Marrakech is the first experience that many backpackers have of Morocco. Exotic, magical, a sensory overload…. there are many clichés thrown at this rose red city, but none quite live up to the reality of a day’s sweaty meandering through the souks, followed by the night market on Jemaa el Fna square: snake charmers, dancing monkeys and all…
A commercial and touristy city, go to Marrakech intending to spend. It’s the ideal place to hone your haggling skills and pick up some quintessentially Moroccan wares. They won’t be the cheapest you’ll find, but as the city is a honey-pot for Berber traders wandering up from the Sahara, the quantity and selection on offer is nigh-on unbeatable.
Here are our three best buys for a backpacker in Marrakech:
Ra’s el Hanout
The Mellah market in the city’s old Jewish quarter is the best place to buy ra’s el hanout (meaning “top of the shop”), a traditionally Arabic blend of spices. Every merchant claims to have his own ‘secret family recipe’, but the basic mix includes cardamom, nutmeg, peppercorn, clove, cinnamon, cumin, chilli and turmeric. Prized for its aphrodisiac qualities (don’t hold us to this!), it’s a fantastic addition to grilled meats, rice dishes and of course, the ubiquitous tagine.
Katie Bolton, GD’s Business Development Manager, recently came back from Marrakech with a suitcase stuffed full of intricately beaded Moroccan slippers. She caught the babouche bug good and proper; she could hardly walk past one of the techni-coloured slipper stalls without furtively drawing her purse. And who could blame her? Soft, supple leather dyed in bright turquoise, pinks and yellows – perfect for brightening up a chilly winter’s day back home.
Your first taste of Moroccan ceramics will probably be in the serene surroundings of a riad (a traditional Moroccan guesthouse: petite, cheap and a must-stay for any backpacker). From the clay tagine that wafts out dinner, to Islamic-influenced tiling on the walls, ceramics in Marrakech are big business. In the souks, take your pick from highly-decorative bowls, vases or our favourite – a tagine pot of your very own.