The Medina, the Souks and the madness that is Marrakech

The Medina, the Souks and the madness that is Marrakech

We first visited the market place in Jemaa el Fna square in the Medina in the middle of the afternoon. It was busy with street traders and a few snake charmers, women wanting to apply henna patterns to visitors’ hands and men wanting to take us on horse-drawn carriage rides around the city. But that didn’t prepare us for the electric atmosphere of the square at night.

As we approached the square that evening we became aware of the hordes of people all moving in the same direction and we could hear the strong beat of a drum becoming louder, and as we rounded the corner and entered the square the sights, smells and sounds which met us were spectacular.

The stalls in the centre of the square were brightly lit, displaying multi-coloured arrangements of fruit, vegetables, spices and cloths. Other stalls were set up with tables and benches where your food could be cooked right in front of you and the smells of the meats cooking wafted amongst the smoke and flames from fifty barbeques. The drum beats and music from groups of African street entertainers sounded above the noise from hundreds of on-lookers watching the dancing and acrobatics.

The Souks are the narrow, covered alleyways full to bursting with traders and their wares. It is quite easy to get lost in the Souks, but you can get a map and if you pay some attention to your route you can find your way out! The traders expect you to barter with them, although some will say it’s a fixed price! And if you look to pay 50% less than their original asking price you won’t have done too badly. Try walking away if you don’t get what you want, and most will soon come after you with another offer! If not, there’ll be another trader next door or around the corner.

It is worth walking around the streets of the Medina, the old walled town, to get a feel for other areas of the city and to take photos. You should also visit Le Jardin Majorelle, but because it’s outside the Medina and too far to walk I suggest you take a taxi. Le Jardin Majorelle is a beautiful collection of exotic plants and trees in a garden created by Jacques Majorelle and restored by Yves St Laurent. We went early, just after it opened, which meant it was quiet with not many other tourists getting in the way of the photographs! It’s peaceful and cool under the trees and the colours used in the gardens are very striking.

Taxis work on a tariff and this should be displayed in the taxi. If there are more than three of you, you’ll need to get a ‘grand taxi’ and always agree your price before you get in. Your hotel/riad will be able to give you some guidance on the prices you should pay.

People have asked me if I felt safe in Marrakech and the answer is yes. As with anywhere in the world you should be aware of pick-pockets and be sensible about what you carry and how you carry it, but my wife and teenage son also felt happy to walk around by themselves. The traders will call out to you to try to sell their goods, but we just called back ‘no thank you’ and kept walking and we were not hassled or made to feel intimidated.

Would I go back again? Yes, I would, and I don’t feel I’d tire of experiencing this magical and bustling city again.

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