Armed with a minimalist map of the city that shows the main boulevards, the outline of the medina, and the names of general regions within the old city, we enter the main medina square, where the scene hasn’t changed much in a thousand years or more. Row upon row of oranges are stacked up on lengthy tables that are lined up in the center of the market area. The stall owners furiously squeeze and yell out the prices for a cup of juice. Water carriers with their silver cups hung over their shoulders and their bright red tunics and turbans approach every foreigner who looks thirsty. Snake charmers with their drugged-looking serpents try to lure us to watch them kiss the cobra. A few dozen men are gathered in a tight circle, within which two of them are playing some sort of card game and the rest are taking bets. Rows of "petits taxis" are lined up on one side of the square and, on the other, rows of yellow Mercedes taxis. A tour bus improbably enters the fray, drives around the perimeter, and disappears. The number of women in the medina is minimal; most are tourists, of which there are few as well.
We wander into the labyrinth of the souks for a bit. There’s a certain organization to the souks, with most of the inlaid wood shops, all the silver shops, all the jewelry shops, all the leather slipper shops, and all the spice shops grouped together, but it’s not that simple--nothing in Morocco is. There is lattice over the alleyways of the souks, to keep the heat down in the summer months, but in November, and at the end of this afternoon just before sundown, it makes navigating within their shadows even more difficult than usual.
Marrakesh is not a center for dyeing wool like, say, Fez, but nonetheless there are plenty of sheep in neighboring communities, and djellabas and rugs must be made, so periodically we come upon a wool store with its brilliant offerings. There’s pottery galore, and admirable marquetry work in which cypress and lemonwood feature prominently. There's even a television souk--a new development since my last visit.
But what P and I are really after is spices, herbs, and potions. We find them at the Berber pharmacist’s shop.