Morocco’s souks (markets) are colourful, chaotic and incredibly exotic, with the aroma of spices and baking bread mixed with the pungent smells of centuries-old tanneries, while donkeys bray and merchants call out in some half-dozen languages. Visiting them will immerse you in daily Moroccan life that’s changed little over the centuries. find here everything you need to know about Morocco’s souks.
Where to Find Them
There are souks throughout the country, always found in the medinas, the oldest, walled section of a city. While Marrakech is home to some of the most famous souks, it also attracts the most tourists making it difficult to score a bargain. Fes is the place where many craft items are made, and you can often find higher quality goods.
The medina is entered on foot through one of the gates called babs, which are notable landmarks. They’re divided up into several small districts, each of which contain six essential institutions: a hanout (general store), a mosque, hammam, school, baker and fountain where containers are filled for daily use. Cars are primarily excluded from all medinas, with mules typically used instead. They’re loaded up with oversized panniers with their drivers warning pedestrians by calling out “Belak! Belak!”
If you aren’t used to bartering, it can be intimating but it just takes a bit of practice. Try to engage in the process yourself, learning a few words of Arabic to make it easier, even if you have a guide to help interpret. The prices tend to go down slowly as you and the seller learn more about each other while sipping tea.
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Purchasing Traditional Moroccan Rugs
Many come to the souks hoping to buy a traditional Moroccan rug, but it can be time consuming process that shouldn’t be rushed. There are usually hundreds of choices, with folded rugs lining the walls of the shops. One of the sellers, or the owner, will greet you, beginning a ritual that dates back centuries. You’ll be offered mint tea while one rug after another comes out. The tea pouring continues until you find your perfect rug.
Many of the rugs are made on local looms and hand tied, but the most desirable come from the Berbers. Men typically create more simple rugs while the women tend to make highly detailed works of art that may even tell a story. Once you make your decision, the bartering begins. If you can’t agree on a price, be prepared to walk away.
Leather, Pottery and Tagine
Leather goods are another one of the most popular products to buy here. The best prices for high-quality items like jackets, shoes and bags, are typically at the Chaouara Tannery in Fes, the largest in the city. Go early in the morning if you want to watch the leather tanners and dyers at work before the heat of the day creates an unbearable stench.
Fes is also known for its pottery and tagine pots with complex geometric patterns of green for Islam, and blue for Fes, hand-painted using a fine horsehair brush.
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