Following on from part 1, Judy walks us through her experiences of the wonderful Moroccan markets and souqs and gives a few tips on how to haggle.
Souq: a labyrinth of colour
Suitably fortified from breakfast the next morning, we set off and plunged into the labyrinth of colour, noise and smell that is the souq, passing small stalls with pigs feet hanging up, sheep heads and feet on a table, miserable chickens in cages being dispatched amid much squawking, keeping an eye out for bicycles, donkey carts, hand carts and mopeds.
An attack of shopping
There are many souqs that make up this the area, specialising in leather and metal work of all kinds, Moroccan slippers, shoes and clothing, silver and jewellery, lanterns, in fact anything you can think of - and surprisingly it is all clean and swept and they throw water onto the roads to keep the dust down. There are no prices on anything, so buying is a lengthy business of negotiating over cups of mint tea, trying to get a decent price in your own mind, while trying to buy just what you want and not three or four to bring the price down. If something you mention isn't in the shop - a different size or a colour - quick as a flash the owner will send a runner to get whatever you want from his brother/cousin/uncle's shop so this is not a wheeze that you can use, and you can have your head completely turned, as carpet after carpet is thrown onto the floor in front of you, or more and more shirts and dresses are pulled off shelves and laid out in a rainbow of colours. Our shopping back home is so simple and unstressed by comparison.
The Museum of Marrakech
In the Place de la Kissaria, dominated by the Ben Youssef Mosque, is the Museum of Marrakech, housed in a late 19th century palace which was restored and reopened in 1997. There is some wonderful zellig tilework or mosaics, stucco work, the traditional stucco being made of lime, sand and water and painted ceilings, as well as displays of pottery from Fez where the finest pottery in Morocco has been produced for over 600 years, with its distinctive use of blue. The Koubba nearby, which was excavated in 1952, is the only Almoravid building from the 1060's to survive in Morocco, and its motifs such as pine cones, palms and acanthus leaves appear again in later buildings such as the Medersa nearby. The Almoravid were fanatical people of Berber origin.
The Dyers Souq
The Dyers souq was fascinating as huge bundles of wool are brought in and dyed in fire colours of red, orange, yellow as well as cobalt blue and black, then hung out to dry in great skeins on the rooftops. I had to buy a beautiful fiery silk scarf (which to my great sorrow got left behind somewhere) to make friends with the shop owner so Rob could get onto the rooftop to photograph the spectacle of the drying wool and dyed material too.
Djemma el Fna
In the evening we walked down to the Main square - Djemaa el-Fna - an enormous open area opposite the Koutoubia mosque, which looked lovely in the early evening with a crescent moon in the dark sky overhead as the muezzin called the faithful to prayer, and families sat and chatted while the children played and ran about in the gardens. The Djemma el Fna comes alive at night with stalls selling dried fruit, olives, fresh fruit, nuts and dates and in the middle are a collection of food stalls cooking food and serving everything under the sun - fried, grilled or baked fish, lamb, chicken, offal, sheeps' heads, tripe, to a throng of locals and tourists sitting at long tables in the swirls of smoke from the fires, stoves and griddles. Acrobats, fortune tellers, musicians and singers perform, attracting small groups around them - unfortunately no snake charmers which I was hoping for - we did have to pay to take a photo of a singer whose main prop was a large rooster which sat on his head throughout the performance!
Gueliz is the new town which was built by the French in 1800 outside the Medina walls. It is another world. Wide boulevards with pavement cafes, western shops, galleries, offices and restaurants like any other cosmopolitan city. We visited the Antique shop run by the family who own the Riad, where we were staying, and had an interesting time learning about Berber and Saharan artefacts, jewellery and talismans like Fatima's hand.
Then on to the Majorelle Garden. This garden was the creation of Jacques Majorelle, a well known French painter in the 1920's who came to live and work in Marrakech and bought the 12 acres of land to create this botanical garden of cactus and bamboo, palms, trees and flowers - fountains and lily covered pools, flower pots in bright yellow, orange and electric cobalt blue - a garden which is a living work of art. There is also an Art Deco Pavilion in the centre where he had his studio. Click here to go back to part one of this three part series to uncover more of Judy's experiences in Marrakech or here to go onto part three - a taste of their experiences in the Atlas Mountains.