Every time someone mentions that they’re visiting Marrakech I excitedly turn into a big kid and can’t help telling them everything I know. Which may not be much, but I feel like we learnt a lot from our first experience. The souks are markets of the Medina in the old city – the biggest in all of Morocco. They are connecting alleyways full to the brim of sensory overloads – the smell of spices, motorbikes, donkey carts, the heat, the shouting, the colours… everything all comes together to create an experience that you need to endeavour at least once in your life. We ventured into the Souks unaware and naive, we then went away and conducted a little plan in order to make it a more pleasurable visit next time round. It’s safe to say that we enjoyed it much more during that second visit! Here are several tips to make your trip to the souks easier.
It’s a good idea to sit in a cafe before hand in order to have a little breather and pace yourselves before heading in. We sat in Cafe De France in the Jemaa El Fna square and had a bite to eat along with a drink. They have a roof top terrace and so it was lovely to sit and watch the hustle and bustle unwinding below us – the busy market stalls, the snake charmers, the performers – it was great being able to watch it without being in it. There are plenty of roof top terrace bars in order to retreat and have a little break away from the craziness.
I’ve been to Turkey and Greece -two places in which you come across some pretty push people – but Marrakech is on a whole other level. The best thing to do is either make no eye contact or simply say no and carry on / ignore them. A lot of the time they will try to give you things for good luck or for free – when in retrospect they will not let you leave until you have paid them something. We had this happen to us with henna tattoos and taxi people. If you’re shopping for something in particular be sure not to ponder too long over items you don’t want – the longer you pause to look, the more chance you have of someone pulling you aside and pestering you. At the end of the day, just be stern and strong! No means no.
Have a map
Try to download google maps offline so that if it comes to it (which it will) then you won’t get too lost. It’s impossible not to get lost in the Souks. Tiny alleyways that all look the same, market stalls that go on for almost miles – you will never get bored but you will definitely get lost and tired. Try to find one of the quieter spots in order to pause half way through and have a little drink or bite to eat. We found somewhere that didn’t seem the most hygienic (lots of flies etc) but it was quiet so we had a drink and then carried on.
Don’t be fooled
Looking back, it would have been great if someone had told us not to be so gullible. We ordered a taxi from Jemaa El Fna on several occasions and three times they took us to this little store that we hadn’t actually asked to go to. They practically forced us into the shop and then we felt as though we couldn’t leave until we bought something (they were incredibly pushy). We ended up at this same shop three times – once because the place we wanted to go to apparently wasn’t open (we checked. It was), once when we asked to go to the mall and once when the taxi driver wanted to take us to an ‘amazing boutique’ for some ‘seriously good bargains’. Looking back we were definitely a little more gullible then we thought!
We also found that whilst wandering around the Souks we had several local shop owners telling us about a festival (a festival that definitely didn’t exist) in order to send us to their shop around the corner. We were a little more vigilant here and ended up saying no thank you (persistently!). It’s worth just being a little on the cautious side – especially when you have a child with you. As like most places, you need to be aware of people pick pocketing too.
If you go to Marrakech then you need to give the Souks a go – at least once! You can find my post about traveling to Marrakech with children here. You can find my post on Oasiria water park here and Majorelle Gardens here.