The souk in the old medina of Marrakech is a maze that bombards you with chaotic alleyways packed with the sounds of vendors hawking goods for sale and jumbled with shops selling shiny jewelry and brilliantly hued scarves and rugs. The smell of African spices, such as cumin, turmeric and coriander, used in tagines, fills the air like a dust storm in front of the little spice vendor shops. The alleyways are mostly covered with cloths and screens, without the benefit of lighting, making the souk a dark place. And it was the close darkness and infinity of this maze without order that caused us to become hopelessly lost.
We walked into the souk late in the afternoon on the last Friday of our trip. Sightseeing, not really shopping, we walked further and further into alleyways that proceed without rhyme or reason. I had always heard that it was easy to get lost in the souk, and this is part of its charm. But I have a good sense of direction and gave this little credence. Not so in the souk. I began to worry when, after we were lost for some time, the alleyway took us through a dim area where craftsmen were welding metal in the open. The scene reminded me of futuristic Ridley Scott sci-fi movie where the rebels hide away secretly welding their get-away spacecraft or whatever. Stepping over electrical cords, avoiding the sparks, we kept going with no idea how to get back to the city center.
Ultimately, a guy standing on a corner offered to show us the way out-with a side trip to his family’s shop where he sold me a pretty blue scarf.
So my take-away on the souk is that it was really fun, very intense, and definitely a place to visit again on a return trip!