Facing north in Djemaa El Fna square, the legends of Marrakech are told in the alleyways and merchant stalls of the ancient souk twisting before you.
Tucked down the side streets of the Souk de Tapis, is the shop of Ismail. Following in the footsteps of the generations before him, Ismail sells Berber carpets woven by the maellemas (master craftswomen) of the Atlas mountains. As each rug is laid out a new story is told. Rich in symbolic meanings, the designs recount the daily life of the maker, from the passing of time to pregnancy and marriage.
At the call to prayer Ismail, and the surrounding rug merchants, spill out from the Souk de Tapis into the Criée Berbère. Once a site for slave auctions, the small square is now the site of local rug auctions and a makeshift prayer hall.
Across the medina, past the leather craftsmen in the Souk Cherratin and Souk Smata (slippers), the African beat of Marrakech emerges in the Souk Kimakhine, home of the instrument makers. Here, under a palm frond roof, the sounds of the city play out as musicians play everything from tarija drums to the hajhouj guitars on the side of the road.
Stepping into the Souk Nahhassine (brass and copper), you’ll find Chaaroui Mohamed. He purchases coffee and tea pots from all over Morocco to sell in the store his father started in Bab Ftouh foundouk. A legacy from Marrakech’s history as a caravanserai for merchants travelling along the old trade routes, foundouks like Mohamed’s are now used as workshops for local artisans.
Baraka, meaning holy blessings or good luck, is central to life in Morocco and protective symbolism is evident in everything from the chiseled designs of the cedar wood carpenters (in the Souk Chouari) to the flying sparks of the blacksmiths (in the Souk Haddadine).
If you’re looking to boost your own lucky streak, head to Rahba Kadima spice market to buy strands of saffron (thought to immerse the body in healing powers). Looking to mend a broken heart or cure your arthritis? The herbalists have a potion, or a chameleon, to help you with that too!
Wherever you walk in the souk you hear stories. Everything from the traditional yellow babouche slippers to the filigreed brass lamps tells a tale. Marrakech is a place where both craftsmanship and salesmanship are story-filled art forms and prices are just a place to start the conversation. As tea is poured and prices are debated, smiles lengthen as customers and merchants haggle good-naturedly to find the perfect ending.
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