Exploring the Souks of Marrakech

The Souks of Marrakech

Marrakech is a city that fills the senses to overflowing, the experience being at its most vivid in the souks of the medina.

Here you’ll be struck by the sensuous touch of locally cured and crafted leather goods, hand-carved ornaments and furniture in local wood (thuya and cedar) and the vivid colours of stunningly patterned antique carpets. You’ll also experience the sight and aromas of simmering tagines, brilliant displays of local oranges and other fruit and the ever-present scent of mint and saffron. Another striking aspect of these market places are the vibrant shades of Majorelle blue, red and yellow in the yards of wool hanging out to dry. All this, and more, awaits you in the souks of the Ochre City.

The best way to see the souks of Marrakech, without getting lost in its maze-like alleys, unless that’s an experience you would relish (and there can be plenty of fun in doing so!), is to take a tried and trusted guide for at least a half day tour, a service we’d be happy to organise for you.

Starting close to Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s largest square, the labyrinthine lattice of shopping lanes which comprise the souks traditionally delineates the clear boundaries between the artisans and sales outlets dedicated to each trade or craft. Today, these boundaries have become somewhat blurred but whether you simply take a stroll in the hope of finding a few unique Moroccan souvenirs or have something specific in mind, such as carpets or decorated pottery, the souks are a must for every visitor and a highlight of any stay in the city.

What to Find Where?

While most souks sell more or less everything, some are better than others for specific items. The most beautiful jewellery, both traditional Berber and reproductions, for example, can be found at souk Siyagha, whereas, for carpets, you should head to souk Zrabia (or Auction Berber) on the ‘Place des Épices’. Ancient Berber carpets are among the most beautiful. They are also more expensive than modern ones but prices are invariably well below those you would pay in Europe. Finding your dream carpet is not always easy so it is important to take your time; when you explain to merchants what you have in mind, and your budget, they will be happy to help.

The souk on the ‘Place des Épices’, renowned for its spices, enjoys a less frenetic relaxed atmosphere than those around the Jemaa el-Fna. Here you can also find toys, basketry, endless trinkets and ever more carpets.

The markets of the city’s Jewish Quarter – the Mellah – are equally famous for their splendid range of spices. Even if you have little interest in cooking, a stroll through the Mellah’s spice market is a fascinating experience; the vibrant colours and exotic odours of saffron, cayenne pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, amongst many others, is a delight to the senses.

Finally, for a rather more unusual experience, head for Bab el Khemis. Held every Thursday, this flea market is full of surprises. You can find anything here – although you may have to search for it. However, if you like a challenge and have some time to spare, this market will not disappoint!!

A Few Tips

The souks are open daily from 07:00 to 18:00, although tourism demand often means they remain open later. As the heat can be stifling during the middle part of the day (especially during the summer), the best time to visit is early in the morning or at the end of the day.

When shopping in a souk it is de rigueur to haggle, the traders expect it. They typically start with an asking price of two or even three times the amount they are prepared to accept but will invariably be prepared to come down substantially. Perhaps the most effective tactic for obtaining the price you require if, after the first round of negotiation, you have not succeeded in getting the price down to the figure you had in mind, is simply to turn and walk away. If your 'final' offer was a fair one you will certainly be called back!

Somewhere to Stay

Situated in the Medina’s Kasbah quarter, the characterful hotel-riad, Les Borjs de la Kasbah, is the perfect place to retreat to after a long day exploring the city’s souks. Why not book your stay right now?!