Mini guide to shopping in Marrakesh
Two women stroll through the colourful leather market of Souq Semmarine in Marrakesh. (Michael Heffernan)
Nowhere else can shopping be so enlightening than the souqs of Marrakesh, where artisans make their crafts in front of you, shopkeepers greet you as a long lost friend and mint tea is permanently on tap.
Fashion and beauty
You’ll find an abundance of fragrant bath products at the charming L’Art du Bain Savonnerie Artisanale. Organic, artisanal soaps cost from around £2.50 (fixed price) and gifts come sprinkled with rosebuds and star anise, and tied with raffia (00 212 668 44 59 42; Souq Lebbadine, nr Souq Sebbaghine; 10am–7pm).
Find the green door by the Mouassine Fountain, ring the doorbell and head up narrow stairs before heading into Atelier Moro, the city’s top-secret style showcase. Choose from cotton shifts embroidered with good luck symbols, Lalla Mika’s whimsical pompom necklaces made from recycled plastic bags, and arresting graphic red-and-white slippers (00 212 524 39 16 78; 114 Place de Mouassine; by appointment only).
It usually takes decades to earn the title maâlem (master craftsman), but young Masroure Abdillah earns the title the hard way, pounding wool with savon noir (black soap) into felt. He then moulds it into seamless slippers, baubles for necklaces and sturdy tote bags. Masroure’s felt flowers make brooches, hatpins and everlasting bouquets (00 212 664 81 72 54; 53 Souq Lebbadine, Mouassine near Souq; 9am–7pm).
For quality carpets without the haggling, head for the fixed prices and easygoing attitude of Ben Rahal Carpets in Nouvelle Ville. The small, careful selection may leave you spoiled for choice. Get informed about antique Berber rugs and realistic carpet prices, and avoid buyer’s remorse in the souqs later (00 212 524 43 32 73; 28 Rue de la Liberté, 9am–1pm and 3pm–8pm, Mon–Sat).
Spruce up your dining table with handcrafted table accessories from Mademoiselle Ibtissam’s Original Design, between Riads Zitoun and Kasbah. Find red tagine presentation dishes, linen tablecloths with pompoms, twin mini tagines for salt and pepper, tasselled silk napkin holders and more. The fixed prices are a bargain (00 212 524 38 03 61; 47 Place des Ferblantiers, near Badi Palace; 9.30am– 12.30pm and 2.30pm–7.30pm).
Atlas Abdelghani is a Bob Marley fan, as you can see from the posters he’s framed with recycled tyres, with one word embedded over Marley’s head: ‘Michelin’. Creations Pneumatiques is a recycling maâlem with a sense of humour and serious ingenuity – crafts range from photo frames to man-bags and treasure chests with air valves as drawer pulls (00 212 666 09 17 46; 110 Rue Riad Zitoun el-Kedim; 8am–10pm).
Local women artisans have set up Cooperative Artisanale des Femmes de Marrakesh and made connections with other co-ops whose work they sell at low, fixed prices. Products include thuya wood bowls from Essaouira, Safi tea sets and small Middle Atlas rugs (67 Souq Kchachbia; 10am–1pm and 3.30pm–7pm Sat–Thu).
Musicians make pilgrimages to the lute-makers’ Abdelatif Instruments to watch beautiful music in the making, and here you can glimpse lutes, tambourines, gimbris (two- stringed banjos) and ribabs (single-stringed fiddles) being carved. Since you’re buying direct, you can customise your instrument and get a better deal, too (86 Souq Kchachbia, near Souq Haddadine; 9.30am–6pm).
As you might guess from the deep-purple floor and space-age orange ceramic tea sets, Jamade is not a traditional craft shop. The stock is modern and prices are fixed – featured local designs include coasters embroidered with Berber baraka (good vibes) by Tigmi women’s cooperative (00 212 524 42 90 42; 1 Place Douar Graoua, off Rue Riad Zitoun el-Jedid; 10am–2.30pm and 4pm–7pm, Sat–Thu).
BA, easyJet, Ryanair and Thomson fly from Birmingham, Manchester, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted to Menara airport, four miles southwest of the Medina (from £130). If it’s your first time at your riad or hotel, arrange an airport transfer to take you there so you don’t get lost. Walking is the best way to get around the Medina, which is mostly closed off to cars.
Where to stay
Travellers will want to put down roots at Riad Magellan, a six-bedroom riad where steamer trunks, antique globes and 1930s fans bring back the glamour of Art Deco Marrakesh. A terrace hot tub and deep-tissue massages will soothe economy-airfare kinks, and kind staff make this well-hidden, but ideally located retreat (in the heart of the Mouassine) feel like home (62 Derb el Hammam; from £60).
Riad al Massarah is a feel-good hideaway in the Medina that maximises sunlight, minimises eco-impact and supports a local children’s charity. There’s a small pool and a terrace ideal for taking breakfast (26 Derb Jedid; from £75).
Dar Ayniwen is a family-run villa in the Palmeraie with eight suites opening on to the gardens. On offer are a hammam, sauna, spa, heated pool, free shuttle and free cookery courses (Tafrata, Palmeraie de Marrakesh; from £170).