Monday, April 27, 2009

Marrakech: Circumnavigating our way through the Souqs

Souqs are all over Marrakech (or spelled as Marrakesh). The biggest one is located at the back of the Djemma el Fna square. It is enormous, it’s like a universe in there and you can quickly get lost if you do not pay any attention. Our trick was to memorise our turns and to take note of easy landmarks, for example a special shop or a doorway arch.

Herbs, spices and minerals.

Blondine and I at the ceramic shop where she bought her tajine crock.

I must say though that it is quite thrilling to get lost in the souqs. That’s the adventurous me speaking there, haha. Blondine hates getting lost though, she gets terrified at the thought of it. In fact, we got lost but we have a map and it was short lived as well. We found quickly our way back to the main streets. The main streets of the souqs are easy to distinguish (and find) because they are a chaos—the rush and hush of people and vendors touting their wares and foods on the narrow streets. Although there are many quiet alleyways in the souqs, just follow the noise and it will bring you back to the main streets.

The souqs in Marrakesh are simply amazing. Items from leather goods (bags, shoes and belts) to potteries, scarves, carpets, lanterns…. one can even witness the artisans handcraft their wares. The traffic in the souqs is quite charming as well. We saw donkeys lugging a cartload of supplies with their owners seated comfortably on top, men hurrying with a pushcart, bikes and scooters suddenly coming out of nowhere. It’s like a medieval souq gone modern.

We did a bit of serious shopping as well. Blondine being Dutch was of course excellent in the bargaining department. The Dutch are known to be hard core bargain hunters who extremely take the art of negotiating to a higher level. We mortal bargain hunters do not come close. Blondine can swing an initial quoted price under 50%. Clearly this is a national sport for the Dutch, lol!

I bought a gorgeous silver teapot and Blondine a lovely green ceramic tajine crock. We also bought some leather bags. Then we discovered this mineral and herbs shop and were drawn to the smell of amber. We both bought the pure rock. Great to use at home—dash a bit on the linens, closets and cupboards and the house will be smelling nice.

It wasn’t all oohs and aahs in the souqs. We didn’t like many vendors, they were very aggressive. I think they see us having Euros and Dirhams on our foreheads. Moreover, we had a verbal sexual harassment encounter. ‘Yummy gazelle…’ ‘Do you wanna have sex?’ and more English and Arabic phrases that I didn’t bother hearing.

The problem with young Moroccan guys is when you ignore them they become more aggressive and want their presence known by shouting louder. Some have the gall to follow us. But eventually they retreat if you continue to ignore them.

It’s sad but the stereotype of non-Muslim foreign westernised women are supposed to be ‘loose morale’ women. The harassment we received was however confined to mere cat calls, pleads, and hisses of desire from the men.

More pictures here of the souqs:

Here is the Marrakesh souq at night:

Beware though of taking pictures in the souqs, and in general within the medina walls, of older men and women. They do not appreciate being photographed. And don’t bother asking because they usually would say no.

Travel Period: April 2009

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