Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Western Africa. Its Arabic name being al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyyah (المملكة المغربية).
Full of Culture, beautiful buildings, vibrant colours, interesting sounds and powerful lingering smells, Africa has always been a place that intrigues me, and has always called for my return. It has been 7 years since I have been into Africa, partly due to the restrictions placed on us in recent years, so I was extremely keen to continue our adventures and discover something new.
We flew out during the Summer hot month of June 2023 to embark on what turns out to be a very memorable trip for us. It didn’t start very well either, with Gatwick Airport recovering from power cuts the previous day. After lengthy delays, we finally arrived in Morocco at 4am, to then have the difficulty of locating our Riad (their term for ‘casa’ or home) amongst all the back streets within the ancient city walls of the Medina.
The taxi driver had great difficulty locating the street, but also navigating the narrow old brick lanes. Nothing was signposted, and everything very dusty with every door looking the same. After about an hour we had approximately 15 of the locals out helping us find it. Most only spoke French or Arabic and they were very interested in shaking hands and welcoming us into Morocco. They of course all wanted tips, which you become very accustomed to in Africa.
After locating the Riad, we were quickly shown to the room. You do not get given a key in many instances in Morocco. We were also not given any water and the manager went straight back to bed. We knew it wasn’t wise to drink the tap water there so we just went to bed exhausted. Come morning, we headed straight out to get our bearings and to locate some bottled water. We were amongst the poorest of backstreets of the Medina, and all the local children just wanted to greet us and shake hands again. It’s like they had never seen white people before. We saw an exit gate of the medina walls and decided to explore to see if we could get water outside.
We were instantly hit with the strongest of rubbish decomposition smells, coupled with the glaring hot sun. We did manage to find a trader on the street who had bottled water to sell us. We paid 40p a bottle and it was relieving and refreshing, allowing us to continue with our exploration. Due to the blazing sun, and zero shelter, we decided to head back into the ‘alley-way’ walls of the Ancient city. It was also good to get away from those pungent smells, which I can still smell to this day!
We headed to the heart of Marrakech, Jemaa el Fna Square. Here you will find thousands and thousands of market traders, and artisan craftsmen all busy at their skilful and traditional work. The centre is bustling, noisy, colourful and vibrant; with plenty of fresh fruit, local produce, a beautiful garden centre, souvenir stalls, dancers, story tellers, snake charmers, monkeys, donkeys and horses.
Just behind the plaza are all the backstreets where everyone famously gets lost, in a winding labyrinth of narrow alleyways. They are known as the souks. The souks are the heart of the Marrakech medina and have been the centre for trade in the city for a thousand years. Crafts people make their way to the Medina to sell their wares, and this market in particular just grew bigger and bigger.
You can walk and wander for hours, looking, shopping, bargaining, eating and drinking, meeting the locals and wandering some more. There is food markets, carpet and rug markets, Souk el Attarine will be recognisable by the antiques, silver teapots and lamps and the Spice Square will be recognisable by all the colours and aromas. Seeing shoes? you’re at Souk Smata and when everything smells of leather, you’ll be in the heart of Souk el Kebir.
Cash is very much king in Morocco, as it should be everywhere. The traders keep all the money without making the banks richer than they already are. Your bank cards will not be accepted in many places at all, so it is wise to carry cash, but not too much at once, and to carry smaller denominations, such as 10 and 20 Dirham notes (the equivalent of 1 or 2 pounds). It is also not advisable to listen to anyone trying to guide you through the souks, they will generally take you deeper into the Medina, where you will become further lost and disorientated, and they will no doubt take you to a fellow trader or friend to show what he is selling, and this could well be some homewares, carpets or some Hashish!
You never quite know what to expect in Morocco, which makes it all the more exciting. I like to be taken away from my comfort zone, and I am very keen to return back to Morocco to indulge in the culture, and to see if we can bring back any more worldly influences for you. We made some lovely connections with some of the locals, such as Youssef who was extremely helpful to us, and even took his motorbike up into the Atlas mountains to purchase pure Argan oil pressed straight from the nut. A lot of the argan oils that are sold in the markets and souks in Morocco are not pure. Buying pure in the UK is almost impossible, and they are extremely diluted. Keep an eye out for our Pure Argan oils to be released at some point in the future.
Morocco also produces lovely artifacts from Thuya wood, a tree exclusive to Morocco and the Atlas mountains. The praise goes to not the trunk, but the burl buried in the ground. It has a lovely pine scent and adorable swirl patterns in its grain. See our Thuya items here.
I am also very proud to introduce our new product line to the retail shelves back at home here in the UK, back by popular demand, the Hamsa hand keyrings. A universal sign of protection, power and strength that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. Known as the Hand of Fatima in Islam and Hand of Miriam in Judaism, it protects against against the evil eye and and all negative energies.
So thank you (or shkran شكرًا in Arabic) for reading our travel stories and coming with us on this journey together. But more so, thank you for supporting us, which in turn helps us to support fellow artisans and craftsmen from all corners of the globe.