If you only have time to visit one of Marrakech’s many attractions, then that attraction should definitely be Souk Semmarine which is located to the north of the city’s main square, Jemaa al-Fnaa.
Quite often, it can be difficult trying to decide which Marrakech attractions you should visit if you only have a few days in the city, but with Souk Semmarine, there really isn’t much to think about because it is one attraction you really do not want to miss.
Also, don’t only set aside an hour or two for visiting this site because you will almost certainly lose track of the time when you are here.
While an hour or two may be adequate for most Marrakech tourist attractions, Souk Semmarine can easily keep you entertained for much longer.
Visiting Marrakech’s Souk Semmarine
Souk Semmarine is essentially a term that refers to the entire souk (market) area near to Jemaa al-Fna which has served as Marrakech’s main square ever since the city was first founded.
The square itself is an attraction not to be missed, and every effort should be made to visit the square at different times of the day because the entertainment and activity that takes place there changes throughout the day. For this reason, it is a good idea to visit Souk Semmarine and Jemaa al-Fanaa on the same day.
What works best for most people, and especially for those who are not accustomed to the very warm weather which is typical in Marrakech, is to visit both these areas quite early in the morning.
Start at the square, and then once it starts becoming too hot for you, make your way over to Souk Semmarine where you will at least benefit from some shade.
A Sensory Overload
As you enter the souk, be prepared for a complete sensory overload. The combination of sounds, sights and smells are enough to leave even the most hardened of travelers feeling totally mesmerized.
Souk Semmarine is the largest souk district in the whole of Morocco, and it astonishing to think that traders and merchants have been trading and selling their wares here for the passed 1,000 years already.
It is also astonishing to think that many of the goods you see being sold at the souk have also more or less remained unchanged during all those years. In fact, many of the items on display are 100% identical to items that were being sold and used hundreds of years ago.
To this very day, Souk Semmarine continues to be Marrakech’s main and busiest shopping area, and it is a place which most visitors instantly fall in love with.
The atmosphere inside the souk is enhanced even more by the fact that all the stalls are dimly lit as a result of the board-covered ceilings that were installed in order to shield vendors and shoppers from the merciless Moroccan sun.
Entering Souk Semmarine is like entering a magical and mystical world which is unlike anything you have ever experienced before.
Despite being shielded from the sun, temperatures in the souk can often become unbearable for people who are accustomed to cooler weather. This is one of the reasons why many visitors choose to leave the souk once the temperature starts to rise and then return in the late afternoon.
In fact, if your schedule only allows for one visit to the souk, then we would recommend that you visit in the late afternoon. Not only is it cooler, but as the sun begins to set it also takes on a whole new appearance due to the different shades of light being emitted from countless lights and lanterns.
Evenings at Souk Semmarine
The stalls that specialize in lamps are virtually irresistible in the evenings, and you will see both locals and tourists being drawn to these stalls just as moths are drawn to a candle.
Once these lamps are turned on, their intricate designs really come to life. Don’t forget, making lamps, lampshades and lanterns has been an art form in Morocco throughout the country’s history, a trade and skill which is handed down from one generation to the next.
To Haggle or Not To Haggle
When you shop at the souks, should you haggle with vendors in the hope of securing a better deal, or should you just pay whatever amount they are asking for? You should definitely haggle, and in fact, it is actually expected of you.
While the concept of haggling may be strange or even alien to many visitors, and particularly western tourists, it is a deep-rooted way of life in Morocco and many other countries for that matter.
One would think that Moroccan vendors at the souks would be very pleased with tourists who simply pay whatever price is quoted, but from a Moroccan trader’s point of view, that would be incredibly boring.
For Moroccans, shopping and haggling go hand in hand, and despite many tourists being hesitant at first, many soon start to enjoy haggling for bargains. It puts the fun back into shopping, and when a deal is struck, both parties usually feel as though they’ve done well.
The vendor may be glad because he or she got a tiny bit more than they would have from a streetwise Moroccan shopper, while the tourist walks away thinking they got an exceptional deal.
In short, haggling can really be great fun, but one should always remember that it should be done politely, and with a lighthearted sort of approach. It is best to see it as being a bit of a game, and if you can do that, your experience is going to be so much more enjoyable, not only at Souk Semmarine, but also elsewhere in Morocco.
The stalls at Souk Semmarine typically start opening for business between 09h00 and 10h00, and they generally close at around 19h00, at which point many of the traders will go to eat at Jemaa al-Fnaa. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on a visit to Marrakech’s souk district when you visit.
Explore the Best of Morocco Your Way!
If there are only two places you really cannot afford to miss during your stay in Marrakech, they are Jemaa al-Fnaa and Souk Semmarine. Both of these sites, and particularly the souk district, will give you the most authentic Moroccan experience you could ever hope for.
Because of its massive appeal and popularity, you will find that a visit to the souk is featured in many of our Morocco tour packages and also our multi-destination Egypt and Morocco tours. However, if it is not featured in your preferred tour itinerary, we can easily add it to the itinerary if you ask us to.
Alternatively, you can simply visit the souk on your own in the evenings after your other tours and excursions have ended for the day.