The souks are mainly semi-covered (remember what I said about shade in the last post), so although you're sort of outside, you won't catch a lot of sun spending a day moseying around in them. The souks were historically divided into different specialities, such as the tanners' souks, wool souks, jewellery, spices, lamps, etc. We definitely did notice different concentrations in different areas, but there are also many places, especially nearer to the main Jemaa-el-Fna square, which are just a random mishmash of all sorts of things. Most of the time we were either lost or just wandering around with no real purpose, so although over the course of our time in Marrakech we ended up walking past some of the same places several times, I couldn't really tell you where anything is in relation to anything else.
I mentioned the insistent "guide" trying to get us into one of the tanners' yards in my first post - you can see why I wasn't really too keen to go in to one of these places in sandals (big mistake), especially since the yards are apparently literally full of dung and urine and rotting carcasses and chemicals. For once I was glad that I had a horrific cold, but even so some of the smell got through.
|Peeping into a tannery|
Looking on TripAdvisor, it seems we actually got off lightly - it's full of review after review of people who say they were bullied into taking a lightening-fast "tour" of the tannery before being pressured into buying overpriced goods or tipping way over the odds for their guide. So yay for the impractical sandals!
|Leather drying in the sun|
|A spice shop aka "Berber pharmacy". I didn't want to touch the spice pyramids, obviously, but I think they're just thin layers stuck on to a cardboard cone or something|
Once back inside the medina, it was time for lunch. This was probably the only really tasty/memorable meal we had in our entire trip, unfortunately. I'm not sure whether the food really is bland, or they just make bland food for tourists, but you'd think with all the million spice shops they're always trying to drag you into, the food would have a bit of flavour!
|Yummy bubbling hot kefte/egg tagine. I bought a kefta spice mix at the spice shop above, so I'll have to see if I can recreate something along these lines. It's apparently called a Kefta Mkaouara.|
I lost patience with it - honestly, I don't know how long the whole process took, but easily an hour - and just said I didn't care, I didn't want a lamp any more, but Liz, bless her, kept going for the two lamps. The guy at one stage offered her lamp at x dirhams and mine at about 3 times the price, since he obviously found my lack of enthusiasm offensive! But we finally got there in the end, and everyone seemed happy with the outcome. The guy approvingly referred to Liz as a "Berber woman" - funnily enough, this wasn't the only time this happened at the end of a negotiation. I guess they have a reputation for being tough operators, unlike your average Western tourist. This was one of the occasions where we were having a laugh and a bit of banter with the guy and it did feel like we were being treated as equals, which admittedly is not exactly a high bar, but just to put that in there that not everyone we met came across was a horrible sexist. Liz then got them to rewire the lamps for us (to put in cables with on/off switches) and test them with lightbulbs to show that they were working. And refused the suggested tip for this service! Definitely a lot more backbone than I have!
|Happy the negotiations are over!|
|It still works!|
After all that, it was good to retreat to the roof terrace at the hotel with a bottle of wine. We brought a few bottles over with us in our suitcases. You can buy alcohol at the supermarket and at a couple of bars (which always tried to get us to come in for a never-ending "happy hour") but other than that, not so much. It was actually really weird sitting down to dinner without being able to have a glass of wine, and, without sounding like an alkie, I could have killed for a nice glass of rosé while having a long lunch on a sunny terrace...