Our hiking company paid for us to have a guide round Marrakech for half a day and for some of that time he took us around the souks. If you have a guide, one of the inevitable places you will visit will be a Moroccan Pharmacy. Grin and bear it, enjoy the rest from the bustle of the streets and accept the cup of mint tea.
The one I visited was Epices Avenzoar, and it was upstairs away from the noise of the street. A massage was offered for 20 Dirham (about £1.50) but there wasn't a brave soul amongst us to take up the offer. I don't like being poked around by a stranger at the best of times so it certainly wasn't on the cards when there was another group of strangers on-looking.
While the white coat may be similar, the Moroccan version of the Pharmacy focuses upon local herbal remedies. Obviously alternative and herbal remedies have gained an almost respected foothold in Western minds these days, so the group of (invariably) middle aged and overweight punters puffing for breath in the hot Moroccan sun makes for easy pickings.
While I'm listening to the list of miracle cures for each of the products, I can't help but wonder whether the average Moroccan would rather rely on these products or the expensive western medicines I have access to if they had free choice and I can't help but suspect I know the answer. However, it is not for me to be completely cynical and I have little doubt that for minor ailments or for complementary relief that many of these products will have something in them even if I don't see Moroccan names crowding the list of the 100 longest lived humans.
The Argane nut again looms large for its healing oil and lotions, and fortunately for me they also sold some spices such as saffron and a mixed spice (Ras El Hanout) made from 35 different spices. The cook in me jumped at the chance of buying a couple of packets of these. Having purchased a couple of the cheapest items in the shop for a couple of quid I could relax; my part in the transaction was safely done.
As our man was describing the products on offer, a young assistant came round either sticking said product in our nose or dabbing some kind of oily concoction on our skin. I felt a little uncomfortable but the products certainly smelt fresh and rich. As to whether you open the carrier bag that your goodies are stored in when you get home is an entirely different matter, so you might as well enjoy them here.
To sum up, visiting the herbalist is probably a given if you have a tour guide so just relax and roll with it. To be honest, it is quite interesting an experience and that sit down and cup of tea is invaluable in the busy hot souk.