Stepping out of a taxi in the middle of Djemaa el-Fna in the heart of Marrakech is like nothing you'll ever experience – the smell of spices drifting up your nostrils, the shrill cry of a monkey dangling from an unsuspecting tourists shoulders and your own thumping heart in your chest, anxious at the sensory overload that awaits.
Everything about the souks is overwhelming, but it’s one of the most captivating places I’ve ever visited. I don’t think there are many other cities in the world with a personality like Marrakech, and I’ve done a lot of travel.
I spent just under a week in the city and visited the souks almost every day – I loved the people watching and the random things I would see and hear, like freely wandering chickens, cats, doped up snakes and the ‘witch dentist’ who ever so kindly offers to remove a tooth for a small fee – funnily enough, I was never tempted by that one!
Throughout this week I learnt a thing or two about how to best navigate yourself through the unexpected and crazy, so here are my tips to help you with your first ever Marrakech souk experience:
1. Be alert, but not alarmed
Sure, there’s a lot going on, people everywhere and it all seems foreign, but take it all in and don’t be too worried about people approaching you. I found locals to be friendly in the city - you will of course get the odd person trying to trick you into doing something like buying a goat from them, but a smile and a stern ‘no’ does the trick in this situation!
2. Visit the souks in small doses
The heat and chaos of the area can get to you after a while, so aim to spend a couple of hours there at a time. Thankfully, Marrakech has loads of places where you can vent your frustrations if it gets a little too much – including the many rooftop cafes where you can sip on mint tea in the shade - the perfect vantage point for escaping the constant barrage of shop keeper sales tactics and attention.
3. Take lots of photos!
You may never visit a city like Marrakech again in your life, so take it all in – especially the weird and wonderful animals and their keepers!
4. Sample all the food you can
I can assure you that your taste buds will also go into overdrive in the souks – whether you’re getting your mouth around some tasty Turkish delight, smoking meat platters, or some sheesha.
5. Know where to find a good evening tipple
There is a growing population of expat-bars now popping up all around the city where you can sample some fine alcoholic concoctions that you’d barely think of as legal in a Muslim country, so there’s no excuse not to relax with a drink or two after a long day sightseeing.
If you feel apprehensive about the souks, then don’t – it certainly pays to be prepared for chaos, but if you take with you some common sense, a thick skin and a penchant for fun, then you’ll have a blast – and maybe even get that root canal fixed while you’re at it.
About the author: Nicole McPherson is s a location independent travel blogger and entrepreneur currently living in London. Her blog, Woman Seeks World, shares her adventures around the world as well as offering advice for wannabe travellers and budding digital nomads.You can follow her on twitter and Facebook.
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