Visit Morocco: The Medina In Marrakech

At the Medina In Marrakech
A merchant in the Medina at Mattakech (center) waiting for customers in his striped djellaba.

The Medina In Marrakech

Take the train from Casablanca going south
Blowing smoke rings from the corners of my mouth
Colored cottons hang in the air
Charming cobras in the square
Striped djellebas we can wear at home Well, let me hear you now

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh

  • Crosby, Stills and Nash, Marrakesh Express

At the heart of Marrakech is the central square and marketplace known as the Jemaa el-Fnaa. The square and surrounding residential streets also are known as the medina, a generic term which generally means “old town.” I also heard it referred to as the souk and the casbah. No matter what it is called, the Jemma el-Fnaa is a hustling, bustling, crowded homage to the entrepreneurial spirit. Food, goods and entertainment are everywhere.

I was in Marrakech, Morocco as part of a trip arranged by the Moroccan National Tourist Office. If you take a golf vacation to Morocco, be sure to take the time to visit the cultural sites. You can read more about my trip to visit Morocco at this link.

A food stall at the Jemaa el-Fnaa specializing in snails.

The marketplace at the medina in Marrakech seemed to me to be divided into two major sections: food, drink and entertainment in the main square; merchandise is predominate in the side streets. The restaurateurs are particularly aggressive, lunging into the crowd to wave plastic picture menus in front of passers by. Waving them off is a chore. Merchandise vendors are somewhat less forward, waiting for the most part until you stop in front of their shop and show some interest.

With the merchandise, at least, everything seems to be negotiable. Our lunch host at Royal Palm advised me to start by offering half the initial price, then work up from there. I tried it when I spotted a beautiful wool scarf in Mrs. GolfBlogger’s favorite colors. The vendor gave me a price, and I countered with one half as much. He then put his hand over his heart and groaned. “You are trying to make me poor, and I just want to be your friend.” He counter offered, and I came up some. Eventually, we agreed on a price that I thought fair, especially when translated into US dollars. It must have been a good deal for the vendor, because when we settled, he offered to sell me several more at the same price.

A view from an adjacent building of the souk at Jemaa el-Fnaa.

From above, the souk in the medina in Marrakech was a vision of lights, glowing red canopies, and people flowing from place to place. It looked as if an Arabian Nights fantasy had come to life.

The photo above is taken from the third floor balcony of a “restaurant” overlooking the square. Restaurant is a bit of a misnomer, as it consisted an open air balcony with a few plastic chairs and tables, and a dingy counter behind which little in the way of food was evident. We ordered coffee and soft drinks and even that took an eternity to serve.

Two stalls of olive vendors at the Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrkech

Beyond the main square of the Medina in Marrakech lay a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with shops. A person could easily get lost in the souk here. Luckily I had a guide.

My favorite part was the corner that featured enormous quantities of olives. The smell was incredibly delicious.

One of the narrow, winding streets in the Marrakech Medina.

Beyond even the streets of shops lay a more residential area of even more narrow streets flanked by multiple story homes. Some had shops or restaurants on the ground floors. Other streets seemed to consist of nothing more than occasional doors in stone walls.

More photos of the Medina in Marrakech follow:

 

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