Looking for a souvenir from your trip to Marrakech? Head to the markets (or souks) to pick up an ornate rug, argan oil or perhaps a fetching pair of babouche slippers. But even if you’re not interested in buying anything, the culture and tradition on display makes a market tour a must. Here are the most charming markets in the Red City.
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Djemaa el-Fna is the largest square in the medina. It is also one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the city. It was once the main marketplace in the old town, and today sells an array of goods, including argan oil products produced in other parts of the province. There are many street food stalls too, with kebabs, snails, pastries and other small snacks on offer, as well as establishments where you can sit and enjoy a larger meal, such as a tajine or tangia. The orange juice vendors around the lively Djemaa el-Fna are especially acclaimed.
Mellah is the old Jewish quarter of the medina, though there are few Jewish people still residing in the area. A walk through the markets and past the time-worn stores reveals years of history. An assortment of goods is available, but the area is especially known for its wide selection of colourful fabrics and ornate accessories for making clothes.
Souk Cherifia offers a more sanitised and easier-to-navigate version of the souks, with a selection of shops within a shopping centre. The products are similar to those found lining the streets, but presented in a more orderly fashion. Quality is usually high, but that’s reflected in higher prices. It’s also a terrific place to pick up modern takes on classic designs and imported items from other parts of the continent.
If you want to see how traditional items are made without the hassle of visiting different parts of the large souks, the government-backed Ensemble Artisanal is the place to visit. Top artisans are hand-picked to work in the complex, teaching various trades to young apprentices. Goods are then sold at fair, fixed rates to visitors. See how musical instruments, lanterns, carpets, silver jewellery, leather items, pottery, brass goods, wooden carvings and more are produced with skill and care.
Although Souk el Attarine was traditionally a place to buy spices and scents, metal goods are also found in abundance here today. It’s a terrific souk to experience the hustle and bustle of a Moroccan market, while browsing a wide selection of items in one condensed area. Mirrors in all shapes and sizes reflect nearby lamps and teapots, and the delicate aroma of perfumes and heady smell of spices linger in the air.
Souk des Bijoutiers was historically a place for wealthier locals to purchase dazzling jewellery. The gems, jewels and gleaming precious metals still attract those who want to add some beautiful pieces to their collection.
Colourful and bright, Souk Smata is the number one place to purchase traditional leather footwear. Row upon row of hand-made babouches (slippers) are available in an assortment of sizes. While the shoes can be worn inside or out, Moroccans generally have separate pairs for both.
Souk des Teinturiers is where fabrics and skins are dyed in an eye-catching spectrum of colours. Watch how dyes are applied to items and peruse finished pieces of silk and sheep skins, ready to be bought or turned into rugs, clothes and other items.
A relatively under-visited souk by tourists, Souk Haddadine lets you peek into the world of a Moroccan blacksmith. The clanging of hammers rings through the air and you can feel intense waves of heat as you pass by the furnaces. While you are unlikely to find many souvenirs in this area, you can watch first-hand as wrought-iron gates, pots, plates, trays, teapots, horse shoes and other metal items are bashed into shape with precision.
A large flea market is held every Thursday evening in front of the Bab El Khemis gateway. It’s a popular spot for locals, yet seems to lack any coherent organisation. Stroll through the diverse array of items and try to spot a few treasures. Anything goes here – old carved doors are propped against walls, brass door knockers spread on sheets on the floor, and second-hand clothing draped over anything that will serve as a makeshift garment display. Old furniture in various states of repair are strewn across the pavement; expect to find anything from brass bedsteads to plastic garden chairs. You may even see the odd kitchen sink. Bicycles, jewellery, tools, cookware, cushions and rugs are a few of the other items you might find.