Marrakech’s earliest inhabitants made their living from trading with the Africans and with the Spaniards who came by sea. Luxuries like gold and ivory came from the south, while leather, metalwork and ceramics were sent north. Even today, trade continues to be the city’s mainstay, with thousands of craftsmen eking out an existence in the maze of souks that fill much of the northern half of the medina. A trip to the souks is part history lesson, part endurance test – to see how long you can keep your purse in your bag or your wallet in your pocket.
The main route into the souks is via an arch just north of Jemaa El Fna and along this perpetually busy, sun-dappled alley. Shop owners along Semarine attempt to entice with a miscellany of robes, kaftans, carpets and antiques.
Souk El Kebir
Straight on from Rue Semarine, this is the heart of the souks. It’s a narrow alley that lurches from side-to-side and up-anddown. It is lined by dozens of the tiniest shops – barely a person wide – each overflowing with goods, particularly leather.
Souk des Babouches
Every shop and stall here sells nothing but brightlycoloured, soft-leather, pointy-toed slippers known as babouches.
Souk des Tapis
Earlier an auction place for slaves, this souk is now crowded with a number of carpet sellers
Souk des Teinturiers
Sheaves of freshly dyed wool (below) are hung from ropes strung across one particular alleyway for a vibrantly colourful scene.
Souk des Ferronniers
Multiple hammering sounds fill the air in the medina’s medieval parts where the ironworkers create furniture, lanterns and other items.
Souk El Khemis
Entrepreneurs renovating riads scout this flea market to the north of the medina for unusual items of furniture.
Souk El Bab Salaam
This covered market serves the nearby mellah quarter with everything from food and spices to caged birds.
This open square is home to sellers of dried scorpions, leeches and other bizarre substances and objects for use in sihacen, or black magic.