Seven days a week, no matter how early you rise in the morning, there’s already somone in the souqs ready to greet you. Marrakech is the original city and Medina (old town) has been home to master craftsmen for centuries. Pleasantries should always precede price inquiries, and it is acceptable to bargain with good will. No matter what price you’re quoted, counter with half of what you’re willing to pay and work up to an acceptable price from there. Shopping in this vibrant city is more than a transaction.
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When locals refer to the souks, they mean the maze of market streets that stretch north from the Djemaa el-Fna. The main thoroughfares are Souq Semmarine and Souq el-Kebir: originally dedicated to leatherwork, they now sell all manner of things. Remember that the prices here are very high and that many of the products can also be found in the specialist. quissariat Further north, you will find covered markets. Particularly worth a visit is Rahba Kehdima, the apothecaries square, which is ringed with multi-coloured spice stalls. Also of interest is the Creiee Berbere for carpets, Souq Haddadine, where you’ll find the blacksmiths at work, and the Leatherworkers Souk near Place Ben Youssef.
If you’ve been looking around your riad with an enviable eye, wondering where the proprietor sourced their fabulous furniture and decorative items, wonder no more. Almost everyone in Marrakech has been to Mustapha’s warehouse of wonders in Bab Doukkala where the cavernous rooms are filled with furniture, lamps, glassware, rugs and antiques from all over North Africa. Take your time browsing with a cup of mint tea and let the sales staff know what you’re after and they’ll dig out treasures for hidden corners. And don’t worry about fitting it in your luggage, they can ship anywhere in the world with a reliable agent.
Contact: 00 212 524 385 240; facebook.com/blaouimustapha
Valerie Barkowski, a globetrotting Belgian designer has opened her concept store a few doors below Mustaphablaoui. Unassumingly, you will enter a large space in slate-grey that feels like a New York loft. The moody palette highlights her soft white linens and fluffy towels. They are trimmed with delicate embroidery as well her signature mini pompoms. Recently, her line has been expanded to include locally-made leather wallets and bags in the same muted, earthy colors she likes in her other lines. Dar Kawa.
Contact: 00 212 624 494 001; valeriebarkowski.com
Nyora Nemiche, an Algerian-French designer, is one of the new breeds of Medina artists, reinventing traditional crafts with cool, contemporary eyes. Her tiny shop, which is located in Le JardinHer stylish range of silk and Cotton Kaftans and Abayas is sold at a restaurant. These gorgeous beauties have been purchased by a number of celebrities, including Sharon Stone, Monica Bellucci and Juliette Binoche. You can dress it up with one of her beaded belts or a velvety-soft, leather bag or faux-lizard clutch. She recently added a signature scent to the range that is based on a seductive ord base.
Max & Jan
If you’re wondering what constitutes Medina streetwear then head to Max & Jan, where Belgian Jan Pauwels and Casablanca-born Maximilien Scharl turn out soft drape dresses, slouchy pants and velveteen bomber jackets that would look right at home in Ibiza or St Tropez. The look is cool and understated, with subtle embroidered detailing and graphic prints. The shop has three floors and sells menswear and childrenswear. It also has a ground floor showroom that stocks home accessories. Marrakshi Life’s cool handwoven outfits are included in the sale.
Contact: 00 212 524 336 406; maxandjan.com
Al Nour is a non-profit that offers chic shopping with an added feel-good factor. All the clothes and textiles here – including the cutest range of children’s clothes and fine tableware – are finely embroidered on top-quality natural fabrics by a team of talented women with disabilities, who work in a large, light-filled workshop behind the shop. Proceeds from each item – a natty silk shirt and linen tunic dress with embroidered trim for instance – go to pay for professional training in accounting, day care facilities and much-needed health insurance for the employees. Prices are fixed here, but there’s no charge for alterations and all home textiles can be made to measure.
Isabelle Topolina was trained as a pattern maker for couture. She really found her groove when she moved to Marrakech. Fashion-cognosti adore her elegant tassled loafers, even though she has a nice collection of easy-to wear dresses and relaxed peasant tops. Each one is unique because she covers them in vibrant wax-printed fabrics from Senegal. At No. 114, her son, Pierre Henry, turns out an equally eye-catching men’s line of printed coats, pyjamas and Bermuda shorts.
Contact: 00 212 679 726 026; topolina.shop
Gallery: Cindy Crawford’s $13 million mansion (Lovemoney).
Having trained at the International School of Fashion in Amsterdam and Central St Martins in London, it’s no surprise that boutique owner Meriem Rawlings’s womenswear collection is super cool and translates easily from the medina to the big city. Meriem draws inspiration from her Moroccan heritage to create beautifully embroidered kaftan-style or button-down dresses. These can be worn over leggings with boots or for more casual occasions. Other staples include three quarter length wool boucle, woollen jackets, silk tunics tops, embossed Leather biker jackets and fluffy batwing sweaters.
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In a city full of carpet dealers, one stands head-and-shoulders above the rest, and that’s Soufiane Zarib. The Soufiane brothers, who have been in business for three generations, not only source and sell the finest Berber Beni Ouirain carpets but also make exquisite bespoke pieces. Don’t be put off by the gaudy entrance to the shop, inside is a vast Saadian-era riad which showcases their stock of over 6,000 pieces. Many pieces have a modernist look with bold colours and geometric patterns. They also have a showroom at 16 Riad El Arous which is a short walk from Dar El Bacha palace.
Contact: 00 212 615 285 690; facebook.com/soufiane.zarib
Opening hours: By appointment only
Riad Yima is the brainchild of acclaimed Marrakshi pop-artist Hassan Hajjaj and serves as both a gallery for his work and a thriving café. Everything you see, touch, eat, and use here is for sale, including the Coke-crate benches in vibrant colors, as well as the lanterns made of sardine-tin. Pride of place though goes to Hassan’s provocative photography, which places traditional Middle Eastern iconography within modern consumerist culture. Take a look at his series of ‘Kesh Women’Standing astride mopeds draped with Gucci scarves and footballers feet wearing Nike-branded socks, No wonder he’s been dubbed the Andy Warhol of Marrakech.
Contact: 00 212 524 391 987
This hip line of ceramics is the brainchild of Vanessa di Mino and Nadia Noël. Taking their cue from traditional Moroccan tableware the duo have updated ubiquitous tagine dishes, plates, mint tea cups and teapots in a palette of sunny colours and contemporary graphic designs inspired by Morocco’s zellij (mosaic) tiling. You can also find raffia tablemats with colorful pompoms and utensils featuring striations handles. All items are lovingly handcrafted and microwave-proof. There are several branches: on Jemaa el-Fnaa, on the ground floor of Nomad restaurant, at Beldi Country Club, and in the Sidi Ghanem Industrial District.
Ville Nouvelle (Gueliz)
To find some of Marrakech’s most original creations, make a beeline for this tiny boutique, where self-taught Moroccan-Israeli fashionista Artsi Ifrach showcases his wild style. Although the collection looks great on the couture runways, the brightly embroidered jackets as well as the bright applique shirts can be worn separately and add a rock-n’roll element to any outfit. If the flamboyant designer is in residence you’re in for even more of a treat: Artsi is one of Marrakesh’s most interesting creatives and an insightful commentator. Purchase a piece here and you’ll take away a unique piece of the cultural conversation.
Stylish Moro, the new concept store, is from Mohcyn & Mouad who founded The Moroccans natural cosmetics brand. This stylish boutique and restaurant is located on Rue Yves St Laurent. It stocks their excellent natural skincare brand as well as a variety of contemporary ceramics, jewellery and accessories from small-scale Moroccan makers. Enjoy a healthy lunch of aubergine, lemon, and basil pie, then browse the cool collection of babahomme leather loungewear, playful eyewear by Baars x Gogosha, and stunning embroidered, lace dresses by Hind Lamtiri.
Leatherwork has always been one of Marrakech’s signature crafts and Atika takes the art to a whole new level with a mind-boggling array of candy-coloured loafers. Soft as butter and not dissimilar to designer brands like Tod’s and Car Shoe, this is a must-have Marrakech purchase. Some customers have been known to buy their favourite shoe in 10 different colours, and with prices hovering around £75 a pair, they’re an absolute bargain. The new ranges include natty sandals, trainers, and even trainers. Although they don’t have a website, ask them nicely and they’ll provide you with an email address for personal orders.
Contact: 00 212 524 439 576
SOME – Slow Concept Store
This trendy concept store is located in a modernist villa in New Town. It showcases contemporary Moroccan design in a natural setting. Step through the six stylishly furnished rooms and you’ll find Casabeldi furniture, NO.M lamps, Kessy glassware, dozens of cushions and carpets, and a basket bar where you can customise your own baskets. On-site there’s also a gourmet delicatessen where you can pick up spices, honey, olive oil and amlou (almond paste). After browsing for a while, you can take a break and enjoy tea on the patio.
Contact: 00 212 524 433 372; facebook.com/someslowconcept
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-7pm; closed Sundays
One of the highlights of the new Yves St Laurent Museum is its first-class bookshop, the design of which is inspired by Saint Laurent’s first boutique, which opened in Paris in 1966. It has the same Noguchi lamps and curvaceous till desks, and is finished in glossy amber lacquer reminiscent of the designer’s Opium perfume bottle. Here you’ll find a fabulous array of books on fashion, art and Morocco, as well as films and books that inspired the couturier throughout his career. Some of the posters and postcards are fun, making them great souvenirs.
Laurence Leenaert, an artist with a big heart, and a passion for design, is Laurence Leenaert. After a trip in the Moroccan desert, she decided to ship herself and her sewing machines off to start her own lifestyle brand in Marrakech. It was a bold move, but Leenaert’s inspired designs and now thriving studio have proved the decision was a brilliant one. Her modernist designs, which are influenced by Picasso, are now realized in textiles, leatherwork, ceramics and textiles. All handmade in Marrakech. Ceramics are highly sought-after for their bright colours and intricate shapes.