The Moroccan city of Marrakech is made for shopping, with only a smattering of sights to detain you from the fine retail therapy. Our Marrakech medina meander, a self-guided shopping themed walking tour, takes in some of the best browsing in the souqs.
Our Marrakech medina meander has been inspired by our daily strolls through the covered markets or souqs (also spelt ‘souks’) of Marrakech. We were lucky that the location of our riad Dar Rocmarra in the northwestern part of the medina (old town) near Bab Doukkala, took us along a route that ran right through the souqs to reach the main square, Place Djemaa Al Fna.
It therefore made sense that we should create a self-guided shopping-themed walking tour for you.
Rue Dar El Bacha – Carpets, Antiques and Fondouks
Our Marrakech medina meander starts seconds from our doorstep on Rue Dar El Bacha. The street is semi-pedestrianised, by which we mean there are no cars, only an endless stream of motorbikes, bicycles, donkeys and carts, so take care.
It’s named after Dar El Bacha, also known as Dar El Glaoui, a palace that once housed Pacha Thami El Glaoui and his harem. Avoid taking photos of the monumental gate, which will get you a warning from the policeman on duty outside.
The street is dotted with some of the medina’s finest shops, such as Zimroda Arts, Khalid Art and Siwa, which specialises in Oriental carpets, antiques, beautiful Berber jewellery, and sumptuous decorative objects – with prices to match of course.
Rue Dar El Bacha is also home to several fondouks, the North African equivalent of a Middle Eastern caravanserai or khan, which were lodgings for traders, their goods, and their camels, horses, donkeys and mules. These days fondouks tend to house craftsmen at work producing and selling their goods.
In Fondouk Tadloui, halfway along the street on the left, you’ll find weavers, and vibrant striped tapestries, bags and poufs. In Fondouk Al Amri, a bit further down on the right, you’ll find a tile-maker and wood-workers crafting mashrabiya screens.
Derb Mouassine – Lanterns, Mirrors and Bathtubs
At the arches, turn right. If you were to continue straight ahead you’d soon be in the thick of the souks, which can be overwhelming your first day. The turn right takes you into Derb Mouassine (‘derb’ means street, or ‘rue’ in French, and you’ll see a sign for Rue de Mouassine on the second arch), named after the magnificent mosque at the end of this street.
On Derb Mouassine, on your left, you’ll find a hammam – note the retro signs ‘Bain Pour Hommes’ and ‘Bain Pour Femmes’ and the ‘Jus de Fruits’ stand in between – and a little further on, Café d’Arabe, a chic spot that’s perfect for lunch or a sunset drink at the rooftop bar.
At the end of this little street you’ll reach a section with a wooden arcaded roof where there a few gorgeous shops, including an interiors store selling stunning, contemporary metalware made from stainless steel, pewter and tin, including Oriental lanterns, mirrors, and even clawfoot bathtubs.
Turn right here, noting, after you turn the corner, the decorative doors of the Mosquee Mouassine on your left.
Rue Sidi El Yamami – Berber Jewellery and Retro Bric-a-Brac
Within the covered section at the start of Rue Sidi El Yamami there are a handful of fabulous shops specializing in silver jewellery, chunky Berber necklaces, flamboyant gem-encrusted rings, bangles and pendants, and pretty khamsa (Hand of Fatima) earrings, charms, and amulets.
On the left, Assouss Argane sells beauty products, soaps and essential oils made from Argan Oil, and opposite a fascinating little shop specialises in retro bric-a-brac and antiques from the early 20th century French Occupation.
A little further on, Bougainvillea Café is a fine place for a mint tea. Turn left here.
Rue Fehl Chidmi and Souk Laksour – Babouches and Perfume Bottles
The long wonky street of Rue Fehl Chidmi, open to the sky for the most part and covered when it becomes Souk Laksour, is crammed with all kinds of wonderful shops and stalls all the way to the Place Djemaa El Fna.
Halfway along, note the FNAQUE Berber Bookshop (a play on the French bookshop FNAC), which stocks a fabulous range of books on Morocco.
On this street and within the souq you’ll discover beautifully-made leather bags, satchels and ottomans, Berber jewellery and beads, Oriental lanterns, lamps, chandeliers and mirrors, and Moroccan kilims and Berber carpets.
In the past (when I’ve not been on a one-year grand tour of the world), I’ve bold-coloured babouches (traditional pointy slippers), romantic glass perfume bottles, intricately-engraved trays and teapots, and sets of tiny tinted tea-glasses here.
Other great buys include prettily-painted wooden mirrors and tables, conical ceramic tajine pots and small salt-and-pepper holders in the same shape, vibrant-coloured textiles, shawls, bags and poufs, funky sequinned shopping baskets, and tassels galore, from glass bottles and jars topped with tassel lids to colossal rope curtain tassels.
You’ll also find the usual generic Middle Eastern souvenirs found all over the region: belly-dancing costumes, checked keffiyehs/ghutrahs (Arab men’s headdress), and sequinned cushion covers and bedspreads from India.
Our Marrakech medina meander ends of the main square, the Place Djemaa Al Fna.
Tip: at the end of the souq, before you reach the Place Djemaa Al Fna, you’ll come to a square where you’ll find shops selling cheap suitcases, as well as a group of porters with carts and donkeys – just in case you need help lugging your purchases back to the riad!