Marrakech: A Stroll Through the Souks

 

IMG_3832A journey through the core of the Marrakech medina begins at Djemaa El-Fnaa the central square.

At first glance, the square is nothing more than controlled chaos. Men with snakes wrapped around their necks play instruments to entice the other cobras lying on the floor, while monkeys tied to chains flip and claw at passersby.

Women shrouded in bright scarves beg for money, flashing toothless smiles while offering henna tattoos in exchange for coins.

Dodging through these street performers leads me to the souks. A labyrinth of stalls blinds my eyes with lustrous pashminas and enormous woven tapestries.

Carved, bronze lanterns sway in the warm breeze, reflecting slivers of blue and green onto the cobblestone streets. The aroma of spices is intoxicating.

Tucked back, an unassuming antique shop draws the attention of several tourists. Standing amidst the narrow, long space — filled with over-sized ceramic vases and hand-painted wooden screens — is Sharif, owner and antique connoisseur.

His suede wing tip shoes glide quietly on the floor, as he gestures to a set of stairs, enticing customers to explore another room filled with an incredible collection of mirrors, some tucked behind layers of forgotten masterpieces, others with small hinged doors adorned in elaborate carvings and rich rust colored stones.

Photos by Barrie Cohen

Photos by Barrie Cohen

Just beyond Sharif’s shop, a large, open showroom stands, revealing a stark, white interior.

It doesn’t look like much, but deep within this shop lies thousands of the most magnificent hand sewn Berber rugs.

A young male employee files in, carrying a silver tray with mint tea. Others stand with arms behind their backs, waiting for instructions. Moustafa, the Chateau de Souks manager, waltzes in, removing his glasses and extending his hand.

He begins his spiel, reciting the ancient history of Moroccan rug making, gesturing to his employees to begin pulling out intricately woven rugs in bold hues of crimson and saffron and deep blue.

Outside, the once vibrant streets turn dim as the sunlight fades. Faint chimes ring out in the distance, signaling the hour of prayer.

The air cools, bringing darkness, concealing Marrakech’s most sensational treasures in the shadows.