To Souk or not to Souk

I’m always amazed at how I create infinate possibilities, and why should I be, theyre always there, waiting to be taken notice of!

Today I decided that after 2 days of heavy rain and cold, ‘I was gonna have me an adventure come rain or shine’. Having spent 2 days  huddled up in 4 layers of clothes and a hot water bottle enough was enough.

As you may have realised there is a lack of central heating in this lovely ancient city, but funnily enough layers have suited me fine, if I was in the UK now I’d be having a rant, maybe the cold is just different here, or I appreciate not needing the heat I’m used to.

Plan A if its raining a trip to the not so local sulermarket -about an hour away and 2 taxis – love it a convenience store thats not so convenint just to go and get some home comforts, coconut milk, some chocolate and some porridge to keep me warm, maybe not the choices I’d make in the uk but hey ho, going with the flow.

I was overjoyed when I saw the sunshining as I walked onto the terrace in the Dar that morning. At long last the sun was warming my bones and I could put plan B into action a trip to the souk in Meknes (named after the berber tribe of Miknasa that are originally from the Tunisian south ) and its Me

dina to take some photos, bliss it was just what I needed to lift my spirits.

2 taxis and there before me the largest gate in Morocco, Bab Mansour, opposite the place el Hadim. In the square in front of  the old  medina, where restauranteurs hussled for business, local gossip was exchanged in the coffee shops, and vendors sold there wares, of clay tagine pots and other house hold stuff.

Horses from the Fantasia stand dressed in their beautiful gear for tourists to have their photos taken. As I said before the locals have to be as creative as they can to earn a living in these countries.

As I enter the souk  I felt some disappointment as this market could have been anywhere, stalls packed with trainers, plastic fashion shoes, european clothes, as the country becomes more enticed by western clothing and rules are more relaxed.

To my eyes delight here in between every few stalls were spice ,  and date stalls with the the typical coulohrful peaks af amazing powdered colourful spices piled high in baskets.

I needed to get out of the main cobbled streets that are packed with locals becoming more taken in with the buying frenzy of the west –

All of a sudden I find myself in the sewing quarter where men of all ages are painstakingly embroidering by hand and some by machine the mosr exqusite designs on womens jelabas, for weddings and celebrations, rows and rows of machinists , men talking as they worked, laughing, joking, smoking almost like a scene from coronation street without the drama, though I’m sure theyr’re not immune to the odd heated discussion.

Rows of sewing machines for sale and rent, like in a carboot sale, threads being woven and gathered onto their little hand held winding machines; it was something else to watch these artisans at work.

Interesting thing was they were all watching me too as the foreigner in european clothes making her way through the quarter, with passing greetings of ‘bonjour’ they waved me off.

I find myself weaving through the miriad of cobbled narrow streets taking in the colours, smells and local banter of a traditional souk.

Where everything had its own specialist quarter:the rugs, the leather, the perfumes, street food and local arts. As this is not a tourist town it was lovely to stop and chat  with the local traiders as they tempted you in by saying “come feast your eyes”  “no pressure to buy” they were true to their word.

I walk around with awareness taking in anything that caught my eye.

The nooks and cranies are the most interesting, a beautiful door down an alley way painted blue, or a white stair well decorated with greenery, a mix and match of old and new that was so un- cooridinated it blended so well together or as my curiosity took me down an alley way where cloth weavers were at work making beautiful blankets and rugs, using ancient waving skills.

The story of the berber rugs brought great amusement as I was told that as a brides face was. Not seen by her husband before the wedding night he was presented with a beautiful hand woven rug which ideally would have taken years to make. If he liked the rug and the intricate work he would marry his bride. How true that was who knows.

I’m led into aladins cave, exquisite filigre lamp shades, multi coloured vivid carpets, beautifully decorated furniture in true moroccan style, hand crafted berber jewellry made from big semi precious colourful beads interlaced with silver.

A sheer delight just to sit and bathe in the colours and beautiful craftsmanship. Feeling at ease with tbe owner we chat about the shop and the beautiful pieces he has for sale, moroccan life and the many tourists that he keeps in touch with.

He asks me to put a good word for him in Lonely Pla

net, indeed it was such a lovely relaxed shop to be in. Then of course they pass business on to each other – so when i’m free would i like to visit his cousins spice shop (interesting how theyre all related).

Well for those of you that know me I do not need to be told twice when it comes to learning new things about foods, these piles of multi coloued heaps of spices intrigued me.

Before I know it rushed through a maze of streets, weaving through the cobbled streets as colours flash out the corners of my eyes, no time to look and see what peeked my interest when we finally arrive at a shop run by a womans cooperative Nisreen who owns the shop and runs the berber cooperative greets me with open arms and I’m so welcomed.

We instantly hit it off as we discuss argan oil and its production, healing berber herbs which libe the walls of her shop, the mixes of spices, 15 . Of them I think for fish, then theres a 9 spice a 24 spice a 35 spice and the queen of all spice mixes the 45 spuce mix for their local broad bean soup Harira that is the magic bullet healing a bad stomach or flu, and a good all round pick me up served for breakfast or before bed.

I ask about her products for sale and what I have found here as when they like you they tell you what is good and wont give you anything rubbish. They will even knock down the printed price considerably but hey who knows. We only have our own intuition to tell us that.

By nO

w Nisreen and I have become friends and she insists offering me a delicious concoction of herbs which they call berber tea or berber whikey – a local joke as they drink lots of it and no alcohol.

We exchange conversations about life and food and as our friendship quickly blossoms  I’m invited for tagine at her home on my next visit.

It’s time to leave but not before  Im introduced to the moroccan craftshop next door that sells the traditional silver thread beaten onto blackened bronze and after being offered a moroccan price for a bracelet how could I say no, to their hospitality.

Before long I find myself on the main street refusing a carriage ride as it was getting late and the supermarket was still on the cards.

I wonder what adventure I would have had ad I said yes…. ill never know

But I was happy armed with some berber tea leaves, some natual berber perfume with no chemicals what more could a girl ask for – oh and some “good quality” kohl with an assurance of no lead. Well lets hope ….. !!!

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