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Souks of Morocco

posted on: Jan 26, 2022

Photo: Get lost in Morocco’s most famous market ©Lottie Davies/Lonely Planet

By: Nouha Elyazidi / Arab American Contributing Writer

Imagine this: you can feel the warmth of the bright North African sun on your face, an ever so slight refreshing breeze brushes through your hair, and you close your eyes. You inhale deeply and are met with the aromatic fragrance of spices, you stop to listen and hear vendors shouting, people talking, and when you open your eyes, all you see are bright-colored accessories, fresh fruits, and vegetables all around, and countless souvenirs of Moroccan culture. Where is such a place you may ask? It would be a Moroccan souk.

What is a Souk?

Souk is the Arabic word for bazaar or market, and these are commonly found across North Africa and the Middle East. Souks reflect the local traditions, culture, and agriculture of their country and region. Souks in Morocco sell a variety of different goods, you can buy tagines, spices, clothing, leather goods, home decor, tea sets, lanterns, shoes, jewelry, cosmetic products, rugs, and countless more. 

Souk Culture

While in a souk, there is a certain culture to shopping. The biggest advice anyone will give you is to barter with the vendor. Locals will never buy a good for its original prices, so always try to bargain for the best possible price.

negotiation in marrakech souks
Photo: souks marrakech – Négocier aux Souks à Marrakech

Souk Goods

Going back to the goods sold in souks, there are some goods very well known to be sold in Moroccan souks. The first is leather products. The leathering tanning industry in Morocco is huge, and the most common goods produced from this leather are bags. From handbags to briefcases, the bag selection in Moroccan bags will leave you in awe. There is no universal style or color for these bags, you can find everything from bright purple bags to basic brown bags.

A fan favorite in Morocco is of course the food. Morocco has a thriving agriculture industry and is a leading provider of many agricultural goods for European countries. Some of the unique organic fruits that are popular are fresh figs, oranges, and prickly pear. Morocco is also known for its olives and oils. Moroccan olives are unparalleled, you will find everything from salty black olives, to green olives cured with lemons, to red olives seasoned with harissa. Where there are olives, there must be olive oil. Olive oil is a staple in Moroccan cooking so it is always readily available. Along with olive oil, you will also find argan oil, used for consumption, health, and beauty purposes. 

Moroccan olives not banned in US, Ministry of Agriculture says
Photo: Morocco World News: Moroccan olives not banned in the US

If you are walking through a souk and get hungry, do not fret because you are bound to find a street food vendor. One common street food is a snail stew called babouche. Another common thing to find is sfenj, a Moroccan donut that is usually eaten with sugar or jam. To wash that all down, there are almost always stands selling refreshing fruit juices and smoothies. Other foods I would like to mention are nuts, dates, traditional cookies, bread, and sandwiches.

Photo: Find Yourself – Morocco – Travel

We can not mention the goods in Moroccan souks without mentioning the spices. The scent of these fresh spices is encapsulating. Brightly colored spices are displayed in souks beautifully. A few common spices are saffron, paprika, ginger, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper. 

Photo: Marrakesh is famous for its local spices © Sylvia Kania/Shutterstock

Souks sell a wide variety of clothing, from pajamas to tee shirts. But a very popular item is a dress called a “gandora.” These are thin cotton dresses, mainly worn in the house, that are breezy and perfect for the Moroccan summer. A very common Moroccan accessory found in souks is leather shoes called balghas. A balgha is a shoe pointed at the toes made from leather dyed in different colors. These shoes are a staple in traditional Moroccan outfits and their range in colors makes them compatible with any outfit. Breathtaking gold and silver jewelry also have a huge market in Moroccan souks. Moroccan souks often have jewelry stores inside where you can purchase beautiful sets of jewelry.  

Photo: Moroccan Slippers

It would not be a Moroccan souk if it did not have things that were “typically Moroccan.” Souks carry a number of goods that are elements rooted in Moroccan culture and associated with Morocco. An example of this would be clay tagines. Tagines are handmade pots used for cooking Moroccan cuisines and souks sell them with varying colors and designs. Additionally, you will find goods such as lanterns, wall decorations, and souvenirs. There is no shortage of souvenirs, everything from Moroccan-themed magnets to Moroccan-themed keychains!

Where to Find Souks

Djemaa El Fna | Marrakesh, Morocco Attractions - Lonely Planet
Photo: Djemaa El Fna Marakesh Morocco

After learning about all the wonderful goods souks have to offer, I definitely want to visit a souk! The good news is there are very many across Morocco. Jemaa el-Fna, in the central square of the vibrant red city of Marrakesh, is one of the most popular souks in the country. In the eastern Moroccan city of Saidia, I would suggest Souk de Saidia because of its goods and lively night entertainment and ambiance. In the most populated city of Morocco, Casablanca, el Hobous is my personal favorite for its combination of new modern goods and classical traditional goods.

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