One of the world’s largest markets or souks. The souks are a bewildering labyrinth of thousands of craftsmen and shop keepers selling their wares in narrow passageways.
A trip to the souks is part history lesson and part overwhelming experience for your senses, with vibrant colors, exotic smells, chaos, and many things you probably will see for the first time. Everything is sold here – vegetables, spices, olives, meats, medicines, perfumes, bags, clothes, baskets, shawls, carpets, shoes, lanterns, and antiques – but not in a traditional American or European way.
Historically the souks of Marrakesh were divided into retail areas for particular goods such as leather, carpets, metalwork, and pottery. We found these divisions still roughly exist, but with significant overlap.
Take your camera, as this is the place for unique photos.
Begin with photos of the olive souk, jam-packed with different kinds of olives. How does this compare to the olive selection you have at your grocery store?
The potters’ souk is crammed full of brightly-colored pots, pans, and tagines. There are “Kodak Moment” photo surprises at every turn –bright spices piled high, medicine shops with hundreds of concoctions, brightly-colored glassware, brightly color woven kaftans, handcrafted bags and shoes.
This is not America or Europe, so feast your eyes of the dazzling array of colors, goods and shops!
Colorful spices pilled high. This is not the rack of 1 – 2 ounce glass jar spice found at your neighborhood supermarket.
They had an amazing selection of fresh vegetables and fruit.
After all the food stalls, it is time for Sandy to try her hand at making Moroccan bread in a wood burning oven.
As the day began to close, we headed back to our hotel: Palais Khum. Sandy had friends from her international book club who had recently stayed there and recommended it highly.
Palais Khum is a riad with eleven guest rooms. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. The word riad comes from the Arabian term for garden, “ryad”. The outside mud walls have no windows, so the entrance to these houses is a major transitional experience because the interior consists of courtyards, fountains, pools, trees, and lush vegetation around central atriums. Many riads have been recently restored as small hotels.
We were greeted by the gracious staff and offered cool mint tea to refresh ourselves from our journey.
The owner, Stefano Scaleri, came to give us a personal welcome. He is a charming Italian man and the ultimate host.
He personally designed and rebuilt the Palais, taking over four years. He proudly points out that this a “Palais”, not a traditional riad, because is considerably over 10,000 square feet. Every detail has been done with great style.
We relaxed in the patio gardens after a dip in the pool.
We have had a lot of fun learning about the traditional foods, the way they are cooked, and how they are served in these countries. It has been a great adventure.
The Ristorante at Palais Khum serves a variety of Moroccan, Mediterranean, and Italian dishes.
That evening we sat outside in the courtyard with subdued lighting and the stars above.
For us, the Palais Khum was better in many respects than 4 and 5 star hotels. Since it is a boutique hotel with only eleven rooms, there were no crowds. All the hotel staff from the maids to the front desk and the waiters all seemed to know your name and were always very gracious. Many times, we felt as if we were in our own mansion or palace with our own staff, serving us like royalty.
It is ideally located in Dar El Bacha, considered in many prestigious touring guides, as the most fascinating street of the old town centre of the Marrakech medina.
As with Sandy’s international book club friends, we now recommend Palais Khum highly!
John and Sandy Dominy
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