No visit to Marrakech is complete without a trawl through its souks, where bargaining for exquisitely made artisanal wares is part of the fun. Hannah Jury lines up the best
A fascinating city thriving with life, culture and colour, Marrakech is one the prime locations to visit in Morocco, with one of its main draws being its labyrinth of souks – stalls and markets selling all kinds of Moroccan produce and artisanal wares. Exploring these souks and getting lost in them is an adventure all of its own, though there are some which are definitely a must-visit…
The slipper souks
As you thread your way through the souks, you’ll come across stalls of dazzling and colourful Moroccan slippers, known as babouches. The displays of the varieties of slippers, from simple, streamlined pairs to those which shine and sparkle with jewels, make these souks some of the prettiest you’ll come across in Marrakech. Certain types of slippers also serve different purposes; for instance, bright yellow pairs are to be worn only by men, and those with hard soles are made to be worn outside.
The metalwork souks
Moroccans are well-known for their talent in crafting all kinds of fantastic items and gifts from metal, and the examples you’ll find in the souks are some of the best you’ll come across in Morocco. As you make your way through the souks, you’ll discover, silver candlesticks, brass frames and the famous Moroccan lanterns – from basic tin varieties to incredibly ornate examples which take days to make. You may also be able to see some of these metalworkers in action and learn how they craft these objects of beauty.
The carpet souks
Morocco is also well-regarded for the exceptional quality of its handmade carpets, which can potentially last for hundreds of years, and range from contemporary Arab rugs to Berber carpets, where the design differs depending on the tribe who wove it. Also known as kelims, Moroccan rugs and carpets are sought after for their bright colours, which are often created naturally using vegetable dyes and substances such as henna and saffron. Though the asking prices are high, the vendors are always prepared to haggle with you.
The Mellah is not quite part of the souks itself, but instead is Marrakech’s Jewish quarter, situated in the Medina, bursting with its own shops and souks showcasing unique and culturally important goods. Lined with distinctive tall mudbrick homes along narrow streets, the Mellah is definitely worth a visit even if you don’t plan on spending any dirhams. The Place des Ferbantiers, Grand Bijouterie and Mellah Market are the best places to head if you fancy a spot of shopping, featuring all kinds of goods from spices to beautiful and luxurious fabrics.
The spice souks
One of the most famous series of souks you’ll discover in Marrakech, the spice souks put on a display of colour and aroma like no other. Wide varieties of spices are heaped into large cones and sold at affordable prices. You may also be able to purchase bottles of pure argan oil, valued for its medicinal and cosmetic properties, as the argan tree is native to Morocco. It remains one of the rarest oils in the world, as the argan tree grows in such a small and specific area in south-western Morocco.
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