Marrakech Market--Sensory Overload!

8:32:00 PM Brooke Neal 2 Comments

My husband is a runner and since moving to Europe he has delighted in running all over this continent. Much of our long weekend travel is initiated by him signing up for a race.  Recently however, he has become interested in running more obscure races and this is how we ended up in Morocco. 

Marrakech is an explosion for your senses and there is no place like the spice market for such sensory overload.  Horns honking, donkeys neighing, people grabbing, reaching, pushing, imploring and begging. Depending on where you are standing the air may smell sweet, sweaty, spicy, or like a farm yard. Colors are vibrant, the sun is bright, and the temperature is warm. If you like an adventure, enter the spice market! 
You can find almost anything imaginable; spices, animals, pottery, leather goods, jewelry, lamps, carpets, slippers--there are many, many ways to part with your money, but there is one rule you must master and that is to haggle, negotiate, and bargain!  

Our hotel manager told us to cut the asking price in half, yes 50% and start there.  We did, and you know what, we were almost never turned away.  Sometimes our offer wasn't immediately accepted and sometimes we had to haggle back and forth, or come up a few bucks, but we usually came away satisfied with our purchase price.    
That vase above is made from recycled tires!
If you aren't getting the price you want for something, don't hesitate to walk away because there are 10 other people selling the same thing!  So, don't worry that you won't find those turquoise slippers again, I promise, YOU WILL!
These darling animals are available for your next dinner--how's that for fresh?  I watched a man (who asked not to be photographed) as he plucked those chickens from their cage and took them to a nearby room where they would be butchered.  I could have watched the entire process (I'm sure not FDA approved) but thought the better of it.
Be prepared for EVERY shop owner to beckon you into his store.  There are a couple of tactics you can use here.
1. Don't make eye contact and walk on
2. Smile and say "no thanks"
3. Go in
It is hard to just walk in for 30 seconds because shop owners like to engage you in dialog. The more they talk, the more you look around the better their chances of selling you something, so unless you are interested I'd stick with number one.
A word about photography--Some shop owners didn't mind, others did. Just be considerate of their wishes and all will go well.
Someone's having chicken for dinner tonight! You can't see this well, but the man in the middle wearing black is carrying a freshly dead chicken.  I couldn't get my camera out quick enough to get a closer shot. 
I love the colors of the spices and rugs!  I am a sucker for oriental carpets, I especially love the "Berber Picasso," a colorful style intended to appeal to a younger generation.  

A word about the spices...we found better prices where the locals shop. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find the spices 25-30% cheaper when we walked away from the main square and down an alley clearly meant for locals.    Ironically, we were stopped twice and told the main square was in the opposite direction from where we were heading. Admittedly, the displays weren't as fancy--I photographed the cone shaped towers in the tourist zone. 
These nut bars are tasty! As a general rule I wouldn't eat "off the street," but we did try samples from various nut bar salesman and had no problems.
Have a hankering for fresh snails?  You can get them "to go" or they will boil them for you right on the spot.  We graciously declined.  
I would have to say, my favorite part of the whole trip was shopping in the markets. There is just so much to see, it is visually stimulating and I enjoyed the bargaining.  Keep your kids close, your wallet closer and get ready to rumble!


2 comments:

  1. This looks totally amazing! I am relatively certain I will never be in Marrakech, so am loving seeing it through your eyes. Think I would have to pass on the snail, but the spices look amazing, and the rugs, and all of it!

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  2. I love traditional markets and I have always heard of all the amazing smells and colours in Marrakech. It's all captured in your photos.

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