Our travelling companions were hoping to find a good quality rug for their long thin hallway and so an afternoon in the Marrakech Souks beckoned. Happily our tour operator gave us the services of a guide for the afternoon, and while we could have found our way round quite easily, I have to say that his services meant we got the measure of the Souk much more quickly than we would have otherwise done. I appreciate that he might have gained a commission, but likewise he directed us to shops that sold good quality items and didn’t obviously rip us off.
The Marrakech Souks are a complete maze, but don't worry too much, eventually you will end up at one of the gates to the souk area or back in the main square. If you are stuck you can just ask a stall holder who will willingly point you in the right direction. The stalls are largely grouped into specific types; thus the stalls selling car tyres turned into various decorative items (mirrors and plant pots a speciality) tend to be in one place, the iron work sellers in another, the wooden bowl and animal stalls in another and so on.
We have visited Marrakech before and so first took a quick wander to the government shops where prices are fixed, just so we got an idea of the price to pay in the souk to make sure we weren’t being ripped off. Obviously the message is that if you think you got a bargain then it was the right price for you.
Only ask the price if you are serious about buying; else you could find yourself followed up the street by some eager seller.
Last time we visited Marrakech for a week my beloved was determined to find her way back to our hotel which was located on the direct opposite side from the main square Djemaa el Fna right through to the other side. At the back of the shops are some workshops making those metal and wood items that are so admired.
There are literally thousands of stores in the souk; some cater more to local tastes while others are aimed firmly at the tourist. The thing I liked the best are the huge metal lanterns; unfortunately I don't think easyJet would be too happy with them as hand luggage, and the cold and wet Yorkshire Moor weather would no doubt turn them to rust in a moment. Instead, I bought a well crafted wall sconce. I'm guessing I was ripped off as I had to buy the thing in a hurry 10 minutes before our airport taxi was due to arrive, but even so at £30 I was happy with the item, and would have paid more in the UK.
Another popular item is the silk scarves but look around before you buy as the quality of the silk is very variable as is the dying. You don't want to find yourself with a coloured neck in the rain. The better stalls have a little pot of water with which you can check colour fastness.
We also bought some cute little enamel handled teaspoons for a pound or so each; we like our expresso and tiny little sweet pots and these are ideal for both.
Also on offer are some fake items; those rather large headphones Dr Dre style were on offer for about £6 a pair. I'm not sure what the sound was like but they looked cool (well cool for those that don't remember similar items in the 1970s and how uncomfortable they are).
While you are gazing around at the treasures in the souk be aware of your surroundings. We didn't have anything taken from us on our travels but we don't wander around with our heads in the clouds. Likewise dreamers in the souk risk being run over by a scooter or hand cart.
A visit to the souk can be a little overwhelming but it is part of the soul and experience of Marrakech and one of its must do attractions.