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Guide to the Markets of Marrakech

When researching travel to Marrakech there’s no doubt you’ve seen pictures of the markets of Marrakech.  They are a cacophony of colors and stores overflowing with things like shoes, lanterns, and clothing. It’s easy to get lost and wander for hours! But, many people find it very nerve wracking to be in such an environment and don’t relish the thought of being lost. That’s totally understandable.

If you’re standing in Jemma el Fna (the big square) you’re standing on the edge of the souks. These are the main markets of Marrakech. Souk is the Arabic word for market. There are three main entrances from the square.
Medina Market Entrances

At the edges you’ll find that products are mixed together. Lamps, clothing, wood works – everything. You don’t have to wander in more than a few meters to find all of these things. However, if you can resist buying things here, and walk further in you’ll find workshops and specialty areas or the best markets in Marrakech.

In the dying area you’ll see the roofs of the walkways covered in colorful yarns drying.

Once near the wood workshops, men will be creating objects on site as many times their storefronts double as their workshops.

Marrakech lanterns

In the Ta’ala area is where you’ll see the shops making leather goods.

Other areas such as metalworks and tailors shops are all bunched together to make their goods.

Aside from the ability to see people at work making their trades going further into the souk to shop often means you’ll be able to secure a much better price. If you want to make a big purchase like a rug or leather boots than it’s worth going just a bit further to get a better deal.

Seeing so many people doing this traditional work by hand is something a lot of people want to document. But, take a moment to stop before taking that picture. Many of the people who are working near their shops are ok with having their picture taken but you should ask and take into consideration some of the tips I shared on taking photographs in Marrakech.

Remember this part of the city is not just a tourist attraction.

It is also where people live, work, and go to school. Ask yourself if you were on the other side of the camera what would you want to happen?

Winding off of the main streets where goods are for sale are smaller streets (called derbs) that are residential. Mixed in to the workshops and homes are restaurants, food shops, and street vendors. There truly is a little bit of everything. There’s even more happening that goes beyond what you will see from the street.

Moroccan Zellige Artisan

But what if I get lost?

The questions isn’t if you get lost, the question is how soon you’ll get lost.

It took me over a year to finally get my bearings and learn how to navigate the streets of the souk. For first time visitors it’s inevitable. Go into the experience knowing you’re likely to get lost and accept it as part of having a Marrakech experience! You’ll find signs scattered through the souks with arrows pointing to Jemma el Fna so if you truly want to get out and are lost just follow the signs or ask someone to point you in the right direction.

Also, it’s worth noting that all paths will lead you out of the souk – eventually. The question is just where you’ll come out. But, don’t be worried that you’ll be stuck inside forever, it will come out and you can take a taxi to the destination you’d like to go if you’re really lost.

Much of the souk is car free however donkeys, motorcycles, hand carts and bicycles are used as transportation. If you hear someone say “ballack”,endek” or “pardon” it means get out of the way or you will be run over by something.

Some final tips for visiting the souks of Marrakech:

  • Resist purchasing items on the edges of the souks as they’ll be marked up and more expensive.
  • If you’d like any custom work done go directly to the area of the souk where the workshops are and speak with the artisans directly.
  • Try some of the food being sold in the shops near the workshops. These foods are not made for tourists but for the workers in that area – meaning it’s pretty good!
  • When you get lost, don’t panic. The roads do lead out, and you can find many signs pointing back to Jemma el Fna, or ask someone.
  • Watch out for bicycles, donkeys, hand carts and motorbikes as they’re the main transportation used in the car-free areas of the souks.
  • You’re going to constantly be talked to by vendors. They’ll want you to come in and look at whatever it is they are selling. Don’t feel bad ignoring them but also a simple “no, thank you” is just fine.
  • Have fun! It can feel very overwhelming but if you go in knowing this and just embracing the chaos you’ll have a much better time.

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Teal

Monday 13th of January 2020

Hi Amanda, Thank you so much for this info. I understand why they did not but I wish Encounters Travel had of encouraged the group to discover the "belly" of the beast. With your recommendations I will be ready next time.

Candace Caddell

Friday 1st of November 2019

Thank you for the wonderful info. I fear I might not get to Morocco any time soon, but I've been looking online for Moroccan pottery. I have a small (5-1/2" diameter) bowl with a landscape and building in the center, with "Tanger" at the top and "Maroc" at the bottom. It seems obviously made for the tourist souvenir market, but I haven't seen anything similar on Google or elsewhere. Maybe it's not even made in Morocco? Would you know about this? Thanks again!

Amanda Mouttaki

Sunday 10th of November 2019

Sounds like it's a souvenir piece that was made at some point. There are quite a few items like this that I've seen mass produced.

Donna Poupore

Tuesday 1st of May 2018

After reading all of your blogs I want to visit Morocco and you more and more.

Chelsea

Friday 3rd of July 2015

Good to know! We are planning a trip to Morocco this fall. He HATES shopping. I love a bit of it but if I don't know how to escape a huge place I will go crazy wanting to climb walls to get out.

Jenny

Thursday 2nd of July 2015

Hi Amanda,

I also appreciate your blog - a big help as I prepare for the great migration. This is a random question, based on convenience. Though I totally LOVE Moroccan food and already have a few go to meals, I have been living in China for the past ten years and have become somewhat dependent on a wide variety of Asian ingredients. Have you found any Asian markets in Marrakech? Just curious.

Jenny

Iman El Amrani

Friday 17th of June 2016

I'm in Marrakech at the moment as well. Most of the cooking I do envolves a lot of Asian ingredients as well. I've seen rice paper, hoisin sauce, curry pastes and things like this at Marjane. However they don't have much of a variety. Have you found any Asian markets here or maybe in Casablanca by now?