When you think of Marrakech, you can’t help but picture Place Jamaa el Fna and the surrounding souk (marketplace) in the Medina of Marrakech. It’s one of the best-known squares and marketplaces in Africa, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a must-see if you’re traveling to Morocco. Among the mix of restaurants, stands, and alleyways, you’ll find colorful handicrafts, food, souvenirs, and more. With that said, be sure you know what you’re walking into… chaos!
During the day, the square is filled with orange juice stands, shops, and snake charmers, but as the day progresses, the square fills up with more food stalls, magicians, and storytellers. The surrounding alleyways are littered with shops that carry common daily goods for locals and some locally made items that make for great souvenirs.
Later that night, we headed back to the square after dinner, and it was much more lively and crowded with locals. Everyone was trying to get us to sit at their food stalls.
Making our way into the vast network of alleyways and shops, we quickly realized that many of the stalls carry the same goods. Make sure you shop around to compare prices. This is where you can learn to bargain and get the best deal you can.
Be ready to have all your senses bombarded! The sights, sounds, smells, and heat definitely keep you stimulated.
SPICE MARKET AREA
This spice market area of the Marrakech Market is actually far from the main square, but I was determined to find it and photograph these spices. It was my number one priority!
Pro Tips for Visiting Place Jemaa el Fna Marrakech Market
- Learn to bargain! You can get stuff for down to at least 25% of what they are asking. They will definitely quote you different prices, and the Asians in the group got quoted lower starting prices. Pays to be from a cheap country! :P Having exact change helps a lot when bargaining.
- If you’re shopping for Saffron, be sure you know that there is Moroccan saffron and cheap / artificial saffron. Be sure to clarify which is which. Moroccan saffron has a tea-like smell and should turn water yellow as opposed to orangey-red.
- Watch your valuables, as there may be pickpockets in the area. No one from our group got pickpocketed, but any time you’re in a big city, it’s good to be aware of your surroundings.
- For the ladies, you may get catcalled and the men in your group may be offered X number of camels in exchange for you. Also, watch out for horny, old men who will try to touch you. If you’re not already with a significant other, stay with the group, and it’s good to have a male friend with you swatting them away.
- Ask before taking photos. Most vendors will be upset if you start taking photos without buying anything and may ask you to pay. A fair rate is 20 Dirham for a photo.
- Be wary of street vendors coming up to you for photos. They will put snakes around your neck without asking, and later demand money for the experience.
- You can’t drink the tap here, so bring your own bottle of water.
- Most bathrooms have a small fee, so keep coins ready, and don’t forget your toilet paper.
- If someone is offering to show you around, do not follow him. They may take you to a store where they’ll pressure you to buy something and will demand money for their time. This is true with directions as well. If you ask, they will most likely try to take you there and then charge you. One person tried to do this to us, and we told him that we’d like to find our own way.
- Need more tips on traveling in this country, see our 21 Morocco Travel Tips.
Have you been to this Marrakech market? What types of things would you buy when shopping at a marketplace like this? Are there certain types of souvenirs you like to buy for friends and family back home? What about ones for yourself?
Our A Day in Marrakech Vlog: