Marrakech Souks: Full of Intrigue

Everything in Marrakech happens between the souks and the famous square: Jemaa el-Fnaa, and just as the guidebook said we would, we kept returning to this vibrant area time after time…

Destination of the Month: Markets

You might have realised that here on InMyShoesTravel we have finished our backpacking tour of Vietnam and we have moved on to a new Destination of the Month. Rather than a specific place, this month’s destination is a theme: markets.

During the month of January we will be visiting different markets all over the world: some famous, some local, and all interesting.

So we are going to start off with one of the most exciting market-type experiences available in the world: Marrakech Souks.

What is a Souk?

If you aren’t familiar with the famous Marrakech souks, here is basically what a souk is:

Souks are the typical market alleyways found in North African towns. They are normally narrow lanes which can be in the open air or under cover, lined with many tiny shops like stalls, where traders sell their wares.

A souk can actually be a market square, but the word is normally associated with narrow alleyways. Often the network of souks is vast and maze-like. Even locals, and certainly visitors, can lose their way in these labyrinths of stalls, and so, often, the souks are laid out by theme. So you will find the leather souk where all the shoe shops are, the potters souk where all the ceramics are, the spice souk where all the stalls sell bright coloured spices laid out in beautiful heaps, and so on.

marrakech souks

Plenty of different olives on offer at the Marrakech souks

Marrakech Souks

The souks in Marrakech are probably the most famous in the world. And the network of alleyways making up the vast market labyrinth is the largest traditional Berber marketplace in Morocco.

Here the souks all have different names according to what they sell. For instance, my two favourites are Souk Semmarine, which is the leather souk, selling the typical slippers and pouffes; and the spice souk which is in a little outdoor square in the heart of the souks where many of the alleyways finish, bringing everyone to this central, colourful point.

Best buys at the Marrakech Souks

Colourful gifts and souvenirs are at the top of the “to buy” lists for shoppers here in Marrakech and there is certainly plenty of choice:

  • beads and jewellery
  • decorated ceramic pots – especially tagines
  • handmade napkin rings
  • soft leather shoes and slippers
  • typical Moroccan lamps
  • spices
  • hand-woven baskets
  • rugs galore

That is to name but a few of the best buys. There’s more. Much more. You definitely need plenty of baggage allowance, so no cheapo Ryanair hand-luggage only flights please!

You can enjoy the Marrakech souks without actually buying though, as you have the opportunity to watch artisans at work fashioning slippers, weaving rugs, dying textiles and hammering metals.

How to find your way around the Marrakech Souks

Don’t even try to find your way around! You will be wasting your time completely.

The best thing to do is make a note, or take a photo, of the entrance gate or archway that you enter through. When you leave the souk, if you don’t make it back out through the same gate, leave by another one and walk around the outside until you reach your entrance. Then you’ll know where you are.


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Be Smart at the Marrakech Souks

This goes for any market, anywhere in the world. You must be extremely careful with your personal belongings while you are walking around the market. Sadly, tourists are especially a target.

Keep your money out of view and try to pay with small denominations, keep your bag where you can protect it, and even if you spot the most beautiful article that you just have to look at, don’t let your attention leave your belongings completely.

Be extra careful in the souks in Marrakech because it’s not only pickpockets you have to look out for here; it’s also the shop owners themselves. There are incidents where they try to charge much more than something is worth by saying that it’s rare, handmade or made from something that it’s not.

Tip: The “antique” silver in the Marrakech souks is actually enhanced with black paint to make it appear antiquated.

Place Jemaa El-Fnaa

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the famous square in Marrakech that comes to life every evening at sunset.

The juice carts, food carts and tea carts appear early in the evening and the people start appearing just after dark.

Snake charmers, street performers and tricksters take the stage against a backdrop of barbecue smoke, delicious smells and colourful costumes.

marrakech souks

Fruit juice cart at Place Jemaa el-Fnaa

At Jemaa el-Fna, seeing is believing and you have to go there to appreciate the essence of the square and the people. Tourists mix with locals drinking hunja, a potent tea made with cinnamon and ginger. Passers-by gawk with eyes wide at the street food stalls piled high with kebabs, couscous and salads, oh and sheep’s head. And the variety of the street entertainment has you hanging around to see more and more.

Have you been to Morocco? What other markets and souks are great? How about in other parts of North Africa?

Find out here which other markets are vibrant, interesting and good fun.

Filed Under: featuredMarketsMarrakechMorocco

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About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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