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Souks

Between Jemaa el Fna and the Ben Youssef Mosque is a seemingly never-ending maze of shops selling a wide variety of high-quality crafts, along with a fair number of tacky souvenirs. These are Marrakech's souks -- among the best in Morocco -- and shopping aside, a morning's exploration among these craftsmen and traders is an experience not to be missed. The main entrance to the souks is to the left of the Qessabin Mosque, via either a small potter's souk or the olive stalls on Souk Ableuh. The following is a general description of each souk, though nowadays the borders have become a bit blurry.

Note: The first time you venture into the medina's souks can be both geographically and emotionally challenging. While you can rest assured that once you are on a main thoroughfare you'll eventually emerge at a landmark or one of the medina gates, there's no way to avoid the offers you will get from "friends" to take you through the souks for a small fee or a visit to an uncle's shop. Keeping calm in this situation is key. For those who think this might be too much too handle, I suggest hiring an official guide for at least your first morning of exploration. The benefit is twofold in that you will become accustomed to life in the souks and get your bearings, all the while avoiding the hagglers due to the presence of your guide.

Souk Semmarine -- An archway marks the beginning of the souk area proper, and rue Souk Semmarine, which is flanked mainly by shops selling textiles and numerous souvenir stalls, is covered by a vast iron trellis.

Souk Larzal, Souk Btana & Place Rahba Kedima -- Just before the fork at the end of rue Souk Semmarine, a narrow lane to the right leads to a small square, place Rahba Kedima. To the right of the square is Souk Larzal, an early morning wool market and afternoon secondhand-clothing bazaar, and the aromatic Souk Btana, which deals in fresh sheepskins. Place Rahba Kedima is home to a number of apothecary stalls (sometimes called Berber chemists) selling traditional cosmetics and herbal potions of both plant and animal origin, and old women sit selling wool hats and woven baskets.

Souk Zrabia -- Still on place Rahba Kedima, a passageway in the far left leads to yet another, smaller covered square and the carpet souk known as Souk Zrabia, or Le Criée Berbère (the Berber auction). Prior to the French occupation in 1912, this was the site of Marrakech's slave auctions, held just before sunset every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The slaves were mostly kidnapped West Africans who had been brought in with the caravans plying the route between West and North Africa and farther east into the Levant. Nowadays you'll find carpets -- and lots of them.

The Kissarias -- Back out on rue Souk Semmarine, the road continues on as rue Souk el Kebir and forks to the left into rue Souk el Attarin. To the left of rue Souk el Kebir is a covered area known as the kissarias -- markets selling mainly everyday clothing and footwear but also a fair smattering of textiles and souvenirs. To the right of Souk el Kebir is a small lane of jewelers called the Souk des Bijoutiers (look up for the sign saying BIJOUTERIE TEGMOUTIENE).

Souk Cherratin -- Beyond the kissarias at the northern end of rue Souk el Kebir is a maze of alleys called Souk Cherratin. Here you'll find the leatherworker's souk, with dozens of sandal cobblers and bag, belt, and purse makers spread among other smaller souks of carpenters and tourist shops.

Souk el Attarin & Souk Smata -- Taking the left fork off rue Souk Semmarine brings you onto rue Souk el Attarin -- the spice and perfume souk -- and the other side of the kissarias, where you will find Souk Smata, also known as Souk des Babouches in reference to the slipper makers found here.

Souk Chouari & Souk Haddadine -- To the west of Souk Smata is the carpenter's souk, Souk Chouari, with its beautiful aroma of cedar. Beyond here is the noisy Souk Haddadine, home to the city's blacksmiths.

Souk des Teinturiers -- South of Souk Chouari is Souk des Teinturers, Marrakech's colorful and photogenic dyers' souk, where wool and fabric are dyed and left hanging across the alleyways to dry. There are souvenir shops here but nothing specific to the dying process.

Souk des Chaudronniers -- Farther west of Souk Chouari is an ornate 16th-century fountain and the Mouassin Mosque. South of here is Souk des Chaudronniers, where you'll find the city's coppersmiths.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.