Surviving The Sensory Overload Of A Marrakech Souk

This is a guest post by Nicole from Woman Seeks World

Stepping out of a taxi in the middle of Djemaa el-Fna in the heart of Marrakech is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before – 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.

Marrakech Souks

Everything about the souks is overwhelming, but I love it.

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.


There’s kind of a sense of humour to it, and even though it’s obviously a city steeped in decades and decades of history and a relatively strict religion, there are still so many moments of madness and fun that make you wonder if someone is possibly playing one highly-organised trick on you.

Sure, the haggling and tireless advances of flesh-starved Moroccan men can tire you after a while, (and what seemed funny and manageable on your first visit to the souks can soon turn into frustration after a few days), but it’s still one of the most vibrant and exciting places on Earth.

Marrakech souks

Thankfully, Marrakech has many places where you can vent your frustrations – from the many roof top 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.

There is also 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.

Marrakech Morocco

And if that’s not enough, then 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 (just be careful where that shop keepers hands have been!) smoking meat platters, or some sheesha.

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 we would see and hear – Freely wandering chickens, cats, doped up snakes and the ‘witch dentist’ who ever so kindly offers to remove a tooth for you for a small fee – funnily enough, I was never tempted by that one!

Souks in Morocco

I did however give in to the charms of the monkeys on my final day – I can’t say it filled me with warmth to see a wild animal clearly out of its natural habitat and forced to socialise with humans, but nevertheless I still wanted the full Marrakech experience, and for me a monkey on my shoulders was it.

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 for the ladies, something to cover your exposed Western-flesh with, then you’ll have a blast – and maybe even get that root canal fixed while you’re at it.

Have you spent time in the Marrakech Souks before?

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Bio: Nicole is a 20-something Aussie living in London, and she recently set herself the goal of becoming location independent by the end of 2012. Nicole’s blog, Woman Seeks World focuses on helping others also achieve this goal through building a business, advice how you can work from anywhere in the world and travel guides from her travels over the last 8 years.

Nicole also just launched another website called The Living In London Guide which covers everything you need to know about moving to and living in the UK capital.

17 thoughts on “Surviving The Sensory Overload Of A Marrakech Souk”

  1. This post brings back such great memories (and some not so great ones – pushy, ever-present, touts). What a vibrant and interesting city Marrakech is, I can’t wait to get back. I admit to also succumbing to the charms of the monkey handlers . . . as my gravatar attests. Thanks again!

  2. Always good to visit such markets, never been to Marrakech Souks before though, but in general i have visited a lot of such market places and have bought plenty of local stuff.

    Coming from India, spices are my favorite, i can smell those bag-full of spices right from my desktop. I will, however, avoid the monkeys and surely leave the root canal for my local dentist,

  3. It is pretty intense, but amazing. It’s also a photographer’s dream. Did you try the olives? Not normally my favourite, but they were the best I have ever had. Also the freshly squeezed orange juice reminded me of when I was a kid.

    We worked out that the sellers judge what prices you should be charged based on what country you are from and what you are wearing. Did you notice how they always asked you where you were from before they gave you a price? We are from South Africa, so we used that to our full advantage and most stuff was suddenly 1/3 of the price they quoted for people from the UK 🙂

  4. I havent been to Djemaa el-Fna in the heart of Marrakech markets before!! I love visiting markets – there is something about the feel of markets, the smells, and the opportunity to grab a bargain adds to the thrill. The Marrakech markets look amazing..not sure about the Witch Dentist, nor about the monkeys…but the spices would be fantastic!

    Thanks for sharing


  5. Marrakech is fantastic. You can just sit and watch the whole day and you never get bored.
    One of my favorite cities I have ever visited.

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