Travel

INTO THE SOUKS OF MARRAKECH

April 5, 2021

Before I even came to Morocco, Marrakech was the only city I can confidently name when asked about this magnificent country. I’d never been here before, but I knew all about it from the books that I’ve read and from the photographs that I’ve seen. Its red coloured walls, desert-like humidity, and its souks that were made as a maze completely blew my mind away. This was Marrakech in its full glory, and I was finally here to experience it for myself.

It was funny how I ended up in Marrakech. I had just spent a weekend in the surf town of Taghazout with my co-teachers, and as they headed back to the town where we all used to teach, I had to make my way into the north of the country. Although, knowing myself, I knew that I had to make this an adventure-filled journey, so I hitchhiked.

My heavy backpack was on my back, and I hiked up the mountain to get to the main road where I was picked up with a lovely Moroccan couple who was so eager to hear about my journey and why a solo female like me would want to hitchhike around their country. We had a lovely conversation and an even lovelier lunch. They invited me to eat with them in the nearby town of Agadir—they wouldn’t take no for an answer, and this can give you a glimpse at how hospitable Moroccans really are. Then after lunch, they asked me where they should drop me.

“Anywhere where I can catch a ride to Marrakech,” I said.

They looked at each other, and I’m not going to lie, I started to feel a bit nervous.

After a few minutes of driving, the guy who was driving stopped a bus, and he went out to talk to the driver. Then he peeked into the window where I was sitting and said, “This bus is going to Marrakech. I already paid for the ticket so you wouldn’t have to hitchhike all the way to that city. It’s dangerous, so be careful!”

I couldn’t believe my luck. His wife smiled at me and said, “We would love to see you again at some point, so be careful.”

The man helped me with my bags, and so I boarded the bus to Marrakech; and I couldn’t believe how two random people would’ve impacted me and my journey so much. “Shoukran,” I said as I waved from my bus window.

Upon arriving in Marrakech, I instantly became aware of how massive this city really was. My hostel was inside the medina, so I had to go through its maze-like souks in order to find the riad I was staying in. Unlike the other cities in Morocco, Marrakech had a mixture of danger and beauty. Yes, some conmen try to scam tourists every single day, but there was beauty no matter where you look into it.

After checking into my hostel, I went to the Couchsurfing App and tried to see if anybody wanted to hangout. Yes, this was a thing—remember when our parents warned us about not meeting anybody we ‘meet’ on the internet? Well, look at us now. Heh.

I met up with three people: an Icelandic, a Moroccan, and an Italian. We walked around the souks of Marrakech, and we tried to get into every corner we can possibly see, not even thinking about the safety of this whole adventure. This was something that I immensely miss about travelling. There was a certain thrill to it, and the whole idea of not knowing where you might end up was simply a small portion of the bigger picture.

The souks of Marrakech was massive! If you don’t speak Arabic nor French (or even the slightest Spanish), chances are, you’ll probably get ripped off. The trick is to stick with a local, which we did when we met a local Moroccan guy who acted as our tour guide.

If you’re looking for textile, spices, or the most beautiful artisanal clothing, then the Marrakech Souk is the place to be. Most people head to this city on the last leg of their adventure in Morocco for the sole purpose of shopping. Not me, though, because I was not even halfway done with my adventure, and I had a few more cities to hit: Casablanca, Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Tangier, Fes, and more!

On this particular day, we walked and walked and walked until our feet hurt. Ah, a tip: if you want to get into most shops here or even make the most out of your day in the Marrakech Medina, then wear sneakers or flats. The souk is a bit warm during the summers, and you’ll definitely hurt your feet if you wear something with heels, so bear that in mind.

Just like a proper tourist, we had to have our arms tattooed with henna. Quite frankly, we had no choice. The ladies at Jemaa el-Fna were hustlers (quite literally). They grab you by the hand, start tattooing you like crazy, and they’ll say that it’s for free, like it’s a gift. Then once they’re done, and your whole hand is covered in henna, they’ll start taunting you for payment.

That’s happened to me, and I told them I had no money. Truthfully, I had no cash left, so I showed them my wallet, but they still grabbed the remaining $20 bill on the corner of my wallet and asked me to walk away. Honestly, I love Marrakech, but that’s one thing that I hated from visiting that city. So when a lady grabs your hand to try to do henna on you, simply say no, because you’re likely to get hustled if you’re not proactive.

Although, one of the things that I love about Marrakech is its authenticity. There was something magical about this place, and the architecture was simply divine. I believe that it was Tahir Shah who said it best in the book, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams:

“I believe that Marrakech ought to be earned as a destination. The journey is the preparation for the experience. Reaching it too fast derides it, makes it a little less easy to understand.”

If I were to head back to Marrakech again, I would gladly take the chance to explore more hidden paths that stretch along its never-ending medina. The reds, the browns, and every colour that makes this city unique are what attracts me to come back to it in the future. Marrakech is a dream, and I fell in love with this place faster than any other city I’ve ever been to.

I believe that certain cities leave a mark in your souls for being too much of everything: too beautiful, too authentic, too historical—for the first time in a long time, being too much of something is not a bad thing. Well, in my opinion, that is.

Marrakech is a place that I long to get back to once everything gets backs to normal. It’s a city filled with grandeur, culture, and all the spices that you can even imagine! Life in Marrakech is never easy, but this is a city that each and every one of us must experience at least once.

If you have the chance, visit Marrakech. It’s a city filled with culture, and you’ll never regret coming here–even if you do get scammed, which happens to the best of us. Yes, even me, and I didn’t mind because this city is crazy as it is beautiful, and what’s a rainbow without any rain?

Marrakech, a city that has my heart and a city that I long to come back to. I can’t wait to roam around your spice-filled streets, your squares filled with artists, and your medina that acts like a maze. This wandering soul can’t help but wonder when we’ll all get back on the road again, but one thing’s for sure, I’ll surely come back to you in one way or another.

I rarely reference fashion icons since I’m not the most fashionable person on the planet, but Yves Saint Laurent said it best, “A visit to Marrakesh was a great shock to me. This city taught me color.”

Speaking of Yves Saint Laurent, he did have a house in Marrakech, and I did visit—but that’s for another blog post, heh.

For now, dreaming and writing is the only thing I can do. Once our borders open back up again, I’ll be on a flight back to Marrakech. You can count on that!

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1 NIV

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