From swords, antique silver and spare parts of anything, to some of the world's most colourful and fragrant spices; a visit to the Arab/Berber market was more than a sense stimulating experience.
|Early Morning at the Market
Said’s warning to watch out for pick pockets was still running through my head as we were lured across the duel carriageway towards a mass of bodies, bicycles and bellowing stall holders. Had we paid more attention to two men leading a calf along the road, it may have prepared us for the sense stimulating experiences we were about to encounter as we entered Taroudant’s largest Berber and Arab market.
|Fresh Veg at the Market
Overnight, the wasteland beside the desiccated tributary of the River Souss had transformed into a market the size of a small Moroccan town. Although busy, there was no sense of urgency and there seemed plenty of time for the men to stand around and chat.
From their makeshift stalls of ripped tarpaulin and angled wooden sticks or the back of an old truck, sellers vociferated as we walked by, while others squatted silently with their goods in mounds on the ground. Young boys milled around with wheelbarrows made from reclaimed wheels, wooden boxes and some skilful welding, as bicycles and noisy mopeds, laden with produce, scurried around the overcrowded labyrinth.
The weekly market was the place to purchase all those flavours that when cleverly blended gave Moroccan food its wonderful taste. Rows of brightly coloured mini-mountains of turmeric, saffron, cinnamon and ginger next to tree-sized pyramids of oranges, carrots and green beans became an arena filled with a heady aroma of cooking, mixed with herbs and spices and unfortunately, the fumes from 2-stroke moped engines.
We stood out as tourists, attracted opportunistic pick pockets that followed us around the market and were watched by every pair of eyes in the male dominated souk where even a discreetly dressed western woman was an alien sight. Smiles however, were returned and a toothless Berber beckoned us over to his stall of unpriced nuts, dates and other dried fruits. Upturned wooden fruit boxes covered with newspaper made an adequate table from which he offered us some freshly brewed, hot sweet tea in a glass clouded with grime. It would have been impolite to refuse.
Live meat was sold in the form of goats, sheep and calves. Transported from outlying villages that morning, the goats lay on the ground; still and helpless on their sides with their front and back legs tied together at the ankles while the sheep and calves were free to stand but tethered. Intrigued, I watched a buyer purchase some fresh meat and carry his goat away with its bound feet over his shoulder, leaving the goat dangling like a leather bag by his side.
As we emerged from the lively atmosphere of the market, slightly disorientated and battle worn to colours, noise and scents, one last vision took us by surprise. On arrival, the market had commanded all our attention and somehow we’d failed to notice the mighty rugged peaks of the Atlas Mountains as they rose from the vanishing point of the hazed duel carriageway and engulfed the panorama.
We travelled with Naturally Morocco for this tailor made cultural experience of Morocco