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Marrakesh, a Must see in Morocco
Marrakesh is Morocco’s fourth largest city -the only one located towards the south of the country- and as such, it attracts merchants and traders from the surrounding plains, High Atlas and Sahara, turning Marrakesh’s Markets into a world of considerable variety of arts & crafts from different regions: babouche (leather slippers), wallets, purses, and other leather work items, rugs & carpets, textiles, apothecary stuff, jewelry, and lamps are some of the things you will encounter.
Marrakesh’s highlights are definitely its Souqs (Markets) and the big central square of the medina (old city) called Djemaa el-Fna , from which you can see all the terracotta buildings that are so characteristic of this city.
Marrakesh’s Interesting Sights
This is where everything happens, it is a very lively unique square where you will experience through all five senses the most unusual and folkloric traditions of Morocco. Although it is lively at any hour of the day, Djemaa el-Fna reaches its peak activity at dusk when open-air food stalls start selling their aromatic dishes for dinner. Nevertheless, you will find dry fruit and fresh juice stalls, henna artists and snake charmers all throughout the day.
You should be warned that there are hustlers and unofficial guides that will try to get money from you in any way they can, remember this is a city with little money and a large population. The best approach is to ignore unwanted attention entirely and they will soon go away. You don’t need a guide to show you around the square nor for visiting the Markets, so just kindly say “no thanks” once and keep on walking. At first, we where quite overwhelmed by the stupid stunts we got into, for example, this nice snake charmer caught are attention and approached very friendly suggesting we took a picture of his snake, after we did he wanted to charge us 200Dh for the photograph we took (the one here on the right). So, piece of advice, don´t take anything the seller gives you unless you have already agreed to the amount of money you are going to pay for the good or service, nothing is free. Travelling in Morocco is a bit strong at the beginning but once you get used to it and get the hang of how to handle the pressure you will find it an extraordinary experience never to be lived again and you will cherish its memories, hustlers and all included.
There are several touristic restaurants at Djemm el-Fna with second floor terraces where you can have a pretty good view of the square both at day time or at night. The food is just western stuff but the view is worth at least one visit.
The henna tattoo turns out lovely after the henna paste is removed. It stays for about 2 weeks in an orange color.
Souqs in Marrakesh
The souqs (markets) of Marrakesh are a very nice shopping experience that showcase the different crafts of Morocco. You will see the artisans work in wood, leather, silk, metals, stones, camel wool, fruits and nuts, on and on, all in very creative forms full of color. The streets within the market are wide and spacious and allow you to take a glimpse of everything that is in offer from afar. The vendors are quite friendly and if you want to win their hearts try speaking to them in Arabic, a short phrase, a word or two will be very much appreciated and will create a better atmosphere for negotiations.
The souqs are quite labyrinthic but you really don’t need a guide to show you around, it is much better to walk around and go wherever the flow takes you, trust me, you will not get lost.
"Souqs" or Markets of MarrakeshClick thumbnail to view full-size
One of many Moroccan Crafts
Shopping in Souqs
When shopping in the souqs, prepare yourself for some hard-selling as well. Shop owners size up their clients and apply different prices according to how much cash and how little sense they credit you with. Shop around to compare prices before buying anything. You must always haggle. Do not settle for the first price they give you, it could come down as low as 50% off the initial price. When a seller is pushing the sell to much, try to remain polite, calm and firm and remember that you are the customer and are under no obligation to buy anything. However, don’t spend a lot of time in any one shop nor touch the merchandise unless you are seriously interested in buying it. I know this sounds a bit scary but once you have this information you will arrive in Marrakesh far better prepared than we were and you will be less bothered by the hard-selling and hustlers.
As you wonder around Djemaa el-Fna, you will see a big terracotta tower that belongs to Koutoubia Mosque, the mosque’s tower is called a Minaret, and this one stands 70 meters tall, visible for miles in any direction. It is a classic representation of Moroccan-Andalucian architecture and its features are mirrored in many other minarets throughout the country. This minaret is a landmark of Marrakesh both at day time or at night when illuminated against the black desert sky.
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