Souq means "market". They occupy quite a big part of the Medina (old town) and may be a bit problematic to navigate, even if you posses a good map. Street names are a rare thing to see in Marrakech in general, and here just forget it, you just go with the flow.
If you are coming from outside of the Medina, all the guide books usually suggest to enter through the beautiful gates of Bab Doukkalla, but we decided to go a little up and entered from the side where tourists usually never go. This is actually a place where you can see the locals of Marrakech going about with their daily lives: selling fruits, cleaning shoes (don’t know why really- it’s quite messy, but that’s how life goes here), getting 9 people into 1 taxi (“Taxi can be never full”), clean their cars using water from the puddles, etc. If you are into street photography as I am, this is the place to take the best pictures.
Once you enter through the gates, just go anywhere. In case there is a dead end, the locals will let you know although you are going to end up in the souqs anyway. Couple of tips: try to apply your spy skills to photography. If anyone sees you taking pictures of them, they are going to demand for money. So be quick, don’t look through the finder, keep your face deadpan. Smiling doesn’t help much either. If you get into a heated dispute, just walk away.
I was lucky enough to have two men accompany me, I didn’t have to deal with beggars and kids asking for money – my man had. Apparently here no one can start a conversation with a woman if she is with men.
As we didn’t intend to buy anything, we moved through quite smoothly. But if sellers see you looking at something, it might be difficult to get away. I mean, I have nothing against a little chat, but to be stopped every few meters can be annoying. So I didn’t really look at anything and avoided eye contact with people, just let my Lomo do the thing.
Apart from small stores, there are real workshops as well where you can see local artisans producing wooden caskets, lampshades, chess boards, etc. Carpets are everywhere and on some streets you can see colorful dyers, and rays of sun shining through in the dusty air. Stop for some freshly-squeezed orange juice – it’s cheaper than water here! Just pick the cleanest place in your opinion (hehe, don’t expect to see the usual types of cafes here).
One more tip, when you reach the food souqs, remember: look but don’t touch because If you do, you don’t have any choice but to buy. Olives are so cheap here and there are so plenty. Mint is scattered all over the pavement waiting to become tea. There are pyramids of colorful spices and some things which look like stones that appear to be lipstick or soap.
If you are going to buy something, always remember to bargain! Start for as low as 70% less than the asking price and you’d be guaranteed to meet at the half. You can use different tricks such as “student discount” as well. Pretending to walk away also helps.
No matter how many turns you take, you are going to end up at a place called, Jemaa El Fna – the huge square which is alive, day and night. I can describe it only as a mad circus. Guide books advertise it as the main thing to do, but personally, I hated it. I am too scared of the snakes which are present here in big numbers and the owners tried to chase us to put those snakes on our shoulders. Honestly, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Apart from the snake charmer, you can see dancing monkeys, little children asking for money, lots of horse carriages, kiosks with orange juice, and so on. They say it gets even more alive at night, but we never returned.
But no matter what – this is a great place to eat! Eateries are aplenty and the prices are cheap. Pick any one, but make sure it has a roof terrace!
written by neja on 2011-02-23 in #world #locations #original #people #artisan #adventure #select-type-of-location #market #real #souks #mess #souqs #sellers #experience #shopping #money #street #life #crowd