The marketplaces, or souks, in Morocco are integral parts of the many cities in this magical country. They serve for the locals as a place to buy goods and converse with each other and are not quite so magical to them, but for the foreign visitor they are a place unlike any other. These markets span blocks of a city, with twisting streets that are lined with stalls selling all manner of goods. For the visitor to Morocco, there is no better place to get a taste for the culture and to pick up souvenirs from a surely unforgettable trip. For the wander in Morocco looking for the most magical markets, be sure to visit these three.
What better place to search for magical markets than in the legendary city of Marrakech? The market in Marrakech is located behind the famous Djemma el Fna Square where the street performers, snake charmers, story tellers and all the rest gather to provide entertainment while visitors take in food and refreshment. After taking in the sights and sounds in the square, entering the winding streets of the market behind it is like entering a new world of sounds and smells wafting through the open and airy streets. Among the constant din of chatter, shoppers can find a wide array of traditional Moroccan goods such as clothes, crafts and spices.
One must-stop shop is to the tanneries in Marrakech, to which the market earns much of its fame. Visitors will be able to spot them instantly with their freshly dyed leathers drying on the pavement, but will smell it long before that. The tanners are more than happy to walk visitors through the unique process they use to tan and dye hides for a price, but it is definitely not an experience for the faint at heart. The tannery may be a bit smelly, but the finished product is soft, supple and smells surprisingly good as it is scented by aromatic oils.
The market in Fes provides for a more practical nature where locals go to buy their day to day produce as well as specialty items brought in from other cities and abroad. This is a treat for the visitors as while the Marrakech market had so much to see, the marketplace at Fes also for a more realistic taste of Morocco. The market sits inside the ancient medina's walls and has remained very much the same as it did 1,200 years ago in this medieval city. It is crowded and many of the streets are covered by wood or cloth allowing for sunlight to slip only a few rays through the opening to light it, but also keeping it cool. Where the souk at Marrakech was open and airy, the marketplace at Fes is dark. It gives the air of what people expect from a Moroccan market - a chaotic swirl of foreign sights, sound and smells with an almost underworld feel to it. Visitors will weave around people and pack animals as they browse the stalls stocked with goods, with everything moving in such a frenzy that is easy to get lost for hours inside of it all.
It is famed for its craftsmen who run skilled workshops. Visitors should be sure to pick up detailed wooden, glass and leather goods. The marketplace is also a fine place for visitors to graze. There are a number of produce and spice stalls that scent the air and provide fresh snacks for shoppers, but the roasted meat stalls are always more preferred by the hungry masses. Regardless of what visitors buy within the market, they should revel in the fact they are walking through a long-standing part of Morocco's history.
For those that have lived the horror stories of being so overwhelmed by the busy and winding markets of Marrakech and Fes, Rabat offers a more manageable alternative. The Rue Souk as Sabbat market is just as sprawling as other souks, but not nearly as confusing. It's laid out on a manageable grid pattern and often serves as easier to navigate than the others, but still just as magical. Within the stalls and shops, visitors will find jewelry, musical instruments, both modern and traditional clothing as well as other interesting oddities. There is one shop within this marketplace that visitors must be sure to stop at - the Ben Hamou Metloub. This septuagenarian has only been in the marketplace for 15 years, but it has since become packed to the rafters with the most curious trinkets gathered from around Morocco. Essentially, for the visiting foreigner it gathers all the fascinating and odd items one can find in Morocco under one roof. Aside from the odd souvenir, visitors can find ancient trade beads, darbuka drums, fossils, gemstones, kif pipes and walking sticks among other things that make for unique purchases.