One of Morocco’s warmest charms and memorable experiences is its vibrantly chaotic markets and stalls, and then don’t come much more chaotically vibrant than the souks in Marrakech.

Imagine the underground world of a termite community, swarming with scurrying workers with winding alleys, small caves and caverns veering off the main traffic stretches. Spindly pathways lead to tiny holes in the wall and as you look ahead, you’ve no idea whether the road turns left or right. The souks in Marrakech are very similar!

The souks are one of the main attractions, so stay local. My recommendation would be to stay in a Riad for some true authenticity. I stayed in the stunning [eafl id=”1634″ name=”Riad Turquoise” text=”Riad Turquoise”] just a ten-minute walk from the main square and souks.

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Jemaa el-Fnaa Square near the Souks in Marrakech

Where to find the Souks in Marrakech

The biggest and main souk in Marrakech is just north of the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square – which you’ll find instantly recognisable from the pictures of Marrakech you may have seen before. Jemaa el-Fnaa is a-buzz with street performers, musicians, snake charmers and sad looking monkeys on chains (the only downside), and despite only mild bother from those selling their skills and goods, the atmosphere is delightful. Don’t touch or take pictures of the animals – you’ll be asked to pay for the privilege!

The stalls in the square are more fruit-based. Grab a kilo of fresh oranges for 5 Dirham! As you continue to walk north through the hustle and bustle of the square the streets will narrow and you’ll enter the main area of souks in Marrakech. If the fruit didn’t fill you out get a brilliantly delicious macaroon. They should cost 1 dirham, (10-15p), but be careful as the kids there will probably short-change you!

What are the Souks in Marrakech like?

Hectic! Be prepared to get the full sales pitch. If you’re offended by stall-holders beckoning you over, being keen to shift their produce, and shift your dollar, then give the souks in a Marrakech a wide birth. But, you’d be missing out!

As you walk through the winding alleyways you’ll smell the aroma of freshly tanned leather, ornate lamp-shades bigger than you could imagine will hang down from the rafters illuminating narrow side streets, and as you journey through the different sections, you’ll see bright spices and smell local specialities being freshly prepared. The stalls are literally booming with stock, and store holders will have almost one of everything – ensuring they can always offer you an alternative size, colour, shape, stitch, material…if the one you’re looking at isn’t quite right. This over-stocking gives the souks in Marrakech an almost arched feel, as goods hang over from the very structure of the streets.

Souks in Marrakech, archway

How much should I pay in the Souks in Marrakech?

A general rule of thumb is that anywhere between one-third and one-half of the initial asking price is a good deal – for a foreigner at least. The fact is we’ll often overpay, even if we think we have a good deal. In the west, we’re pretty unaware of the real cost of producing/buying wholesale goods. Remember, as long as you think you have paid the right price (or less), compared to what you would pay at home, that’s good!

Have fun with bartering in the souks in Marrakech! If you don’t barter the stall-keepers will probably look at you strangely. It’s all a big game – there’s room to have fun on both sides.

A few quick examples.

I bought a shoe fridge-magnet for a friend. The sign said 10 dirhams. For goods like these you can’t usually barter – there’s no point you’re talking pence! Try and get one chucked in free though if you’re buying a few things. That all said…I did find one a few hours later for 5 dirhams!

Ladies Leather bags are big sellers in the souks in Marrakech. Ladies handbags made from goat, sheep or cow hide are particularly popular. Depending on the size you should be paying between 100 and 250 for them. Expect them to start around 600 though!

Larger leather bags, either wholly leather or a mixture of leather and woven wool, are very popular – and really attractive (a bit like mine below). Stall-holders will tell you they’re giving you a good deal with a price of 700 dirhams, but 300-350 is much more accurate.

DON’T FORGET TO WALK AWAY. Often the best way to get the price you want in the souks in Marrakech is to tell a stall-holder ‘it’s my final price’, and if they say no – walk away. If you walk away, turn-around when they lower or ask again what your final price is, stick to that price – and repeat the above a few times. You will get what you want!

Anyone for a pair of shoes?

Staying safe in the Souks in Marrakech

Standard rules apply for crowded places you don’t know! The souks in Marrakech can get very busy and people can get very close to you. Keep your personal possessions in front of you where possible, ensure your zips are done up, and try to keep phones and wallets in closable pockets – at the front of you.

The weaving alleys of the souks are also unofficial roadways. Beeping motorbikes will wiggle along the small pedestrian pathways, and sometimes even larger motorbike-trucks (a bit like an open tuk-tuk), will race along the backstreets restocking shelves or delivering freshly butchered chickens for the lunchtime rush. Keep your eyes open at all times but use your ears just as much, as they’ll alert you of any approaching scooter or vehicle.

A lot of people will try to offer you advice as well. ‘Excuse me, sir, the square is that way’. Providing the most commonly needed to know advice it can often be a ploy to get you to their shop or sell you a service. Smile, but don’t engage in too much conversation if they’re not directly attached to a stall and are just floating.

Just enjoy the souks in Marrakech!

The souks are such a special place. They really give the feeling of an ancient world of traders and movers, and there’s also some good to deals to be hand. Take your time but don’t dawdle, smile and make eye contact but don’t get stuck in conversation, and just enjoy your senses being challenged and spoilt!


My Marrakech Travel Resources

When: I visited in Marrakech for just 36 hours (read my article on Continental One-Night Stands) in February. The Saturday was a touch nippy at around 13 degrees but the Sunday was glorious – 20 degrees, blue skies and real t-shirt weather. Of course, Marrakech is at its hottest May – September, hitting 40 degrees and beyond. As with all my travel advice, visit at the very start or very end of the season for the best experience.

Where: I stayed in the [eafl id=”1634″ name=”Riad Turquoise” text=”Riad Turquoise”] and honestly could not recommend it more highly. With just six rooms this was home from home and a beautiful place to relax and unwind. £50 per night (of course this was low-season) between two – and you can’t go wrong.

Find out more about the [eafl id=”1634″ name=”Riad Turquoise” text=”Riad Turquoise here”], or search hotels in Marrakech on [eafl id=”1635″ name=”Booking.com Genera;” text=”booking.com”]

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RIAD TURQUOISE IN MARRAKECH

How: From London , I took the 7:40 Easy Jet flights from Gatwick and return on the 8 pm flight, again to Gatwick, from Marrakech. Long days but well worth not taking any holiday time off from work. Explore flights to [eafl id=”1633″ name=”Expedia Marrakech” text=”Marrakech on Expedia”] .

To make life just a little easier with such a short amount of time in Marrakech I booked airport parking – which really helped with such an early flight! Prices tend to change throughout the year and always vary on demand, so I used a company called [eafl id=”1636″ name=”SKy Park Secureq” text=”www.skyparksecure.com”] to search a wide range of operators and find the best option.

What: If you decide to head to Marrakech for a short time, just like me, there are a few essential visits. The Souks in Marrakech (of course), Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia Mosque, Ben Youssef Madrasa, Jemaa el-Fnaa (the big square near the souks), and Café Kif Kif – my favourite place to eat!