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Markets in Marrakech: Experience the Bustling Bazaars in Morocco’s City of Colour
Often referred to as bazaars or souks (in Arabic), markets in Marrakech are an experience not to be missed during your trip to Morocco. Marrakech is known as the city of colour thanks to the red clay used to build houses that turns a beautiful rose pink colour as it dries. This iconic soft colour makes the perfect backdrop for the bright colours and patterns seen everywhere at the markets in Marrakech. Traditional souks are a feast for the senses. Scents of rich spices waft through the air; sunlight glistens on mirrored surfaces, and the sounds of bustling market life will have you turning in every direction. Marrakech’s bazaars are definitely an exciting place to be.
What Can I Buy at the Markets in Marrakech?
Bazaars are full of interesting and exciting things to buy. Rugs, leather goods, lamps and spices are among the most popular.
Handmade wool rugs are perhaps the most iconic thing to buy at a market in Marrakech. Crafted by different Berber Tribes across the country, Moroccan rugs are traditionally woven for their utility in cooler climates. They are originally made from natural wool fibres that have been dyed with organic vegetables and fruit colours. The colourful and decoratively patterned carpets (typically with geometric designs) have become sought after around the world.
Moroccan Hanging Lamps
Traditional Moroccan lanterns can be found widely across markets in Marrakech. Traditionally made to hold tealights, these intricately decorative lamps are typically made out of rustic brass or wrought iron with tinted stained glass. The patterns and designs can be simply mesmerising, demonstrating true craftsmanship from the makers. The lamps are designed in such a way that the light shines through the stained glass to create beautiful patterns and colours on walls and sufaces around them.
Leather work is a tradition that has been linked to many cities in Morocco including Fez, Meknes, Rabat, and Marrakech. Moroccan leather is widely thought to be some of the best in the world. One thing that makes it so unique is that the entire process is done by hand in traditional tanneries. First, the hides are gathered and prepared. Next, the skins are soaked in vats of natural dyes derived from poppies, henna and saffron to name a few. Following this, the leather is hung out to dry naturally in the sun before being sold to craftspeople. Slippers, handbags and footstools are some of the most commonly produced and purchased items.
Morocco is famous for its vast array of spices with intense flavours, aromas and colours. With so many spices available throughout markets in Marrakech you’ll be overwhelmed by the smell and sight of it all. Common Moroccan spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika and saffron, among countless others. The famous Moroccan spice mixture Ras El Hanout typically contains twenty-seven spices, including cardamom, cumin, clove, and nutmeg. The name literally translates to “head of shop”. It is believed that North African dealers created the blend by combining the best spices they each had available.
The Ultimate Experience of Markets in Marrakech
There are eighteen markets in Marrakech, each offering a distinct experience and specialising in different types of goods. If you have plenty of time, you could spend hours getting lost in the souks, taking it all in as you go. For those with less time, it could be a good idea to get a local guide to show you around, especially if you have certain things on your shopping list as they’ll know exactly where to find them.
1. If you do ask a guide to show you around, make sure they are licensed.
2. Take a map of the souks or use GPS so that you can find your way back to the main streets when you inevitably get lost down the narrow alleyways of stalls.
3. If you do get lost and want to ask for directions, try to ask a family or a female. Young males are more likely to insist on showing you where to go, and will expect a hefty tip in return.
4. Haggling is expected at the markets in Marrakech. Keep it friendly and have some fun, but know that it’s also ok to walk away if you don’t agree on a price you’re happy with.
Which Markets Should I Go To?
Djemaa el-Fna is the largest and most well-known market in Marrakech. Located in the largest square in the Medina quarter, or old city, this bustling market is used by locals and tourists alike. There are plenty of street food stalls and orange juice vendors. Djemaa el-Fna is definitely best experienced at night.
Located in the Jewish Quarter, Mellah is steeped in history. Although some the buildings look a bit old and tattered, the vibe is slightly less chaotic and somewhat more authentic than the more popular Djemaa el-Fna. Mellah is particularly known for selling a vast selection of colourful fabrics and ornate clothes-making accessories.
Souk el Attarine
Souk el Attarine is the place to go for Moroccan scents and spices. The market is much smaller than some of the others, but there’s no shortage of goods to browse. This area has also become a popular place to buy metal goods such as traditional lamps ands decorative mirrors.