First, I need to make a confession. I’ve never been a shopaholic, and a visit to the mall is not a synonym of pleasure for me. Crowds of loud people barging through the alleys, overabundance of poor-quality products, heat… thanks but no, thanks. I’d rather order online. And I’d much rather go to a cosy place like an antique shop, but unfortunately second-hand shops don’t really qualify as such peaceful oases. In Poland, at least, because in Italy it’s entirely different. Anyway, I never would’ve thought that these things I detest so much would make me feel so much at home… at a Moroccan market.
And here comes another confession. My first encounter with a souk (Moroccan market) wasn’t all that pleasant. There is a souk in every medina (I’ll write more on medinas in the next post). It’s one of the elements contributing to old town’s singular feel. Picture tens (or even thousands as in Fes, which boasts the biggest city area without a car in the world) of narrow, winding streets filled with tall buildings, a merchant’s stand in each of them. They sparkle with colors, entrance with patterns and shapes, enchant with frangrances… You can find virtually anything at a Moroccan market. There’s vegetables and fruit, varieties of meat, even more varieties of spices and olives, beautiful carpets, kettles, glasses, ceramics, leather goods… I could go on and on, endlessly.
Of course there’s also one other feature – scores of people. Even rivers of people, sometimes! Seriously, we’ve been in one of them in Rabat, being moved along with its current. We felt like sardines in a can and normally I’d want to escape at once. But in Morocco my perspective changed. After I had gotten used to crowds filling the markets, merchants yelling incessantly and picking on you, a tourist, wandering around souks started to feel immensely satisfying. Or rather, what felt satisfying was looking at all the beautiful things I would have bought in an instant if not for our tight budget. Unfortunately, as our escapade was quite spontaneous and a bit reckless, I came back from Morocco only with a green leather handmade purse and… two magnets. A shame, I know. That’s why I promised myself to come back soon with a bigger budget and a bigger suitcase.
PS. It was an interesting experience to walk the shopping streets in Fes’s medina on Friday (holiday for Muslims). They were… empty. Virtually all of the stands were closed, providing a stark contrast to congestion and clatter we’ve encountered there a day before. Only in the evening part of them opened up, but still the impression of unusual space and quiet remained. I think I’ll never forget it.
Translation: Robert Mróz