Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Marrakech - getting to grips with the Souks

I travelled to Morocco way back in the day when I took a 'gap' 6 months which turned into 2 years! (But that's another story!) My friends from school and I had bought an old VW camper van and drove all the way from London via France, Portugal and Spain before boarding the ferry to North Africa. Our route took us from Tangier to Tetouan, Fez, Meknes and Rabat before heading back up the coast and continuing our European adventure. We never got to Marrakech and I knew that one day I would go there. I'm sort of glad it took so long as it turned out to be everything and more of what I thought it would be and although I loved and appreciated Morocco back then, I now have a much greater understanding of the culture. Obviously things have moved on substantially in the 20 plus years it's been but take away the mod cons and everything is essentially as it was centuries ago.

My friend and I flew Easyjet from Stansted direct to Marrakech - a journey time of 3 hours 20 minutes away making it a very do-able long weekend jaunt. We opted to stay outside of the confines of the walled city at a lovely small resort called Sirayane located a few kilometers south west of the MedinaIt's far from the madding crowd but only a 15 minute shuttle ride away, which the hotel provides free of charge six times a day. Perfect if you want a quiet oasis of calm after a day's shopping in the souk! The only sounds you'll hear are those of the birds and the chilled out lounge music around the bar and pool.
If you have never been to a souk before, it's an idea to get a guide to take you
Medersa Ben Youssef
around and show you the different parts of the Medina, visit a museum and learn some history about the place. Marrakech is a labyrinth of alleys and can get very confusing if you don't know where you're going. It could be like getting lost in a maze but we didn't have to worry about that thankfully. We trusted that our guide would get us out of there when we were ready.
It's a given that you will be shown things you may like to buy but there is not too much pressure selling here. Just be aware that the price they initially quote is not the price you should pay. They love to barter so pay what you think it's worth.  

Not only are they catering to tourists .. we witnessed the auctioning of leather pelts to the locals for the artisans to make shoes, bags, wallets etcHead down another side alley and this is also the place where you can see everything being made pretty much in the same way it has always been done .. their craft being passed down through the generations.

We didn't get hassled because we had a guide but I did get a proposal of marriage from one of the shopkeepers!! The girl still has it (laughs out loud)!! Oh, and I almost forgot to mention .. be aware of the iron carts and mopeds weaving in and out of the narrow streets - they are potentially lethal!

In my next post I will fill you in on our day trip to the Atlas mountains and the fab places we ate in the Kasbah and Gueliz .. see you soon! نراكم قريبا

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