Walking through through was fine, but I didn’t really do any shopping in the Marrakech souksΒ  – it’s just too much hard work, all that bargaining.

Shall we go shopping?

A guide took us to a shop in the souks (a cooperative – that was meant to be all fixed prices, yet nothing had a visible price tag 😐) it seemed to sell everything under one roof – so I tried to get a few things in there, popped various bits into a a basket. The merry-go-round starts as soon as you enter the shop and look at something – never mind touch it.

Long story short, I managed to pay an overall price for my things that didn’t pinch too much, but good griefΒ  – this is how it went before I got to that point (the merry-go-round):

How much is this please?

  • Smiles and polite friendly chatter, flattery and jokes……
  • Every time I ask a price for something the seller shys away and makes some excuse about getting back to me in a minute – telling me not to worry, keep looking, we’ll come to a ‘good price’
  • Back and forth tennis match (doubles at times) of bartering on each and every item in my basket
  • Seller asks what I do for a living – when I tell him, he tells me his wife does the same thing (aka trying to suss out how much money I earn before giving me any prices lol)
  • Seller gives me an overall price for everything in my basket
  • I say the price is too high
  • Seller asks me for my price
  • Tantrums from the seller when I tell him my price – his arms are flapping, he’s having an episode.

The Business Studies Lecture

  • I tell the seller I can get things like this cheaper at home (e.g. TK Maxx) and I’m looking for bargains today – honesty being the best policy and all that
  • This riles the seller up even more and he proceeeds to give me chapter and verse about what this is doing to his business. If customers get similar things cheaper they won’t pay the seller’s prices and this is destroying local business (aka the joys of capitalism, and larger corporations mass producing and charging less for the same items as small business puts small business out of business)
  • I agree with the seller’s point completely – it’s a sad reality in a capitalist society – businesses have to adapt to compete and customers have to watch the pennies unless we’re one of the rich minority
  • I’m coming from a penny pinching perspective and he’s coming from a profit making angle
  • Stalemate
  • We can’t seem to agree on a price
  • Seller visibly agitated

Trying to compromise

  • I offer a compromise and say I’ll buy just one item from the basket (a lantern) but we can’t reach an agreeable price on that either, he’s angry now and wants maximum diram for that lamp
  • Me saying I’ll leave the whole lot because I don’t want to upset him anymore with my prices
  • Seller telling me he’s not upset (but he is – he’d be no good at poker)
  • I throw in the towel – you win some you lose some – no biggie, I say my thank you and goodbyes!!

More tantrums

  • Seller flaps and vents some more then calls the shop manager over as I’m walking out the door – calling me back into the shop
  • Shop manager gets down on the floor and starts going through each item in my basket – seemingly doing some calculations in his headΒ  – still some room to bargain them!!
  • If these two were con artists they were extremely good – oscar winning performance….a duo act
  • A bit more bartering and we agree on a price – it’s a miracle

Now I’m confusedΒ 

  • Seller more or less starts congratulating me – saying I’m a “good business woman” lol – compliments from the masters, that’s an honour (though I didn’t always win with sellers)
  • Smiles laughter and pleasantries again as if the all the above had never happened
  • Me thinking – this is crazy – no more, I’m drained and it’s too hot for this
  • Seller gives me the business card for the shop and tells me his personal number also happens to be on the card
  • Seller goes on to tell me I look like his girlfriend from America!!!
  • Me making a quick mental calculation – he has a wife who does the same job as me and a girlfriend who looks like me ( I bet he says that to all the ladies). Well men are known to have up to four or five wives in Morocco if they wish so guess I shouldn’t be alarmed by this, assuming it’s true! That said – one of the guides said he had five children with one wife and said that was a lot for him to deal with and that he didn’t need anymore wives.

I went through all that headache for three cushion covers, one lantern, two tea light holders and a silver tray.

A gentle reminder

Stay alert for speedy bikes and scooters that appear in the narrowest alleys of the souks. The fumes can be pretty strong at times too, laying heavy in the air. I wonder what the asthma rates are like in Marrakech.

A trip to the chemist

Most organised Marrakech city tours include a customary pharmacy stop.

We all sat down on very comfy seats, surrounded by packets and jars with contents of all colours and descriptions. We received a lengthy presentation that talked us through some common ailments and over the counter natural remedies we could purchase from this chemist.

We inhaled natural eucalyptus, and tested a few other remedies and natural products like a block of white musk perfume and a strong lemon block for warding of mosquitos.

At the end of the presentation we were all given a big clear plastic bag, we then had to put our hand up when products we wanted to buy were called out – assistants in the pharmacy came hurrying over to drop them in our bags while we stayed comfortably seated.

You only got up once the call outs were over and you were ready to pay. They were even doing ‘three for two’ offersΒ  – the hustle is real.

Amber apparently wards of creepy crawlies in your home, I bought a few blocks of this – prevention being better than cure….it has a deep warm spicy smell, and apparently hotels in Marrakech use it a lot (well if it’s good enough for them….)

A traditional bakery

Locals in the souks, Marrakech

Don’t Forget: a other things to do in Marrakech

Comptoir Darna: You absolutely must check out Comptoir Darna, a popular restaurant in the new part of the city that will mesmerise you with a glowing arabian ambience, belly dancers and delicious food.

Berber Museum: Maison Tiskiwin: MusΓ©e Bert Flint Museum, Morocco this fabulous little museum showcases the history and lifestyles of berber/Sahara communities, which is deeply embedded in Moroccan culture. I was so engrossed that I almost got locked in lol!!

Bahai Palace: a very pretty palace indeed, and usually included in any full day organised tour of Marrakech.

You won’t be short of things to do, places to go and things to see in Marrakech.

23 thoughts on “Out and about in Marrakech: The Souks

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