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Walking through the souks of Marrakech

Home -> Africa -> Morocco -> Travelogue Morocco -> 15 September 2003

Monday 15 September, walking through the souks of Marrakech

At breakfastIt is our last day in Marrakech and we want to make it a quiet day. We have seen all places of interest and only have some more souvenirs to buy. After a few days of absence we meet our favourite beggar again. He still remembers us and greets us from afar. He is always enthousiastic even when we don't give money, but today we do.
The third break today Teije on a roof gardenOn the road to the Jemaa el Fna square we stop at a bar where we have been before, on the first day. We go there by taxi since we have walked this road a few times already. From here to the square is only a ten minute walk but it is very hot again, but not moist anymore. So we are in need of another drink when we arrive there and go to one of our favourites spots, a roof garden near cafe Paris.
A handcart on the squareThe acrobats, snakecharmers, monkey tamers and storytellers also seem to be troubled by the heat since they keep very quiet this morning. But the crowds are the same and there is still enough to see.
Koutoubia mosque Houses near Jemaa el-Fna squareLooking south we see Jemaa el Fna square and the Koutoubia mosque, the 'guardian of the desert', on the other side we look out over the roofs of the poorer areas next to the souks.
Jemaa el-Fna squareWe don't want to sit here all day, so after some times we leave for a last stroll through the souks. The most important ones are north of the square and it is much cooler there since the alleys are very narrow and often roofed by reed.
The souksThere are several souks with different names and once every souk had its own trades that were concentrated on a small area. That has changed by tourism because now there are souvenir shops in almost every street. But still one can recognize which trade was concentrated in a certain street. Sometimes we walk through an alley where only pottery is sold, or lamps and other things made of cast iron.
The souksWe have a very detailed map of the souks but the small alleys don't seem to have names and we don't find any nameplates on the streets, so we get lost often. But that is no problem at all, we just walk from street to street and admire the display of the shops and see where we end up. We have been here now so many times that we often see points of reference. And it is great to walk without a goal in the souks, it is like walking through a medieval city.
Wall around the Ben Youssef mosqueWe end up near the grounds of the Ben Youssef mosque and the Medersa. From here we can easily find our way back, if we want to. The clouds have all vanished and it feels like the hottest day we have had until now. We take the western side of the souks to return to Jemaa el Fna and come upon alleys where we haven't been before. Often it is just a dead end and we have to walk back.
On the street On the streetHere we see lanes where only tanners and shoemakers work and live. The air is filled with leather scent and the only noise we hear is caused by the instruments the men use to work the leather. Every street has its own scent and everywhere we see these flamboyant carpets hanging.. Although we have walked many times through the souks now, it keeps amazing me and it feels like a strange experience.
Back on Jemaa el Fna square we stop twice at restaurants to have a drink and have a last look at the crowds and artists. The warmth also seems to affect the temperaments since more people are shouting to each other than on the past days. But, as always, outsiders interfere and nothing serious happens.
When we take a cab back to Gueliz, the cabdriver also tells us about this form of social control. According to him this is unique in Marrakech and because of that there is less crime here than elsewhere in Morocco. We don't know if that is true but he could be right. This time we have a very quiet driver who just goes with the flow and doesn't seem to be in a hurry. All the way he tells a lot about Marrakech and its history. It is only a pity that he looks at us every time he tells a story and not at the road. But all goes well.
This cabdriver is the only one who immediately puts on the taximeter when we get in and we don't have to negotiate. From our hotel to Jemaa el Fna we always have paid 10 dirham and according to the meter it is 8,20 dirham. So we just give him 10 dirham (€ 1).
Our balcony The sitting room of our hotel chamberBack at the hotel Teije takes a seat on the balcony (he is crazy, with this heat!) and I stay in the room where it is very nice and cool with the air conditioning turned on. After 8 long days with so many new experiences and impressions we feel we have the right to be very tired. So we stay in for a couple of hours to relax. Tomorrow morning we have to get up at 4 in the morning, so we need to be rested a bit.
Of course we make our usual evening walk through Gueliz and visit the coffee bars where we have been sitting over the last week. We say goodbye to people and return early to the hotel to get some sleep. We have to be at the airport at 5 o'clock and we are glad the hotelstaff will arrange a taxi for us.
Morocco, or at least what I have seen of it, is a totally different world than our orderly and tidy Western Europe. I am very glad I have seen it, but I couldn't live here. What struck me most is the poverty that still a lot of people live in. This country is so close to prosperous Europe. Allright, there is also poverty in Europe, but not on such a scale as I have seen here and not as bad, I think. It is quite good to be confronted with that, to realise how well off we are.
Tomorrow the voyage home and the day after I have to start working again, earning money for our next trip!


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