The souks of Marrakech

by Karen

Souks are giant open-air marketplaces (i.e., a bazaar) where locals and tourists alike go to purchase goods and souvenirs. Haggling is common and very much expected. Souks are very common in cities across Morocco.

The souk in Marrakech, Jemaa-el-Fna, is one of the largest and most famous. Even with a map, it is VERY easy to get lost inside.

So many colors, sounds, smells, and things to see. It was insane, it felt so intense, like a culture shock-and-awe. Vendors selling orange juice, skewers of meat, herbalists selling snake oils, musicians and storytellers performing dances, beggars, children, shopkeepers; the city was ALIVE.

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On a side note, all the locals (in both Marrakech and Essaouira) assume we are Japanese, and start shouting random phrases at us, mainly “HELLO JAPAN! KONNICHIWA!” or “ARIGATOU!” as we walk by. I’m not sure if Japanese people frequently visit Morocco (I saw only one group), or if alllooksame, but I thought it rather interesting. If we don’t stop, they start listing all the countries they think we belong to.
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Another note, we probably circled around many of the stalls twice. Being the only Asians around, we really stood out. During our last circuit, I decided to take my scarf and wrap it around my head like a hijab, since I noticed the only tourists getting harrassed were us and Europeans. There were plenty of Middle Eastern & Arabic tourists as well, but they weren’t being chased around. Once I wore the headscarf, nobody called out to us, even when we walked along the same stores. Mark wore the exact same thing, and I even had the same jacket and pants. The only difference was that I was wearing a headscarf. According to the internet, it’s perfectly fine for non-Muslim women to wear the hijab (which is what I was worried about), but it might bring about a whole other range of social etiquette I am not aware of.
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