Marrakech, by Sean Phillips

In my very rushed research on what to do in Marrakech, visiting the souks came up in every guide.   The souks are crazy markets packed with so many vendors and goods that you get lost inside of them.   But the souks don’t sell everything and are just a part of the network of tiny stores and vendors in the city.   In a city where work is scarce, entrepreneurs are everywhere.    Everything (even directions) is a commodity and every nook in the city is an opportunity for capitalism.   My favorite walk in the city was a blind ramble, the best kind of walk, where we ended up on a narrow street lined by every sort of store imaginable.

Here are some of my favorites:

The one chair barbershop, open at midnight.

A shop with three payphones and nothing else, no people, no cash register

A “store” consisting of an open cupboard attached to the outside wall of a building on the street.

Tiny general stores packed floor to ceiling which either sell everything or sell only one thing.

A donkey-drawn cart selling watermelons late at night.   These carts were everywhere and it was fun to watch them navigate main streets with the motorcycles, cars, and busses.

A Berber in J’maa al Fna square selling photographs with him.  This square is always packed with performers and food stalls, especially at night.   In fact, my first experience of Marrakech, fresh off of the bus, was being assaulted by a monkey in this same square.  A too-friendly Moroccan shook my hand, but instead of letting go, he held on as his monkey climbed across, rubbing his butt along my arm as he tried to sit on my head.   I got away by claiming that I had no camera and thus no pictures to pay him for – a lie made harder by a friend snapping pictures the whole time.

A juice vendor selling juice from a shop just barely big enough for him to stand in.

And my favorite, a tiny store that instead of having goods had several men lounging on pillows on the floor around midnight.   We saw several similar “stores,” but, like many times in this city, I had no idea what the fuck was going on.



Sean Phillips has the gentlest and greenest thumb in Berkeley.

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