Lets get lost in the Medina in Marrakech

Lets start in the ancient section of the city, known as the medina, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. Meeting point? Jemaa-el-Fna, the main central square in the medina, it’s where it all comes to life. Since the medieval times this is the place where the show starts, riot of enticing color of dancers, fire-eaters and acrobats, snake charmers, fortune-tellers and orange stalls selling the freshest orange juice around. In the evening the square is lined up with tables serving, chicken, beef, lamb and veggie skewers ready for smoking barbecue. Mouth watering tajines (meals coked in traditional Berber heavy clay pots) are served along with daily baked round bread for dipping Herira, Moroccan tomato and chick pea soup. Not forgetting the TQallia popular intestine soup, additional to the different creations using all sort of animal pars like heart, liver and intestine.

Tempting dry fruit stalls selling: dates, raisins, figs, almonds, walnuts which are finely packed and scream —Try me. Commotion swirls up the atmosphere, frantic chaos is worth the experience. 

So lets buy a kilo of Moroccan dates. (20-160 dirham per kilo). Dates are my weakness, all type of dates. Once I start I can’t stop, they are so sweet, delicious especially when soaked over night in milk. Fantastic power source of energy, dietary fiber, tannins, Vitamin A, beta carotene, zeaxanth (protection against age related muscular degeneration), iron and potassium which helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Fresh date is made of soft, easily digestible flesh with simple sugars like fructose and dextrose, when eaten it replenishes energy and revitalizes the body instantly. With these qualities, dates are perfect for breakfast during Ramadan months. We often overdose on dates, we eat till we can’t move. Being a precious fruit, it’s expansive all else where except the Arab world, so lets indulge.
—One kilo of the best quality please.

Right besides the square lies the souk, shadowy alleyways marketplace selling local creations made from metal, leather and wool. Here is where you can find anything and everything. Traveling for the past 2 years, Iza and I both agree that Morocco has the most creative merchandise to offer. One of a kind colorful carpets are a hit, candles, spices, leather bags, leather shoes and slippers, local instruments made from goat leather, funky hats, belts, silver jewelry, silver tea kettles along with Moroccan design tea glasses. Vividness of all things shine into the eyes and pockets. This is where money makes the souk go around. The streets of the old and pink city have been too narrow to allow for cars. Tourists searching for the “real” Morocco have turned simple life into a good business. 

—How much is this silver box?— I asked to familiarize myself with the price.

400 dirhams he said, I rolled my eyes and put the tiny box back on its place. I know he is asking to much for it. I look around, brows through other iron and silver made things and slowly walk out. —Madam! What would you like to pay for the box? Name your price? I give it to you for 350.

   No thanks, I am not interested.
   Business is slow, ok 300, final price.
   Really, no thanks I just wanted to know the price.
   Ok, ok 250, that’s my last price.

I I looked perhaps a bit more interested, now we are talking, but I know that it’s still too much, and I say— I will only pay 100.

   Madam, this is a special Berber design by a local artist 200 is the lowest I can go.
   I see, but that’s too much, yes the design I see, it’s nice but I can’ only pay 100.
   Ok, give me 150 and it’s your, but please don’t tell anyone you got it for this price, business is slow and I need to feed my kids.

From 400 to 150, that’s quite a bargain. It ain’t no different from another country, foreigners pay triple, you’ve got to bargain, especially in the souk. Our experience bargaining, we don’t show interest, we ask other prices before asking about the one we want. Walking out of the shop almost always works.

Getting lost in the souk is the best part of this vast labyrinth. Distinctive bright color metal doors lead to other passageways that cross with bigger alleys that lead to buzzing motor bikers zooming by. No worry, it’s ok if we get lost, asking your way around is the best part of disorientation. Each person will tell you a different way, and they will ask you for dirhams, more clever locals will bring you to the main square and then request more dirhams. For now, we don’t care, we walk into all the small crevasses of the souk and have “Wow, come look at this” moments. If we get completely lost we will find Marrakech’s main landmark, the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque. It dates from the 12th century but looks as if it was built yesterday. Is the main focal point of Marrakech’s skyline.

— Madam, where are you from? Russia? Francia? Espania right? It seems that our funky dress code and my dark hair makes the locals think that I am from Spain. No problema, So I communicate in my favorite language, I still got some Spanish bargaining skills left from Central and South America. ¿cuánto es? Do to many Spanish tourist from Spain locals tend to speak Spanish quite well, is just a ferry ride away so why not. However French language seems to dominate the souk business in Marrakech.

It’s time for some tea, near the spice market in the souk are good touristy café’s that serve sweeter then sweet mint teas and Nus-Nus café (half-half). It’s a perfect place to sit outside and observe the pressing and hustling of everyday life in the medina. Local man and woman wearing, djellaba; a long, loose, hooded garment with full sleeves, dominate the trend . Dwarfs world is what I see! When cold the pointy hood is on, in style with pointy yellow leather shoes, it’s the traditional dress code of Morocco that still holds in fashion. The djellaba are magically created to keep the body heat in and are perfect for the cold days in the desert.

The medina is an all day event, talking to the locals, exchanging vibrations, searching the hidden goodies and allowing the chaos to heat up the fire of tolerance is what the is all about.

Watch your pockets.

Photo by Tatyana Shemberova

Photo by Tatyana Shemberova

Photo by Tatyana Shemberova