Souks (Morocco #2)

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Once you manage to dodge the snake handlers and the monkey dudes, the entrance to a mystical place of shopping awaits you – the souks. It’s a proper labyrinth of shops selling spices, olives, clothes, jewellery, meats and probably even children if you look closely. The hassling tends to be at a minimum, and to some extent the shops seem to be grouped: there is a section for the spices (which can have some lovely conical shapes if the shopkeeper isn’t a lazy sloth), there is even a place that sells chameleons, iguanas, turtles and various other live critters. Cause there’s a section that sells dead critters: zebra skins, turtle shells, horns and crocodile skulls.

Those bustling little streets are called “souks” – which basically means open-air marketplace (in other terms, a bazaar).

My recommendation would be to buy spices – especially saffron (which is the most expensive spice in the world), as they are cheap and really people should cook more often at home. Do try to make sure you don’t get ripped off: compare with prices back home. Or, if you’re into buying dead things that have stopped rotting, by all means, buy some. Go crazy. Live!

You can easily take refuge in one of the cafes in the square for a traditional tea or a less traditional bottle of Coke, and many of them offer nice terraces at the top with a view of the square in its shabby daylight form. This time I also noticed an old man offering pictures with a vulture, cause, you know, why not?

Culture is a very big part of any trip – and so should it be, otherwise you end up like those brits in my riad asking the locals whether the women have to wear those “silly things on their heads” (referring probably to the hijab) when they go out.

There is certainly a compulsion to go to museums, tombs, and all sort of array of features highlighted by travel guides. I mostly say sod it. Unless you have a specific interest in those things, museums are found all over (at the very least if you come from countries with a big museum culture like the UK or France), and rarely have I seen items so unique that weren’t available to me in London.

These places not only charge money, but they’ve tended in my experience to be rather bland and act as a “stamp” on your Moroccan adventure without adding all that much. As such I avoided the Saadian Tombs and the Marrakech Museum.

I did end up going to the Medrasa Ben Youssef, which is not functional anymore and i doubt reflects how medrasas are in todays world. It is a very good example of islamic architecture – so if you are into architecture and building, then it’s a nice place to visit. Otherwise, however, the place might not offer all that much (so negative I am) – charges 50 dirham and the place is rather small and not impressive for the general traveler.

Other places that I haven’t visited (either because i couldn’t be bothered or some because i was a bit rushed in my sloth) would be Jardim Majorelle, Palais Badi, a traditional hammam.

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