From Berber robes and bracelets to carpets and ornate treasure chests, there are so many incredible souvenirs to purchase in Morocco, but as Intrepid traveller Casey Wallen discovered, the items and prices become even more appealing when you leave the main tourist thoroughfare …
“Marrakech is a highlight of Morocco for many people and you tend to hear most about Djemaa el-Fna, the main square. During the day there are touts, performers and snake charmers, then at night it transforms into an outdoor food festival. The square is surrounded by souks, otherwise known as local markets, and exploring it all is a fabulous experience, but that is not what I want to share with you.
What I love about Marrakech is getting lost in the back streets while making my way to the Ben Youssef Medersa. The winding narrow streets are a maze and the further away from Djemaa el-Fna you get, the less tourists you see. Eventually the touristy shops make way for local market stalls selling everything from brass pots and pans, linens, colourful spices, local dresses and delicious food.
The presentation of food is fabulous, as the store owners painstakingly pile the produce as high as it will go. Lining the souks are two-foot tall containers of colourful spices and bowls of olives infused with spices and herbs. There are many antique stores that are full of dusty artefacts. The streets are slightly less hectic than around Djemaa el-Fna and there is a little less hassle while browsing through the lanes. I take some time to buy some Moroccan slippers, which I still love wearing a year later.
Occasionally the laneways make way for an open courtyard and a more residential area, before more stalls fill the voids. Here you can see kids kicking around a football, homeowners returning from a day of fruit and vegetable shopping, mobile sellers peddling past on bicycles. I stop one vendor for a cup of Moroccan tea. He pulls over, prepares a cup of tea and waits while I drink it – it is strong, hot and refreshing and about half the price you pay on the square.
Having time to wander off course and discover what is down these narrow lanes is a great way to get a feel for the real Marrakech that exists beyond the square.”
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* photo by Casey Wallen