Saturday 9 March 2013

Souk adventures

From our riyad we ventured out by day to the souks of the Medina ...

... where a map turns out to be pointless. This ancient part of the city is a winding sprawl of narrow alleys and roads ... to a foreigner's eye, each one almost identical to the next .

Getting hopelessly lost is inevitable, and part of the fun

... though there is never a shortage of willing guides to help you find your way if you so much as hesitate ...
and almost certainly in this case there will be a detour via their cousin's/brother's/brother-in-law's/father's/uncle's jewellery, silver, carpet or slipper stall ...

... where, they assure you, the produce is the best quality and value in the whole of Marrakech!

My favourites were the souks devoted entirely to babouches (above), the colourful soft suede and leather slippers worn indoors (of which I bought several pairs to keep at the front door at home) ... and the carpet souks ...

rich colours woven by Berber women in intricate patterns, no two alike ...

In  this cosy stall below, tightly packed wall-to-wall with carpets, we sat drinking mint tea and chatting with the owner, tucked away from the bustle and noise of the market, unhurriedly discussing life and the world in between admiring his stock  ...

Another day an impromptu guide appeared in the form of a young man I began chatting to, who offered to take us (with a detour to his brother's babouche stall, of course) to the wool-dyers' souk, where he had worked as a young boy and where many of his family still worked ...
Wool and silk are dyed here in huge vats and then strung up to dry in the sun ...

We were shown how dyes are mixed ...

to get the incredibly vivid colours of the finished products ...

like this ruby red scarf that was wrapped around Younger Daughter - a quick lesson in traditional Berber headdress ...

How fabulous does she look? ... just one of many souk adventures, including being draped with a cobra while a monkey stole her sunglasses, befriending market sellers and having her hands hennaed ...

Guided up to the rooftop of the wool-dyers' souk on a rickety iron staircase, our new friend showed us the fantastic views across the desert to the Atlas mountains capped with snow, the light always crisp and clear, the sky vivid blue.

Walking in the streets and market places of Marrakech is a constant assault on the senses ... sounds of trade and bargaining, muezzins calling and traditional music mix with the smells of street food, animals, pungent smoke, fruit ... 

spices, incense, fragrances ...

clockwise from top left: herbs, incense, cinnamon sticks and rose petals in colourful fabric bags

and vibrant colour, colour, colour everywhere ...

Here in the Quartier Juif, Marrakechs's ancient community of Maghrebi (North African) Jews is diminished in numbers, many having migrated to Israel and France, but the covered market here remains a foodie's paradise ...

heaped mountains of saffron, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric

star anise next to root ginger and coffee beans, filling huge canisters or bags

The quantity, variety and visual displays are just extraordinary ...

Back home and inspired, I am currently obsessed with Yotam Ottolenghi's versions of Moroccan feasts (click on the link for fantastic recipes) that take me back to the magic of the Medina.


  1. what an adventure.....fab pictures as always...and i too have recently discovered the recipes from yotam....wonderful stuff

    1. Thanks Elsy, and glad to hear you're an Ottolenghi fan too!

  2. You seem to have had the most super-duper time and I do hope you go back again and again!
    I wonder if you have photos of the Bahia Palace?
    Your daughter looks charming. I bet lots of young Moroccans thought so too!
    I always go up to the Mellah food market that you mentioned. My flower photos from there are

    Keep posting Morocco photos!


    1. Bahia palace coming up, Elizabeth! All your recommendations were brilliant and we had a fabulous time indeed. Yes, my daughter was a hit with Moroccan boys and propositioned countless times, though always in the most good natured way - people were so friendly and I felt safer walking around than in many parts of the world I've been to. I love your most recent pictures, including the Mellah. How lucky you were to travel around - you've made me really keen to visit Essaouira and other parts of Morocco now!

  3. Dear Karen, Fantastic pictoral journey. Isn't it wonderful that we can still visit such an exotic and friendly place.

    1. Exotic AND friendly, you're so right Gina. Glad to have brought back good memories of your time there!

  4. I am completely taken away by these photographs and by your words, dear friend. How I miss all this, as one cannot ever get the bazaars of the world out of their minds. I'm sending this to my so as it will recall lovely memories for him too. Just brilliant, Karin. Keep them coming.

  5. Karen, you've given us a feast! Between your posts and Elizabeth's recent posts, I feel as if the visual part of my senses have been transported. Of course, I know that Morocco would also fead many other senses as well.

    Your beautiful daughter wears her Moroccan wrapping very well.

    I do wonder if a single woman traveler would have anything like your journey?

    Do you sense my envy? xo

  6. Frances, I'm sure Elizabeth could answer your question better, but based on my short time there I would feel quite comfortable being in Marrakech on my own. I had no qualms about walking around even at night, and found people enormously hospitable, friendly and respectful. I'd gladly meet up with you there any day! :)

  7. Beautiful images... Morocco is one of my favorite country to visit. My children learned how to kite surf in essaouira and we have had memorable times in Marrakech and the Sahara desert.
    I am going to Mozambique! Just made the decision, will be on Bagueras , then hiking in Botswana...I will be looking for texrtiles and archtifacts, any advise??

  8. These colors made me swoon with delight, here in pastel New England (at best), now monochrome still in winter's grip --
    The chaos and noise and color are what I imagine India to be like, not having thought of Morocco one way or another. Not in my imagination's sight line, for some reason.
    What amazes me is how your photos bring exquisite order to the jumble, so that one keenly enjoys both aspects, the riotous abundance but also the artistic vignettes. Quite wonderful.
    And how lovely Younger Daughter's English blue eyes look in her wine-colored headdress.
    When these chats with Moroccans take place, in what language are they conducted? French? English? You are both so adventurous!


Related Posts with Thumbnails