Shopping in a new place is often one of the best parts of any vacation, and that's excellent news for any shopping enthusiasts who are planning a trip to Morocco's exciting city of Marrakesh. Set your sights on the incredible Souk Semmarine, and be prepared to shop the day and the night away. The souk experience is something that you'll want to take part in even if you aren't a big shopper because it's a wonderful way to interact with the locals and become a part of Marrakesh's rich history.
An Important Part of History
Much more than a simple shopping destination, souks (traditional open-air markets) have served for centuries as the living heart of cities in many areas of the world. Traced all the way back to the 6th century B.C., souks, which are also known as the marketplace or the bazaar, have been an important part of the local culture in such places as Spain, the Middle East, Morocco and other Arabic-speaking countries. Of course, the locals depended on the steady operation of the souks to supply them with newly slaughtered meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and any needed tools or household goods, but that's only the beginning.
In the early days, the souks were set up outside of each city where caravans regularly traveled, and the visitors were offered food, beverages and a comfortable place to rest. As outsiders and locals came together under these friendly circumstances, the souks evolved into a social activity where friendships and romances flourished. It also served as a commercial function where larger deals were made concerning land ownership and business ventures and small and large fortunes were lost or made.
The simple souk turned into a major network, a physical form of today's internet, that linked each important city with the others, and cultural experiences, important information and goods were exchanged for the betterment of all. Throughout the year, word would also spread about the festivals that would be held at the place of the souks, and those grand events would bring even more people together.
Souks in Ancient Marrakesh
This great city's souks have been hugely successful since early times because of Marrakesh's excellent positioning right in the heart of Morocco. Sitting directly in the path of one of the world's most important trading routes definitely has its advantages, and Marrakesh enjoyed the arrival of merchants, traders and other travelers from every corner of the map on a daily basis. As a result, goods from all across Morocco as well as the surrounding African countries and beyond turned up in Marrakesh.
The city quickly became known as the place where you could get just about anything you could possibly want or need, and people would arrive at the Marrakesh souks from all over to eagerly await the next arrival of a donkey or a camel laden with treasures. In fact, the souks became such a hub of activity that it became necessary to add several gates to the medina, and each gate was to be used specifically by merchants from different areas.
The Souk Semmarine
Marrakesh boasts the largest souks in all of Morocco, and they are still an important part of Moroccan culture and an incredible experience for every visitor to this very day. The famous Souk Semmarine, which is the central channel of the entire district that is perfectly situated in the medina just north of Jemaa el-Fnaa, is a draw for a countless number of locals and visitors from dawn to dusk nearly every day of the year.
The sights, the smells and the sounds may make you feel a bit overwhelmed as you make your way through the winding walkways of the souk, but it won't take you long to start enjoying this unique experience. Expect to see snake charmers coaxing actual snakes out of their baskets, lively monkeys dancing and local storytellers spinning fabulous tales for anyone who cares to listen.
A Different Way to Shop
As you explore the many stalls that are found in the souk, you can expect to discover a great many items that may be of interest to you. Though merchandise is often clearly marked with a specific price, you should know that haggling is expected. You can almost always get the vendors to come down on their price, and you may walk away with the deal of a lifetime. Souk Semmarine is usually open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with extra food vendors opening up right around dinner time, and these are just a few of the items that you may find available at the various stalls.
- Traditional Moroccan foods
- Berber carpets
- Sewn-by-hand clothing
- Beautifully crafted Moroccan lamps
- Leather goods
- Fresh fruits and vegetables