Sartorials, scenics & sustenance

Exploring the Moroccan Souks

This is the second instalment of my recent trip to Morocco. Last Christmas, I was surprised by Joe with a short stay in the Red City (aka Marrakesh), which is famously renown for its maze-like medinas, meticulous mosaic artistry and its more than manic markets. Despite being there for only two days, I was really excited to discover a small sliver of a continent I'd never visited before. One of our days was spent relaxing in the beautiful spa in La Mamounia, which can be read here.

We flew from Gatwick mid-morning, (regrettably on only three hours sleep due to a serious Eurovision commitment from the previous night) and landed slightly after midday. There are quite literally thousands of places to stay when you visit Marrakesh, however, the general consensus pointed us towards to the 'riad route'.

Riads embody the architectural essence of Morocco, with a single deceiving door concealing a hidden sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. They typically open inwards to reveal a central courtyard, which is surrounded by bedrooms and communal areas for guests to use at their leisure. Not only are riads the go-to when it comes to accommodation in Marrakesh, they are also extremely affordable with some coming in at just £20 per night with breakfast included. Our riad of choice was the 'Riad El Kenz' - a stone's throw away from all the touristy places both Joe and I were eager to explore.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a warm welcome from the weather, and an even warmer welcome from the riad owners. We sat and drank traditional Moroccan tea, whilst they told us some of the best sights to see in Marrakesh. One area in particular Joe and I were certain we wanted to visit was the Moroccan souks, where haggling is an extreme sport for merchants who have all kinds of goods to sell.

"Take an immediate right out of the riad, take the second right and then take the fourth left. Follow the road down and keep to the left as you enter into a square. Once you're past the school, slowly veer off to the right and there will be a small alley where you can enter into the souks."

Marrakesh is split into two, the old town and the new. Simple enough - or so it seemed at the time. When we were given directions to get to the Souks, we didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to actually follow them. Our riad was situated in the old town, where each road joins into one another, forming an enormous labyrinth towered by red buildings, overlooked by orange arches and tailored with turns at almost every step. Similarly to the back streets of Marrakesh, the souks are marbled over miles across the city and are completely unmappable.

When entering these man-made markets, it's clear that the primary purpose is for you to get lost in them. Nevertheless, any fears of not making out in one piece are immediately extinguished by the sheer vibrancy and energy which emanate from within the Souk. The spectrum of colours from each stall and it's neighbouring brothers and sisters are truly astonishing. We started out in an area where the markets were predominantly clothing, but we soon found ourselves navigating through thousands of stalls displaying everything from beautiful wooden craftsmanship to blacked out dens illuminated by only brass lights.

At first, the markets can be slightly intimidating, but the best advice I can give is to have fun with it. Whilst researching Marrakesh, I read that tourists will more than likely be harassed and pressured to buy something but I found that this wasn't the case at all. There is no animosity behind pushy sales strategies and it can be brushed off simply with a laugh alongside a firm no thank you. The locals are extremely friendly and helpful. If we were ever off the beaten track, we would ask a stall-owner to point to the Jemaa el-Fnaa and we would be on our way.

Coupled with La Mamounia, our stay in Marrakesh was nothing short of incredible - We ended up spending almost seven hours in the Souks, mesmerised by all of the wonderful art, trinkets, spices and food.

Have you been to the Souks before?
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