Souks are not as intimidating as they are rumored to be, unless you consider the unrelenting activity, the crowds, the constant barrage of sounds and smells intimidating. I find they pulsate with a life and energy most shopping malls lack.
Whatever the asking price, offer half and work up. A little disinterest on your part goes a long way to reaching a price you’re willing to pay. On the other hand, don’t over-bargain: most times, you’ll be arguing about pennies which surely have much greater worth to the merchants.
Travel to Tahanaoute
To get a first-hand feel for the life of the Berbers, most of whom live much the way they have for centuries, we visited Tahanaoute, a small, 150-year-old village about a 1-1/2 hour drive up the mountain from Marrakech.
As we neared the entrance, we were greeted by the local transportation: two mules to take us up the narrow, rocky dirt path to the village. The hour ride through forests and mountains, past olive and fig trees and centuries-old houses made of red clay and stone – with goats, chickens and pigs occasionally demanding the right of way – transported us much further back in time. This is not a place that sees a lot of tourists.
A visit to one mud-colored dwelling found our host, Fatima, dressed in varicolored attire, preparing mint tea, the Moroccan beverage of choice. We were led up stone stairs to a sparse room, where we sat leaning against small pillows on rugs, sipping the hot, pale and very tasty liquid while admiring hand-made baskets and pottery Fatima displayed with pride. A single bulb hanging down from a wire attached to the wood-pole-supported bamboo ceiling provided light, this year bringing the first exposure the village had to electricity.
The modern world also has intruded in other ways. Upon leaving, I spotted an impish four-year-old girl tugging on the sleeve of her 80-year-old grandfather. Upon the click of my camera, one very-small and one very-gnarled hand reached out its palm. Still, it’s a small price to pay, indeed, for the many riches of the Marrakech experience itself.
For more information, visit www.visitmorocco.com
Author Bio: Fyllis Hockman is a multi-award-winning travel journalist who has been traveling and writing for over 30 years – and is still as eager for the next trip as she was for the first. Her articles appear in newspapers across the country and websites across the internet.