The Souk in Marrakech

February 2006 Morocco Marakkech 045.JPG Visiting the Souk The Souk of Marrakech is a labyrinth where you soon lose direction as you get swirled up in the colors and excitement of a multitude of people and sights. With over five thousand 2 x 2 meter alcoves in which workers perform their artisan crafts like iron welding or sell various wares, it is easy to get lost or panic as it is a different world as you would imagine from Aladdin�s tale. Our first visit to the Souk was with a guide and a group of people and it was a gradual exposure even though Zoe-Pascale at one point got overwhelmed and Jean had to carry her. The sea of pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, donkey carts, noises and smells all converged into tiny potholed and muddy alleys, packed with wares while vendors tried to hassle, push, sell and vie for your attention. This was all going on as mopeds, pedestrians, vendors, artisians, women shopping, and tourists pushed through the crowds in the little alleyways that transversed the souk. The advantage of the small group tour was that we were easily taken to the different sections of the souk in which artisans make metal gates, fences, and lamps, leather artisans cut their leather for shoes and bags, fabrics are dyed different colors for scarves, shawls, and carpets, and more. Children start working very young in their craft helping their parents at least half if not for most of the day.

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The Moroccan government is trying to encourage all children to go to school to become literate, but many only attend up until the age of 12 as their parents have a saying, � learn a craft with your hands and you will stay with the family, or get a diploma and you leave with the diploma on your back for greener pastures� Enticing parents to support their childrens� education is a huge challenge, but one that the Moroccon government are taking on with great stead. In all, we found the Souk to be overwhelming in both positive and distressing ways. The vibrant energy, colors, and shapes touch every sense in your body deeply. The people seem to work well together in a communal way and feel proud of their beautiful crafts. On the other hand, they are aggressive sharks when it comes to selling their wares. Enticing you into their traps and antagonistically pushing themselves meanly until you feel obligated to buy to escape. There is no such thing as looking, but only mandatory buying. Once you look, they will yell and almost attack you if you decide not to buy an item. We were also surprised by the lack of negotiation and give and take we would find in other similar markets in the region. The prices to us were actually somewhat high and negotiating a lower price became so uncomfortable versus enjoyable, that you just gave in, walked away or stopped buying completely.   collage1.jpg

Suzanne Saxe-Roux