The Best Shopping Marrakech
The frenetic market of Djemaa el Fna is Marrakech’s most iconic attraction (shopping or otherwise), but there’s much more for shoppers to explore. From the concept store 33 Rue Marjoelle, where you’ll find all of Morocco’s up-and-coming designers, to the high-end shops on Rue Yves Saint Laurent, named for the iconic fashion designer who called Marrakech home, to more traditional shops, shopping Marrakech deserves a week of its own.
75 Derb Rahba Lakdima, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
If the Djemaa el Fna is the epicenter of Marrakech, the Rahba Lakdima—otherwise known as the Place des Épices, or Spice Traders Square—is surely the epicenter of the medina itself. Bursting with rambunctious energy and high-voltage color, the market is lined on one side by mysterious herbalists and spice traders selling everything from snakeskins to rose petals to ras el hanout (the famous Moroccan spice blend), and by carpet sellers on the other. Venture to the latter’s lair around 4 p.m. when sellers come down from the mountain villages, and you’ll be treated to the spectacle of them plying their trade with the professionals. And in the middle, heaps of woven baskets and woolen skullcaps are piled high. There’s no better place to sit and watch this daily theater unfold than at the Café des Épices, the first of several that have now opened there, but still our favorite for excellent coffee, fresh salads, sandwiches, and tagines.
33 Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
The city’s first concept store is the vision of Egyptian entrepreneur Yehia Abdelnour, a self-confessed interior design nut and global nomad who wanted to create a one-stop shop in which to showcase quality Moroccan-designed gifts, fashion, and housewares. When the store opened a few years back, Vogue declared it the Collette of North Africa, both in terms of the sleek interior and the goodies therein. And while Colette has come and gone, 33 now represents 90 or so independent artisans. Come here to buy cute tasseled djellabas (hooded robes for children and adults), quirky ceramic cactus platters (they look gorgeous piled high with citrus), beaten-brass jewelry, and Chabi Chic’s covetable gold-dipped coffee beakers. The adjacent café, with its modern Moroccan bistro dishes, juicy burgers, and freshly pressed juices, is justifiably popular with expats and tourists alike.
The gallery, boutique, and tearooms of Morocco’s most famous living artist, Hassan Hajjaj, is an essential stop for any art lovers staying in the city. Tucked away down a narrow alley behind the Rahba Lakdima (otherwise known as the Place des Épices), it’s like stumbling into a jewel box filled with pop-art treasures. Hajjaj made a name for himself with a series of photographs titled Kech Angels, which depicted local girls on mopeds dressed in eye-popping robes. The collection has been exhibited all over the world in such illustrious venues as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Institut des Cultures d’Islam in Paris, but nowhere beats enjoying the work on home turf. While you’re there, treat yourself to his iconic recycled home and fashion pieces, such as a sardine-can lantern, a pair of babouches (Moroccan slippers) cut from a flour sack, or a stool from an oil drum. And if you hang around for a pot of mint tea in the courtyard, you might even meet the man himself.
It’s taken awhile for Marrakech‘s industrial quarter to establish itself as home to the best design workshops and ateliers in the city. It’s easy enough to get to, but petit taxis tend not to frequent its wide, blocky avenues, so getting back into town can be a pain. (Securing a driver who is prepared to wait or come back for you helps.) That said, it’s well worth the trip to shop with local tastemakers for furniture and housewares at flagship stores. Don’t miss Chabi Chic for groovy pottery sets; Le Magasin Générale for bigger items, such as the midcentury modern chairs and sideboards; and LRNCE for hand-painted vases that merge cubism with artisan savoir faire. Take in the ateliers of textile and garment makers, too, such as Angie Linen for gorgeous bespoke bed linens, and Salima Abdel Wahab and Topolina for a contemporary spin on traditional kaftans and must-have housecoats. Stop at Le Zinc, the neighborhood’s buzziest lunchtime bistro, before hitting Voice Art Gallery to peruse superbly curated exhibitions of North African and Middle Eastern contemporary artists.
N8, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
The city’s most emblematic daily flea market occupies a couple of old hangars on the road to the Palmeraie. Design-loving Marrakchis and their Western counterparts have haunted it for years, looking for bargains with which to decorate their homes. One section is dedicated exclusively to ancient cedarwood doors and wrought-iron windows—all of which can be shipped for a price—but it’s the smaller shops that offer up the real gems. Every time La Mamounia has been renovated, for example, much of its furniture and accessories end up at Souk el Khemis; it’s said locally that nearly everyone has some piece of memorabilia or other from the hotel in their home. These days it’s rather less reliable in terms of finding something fabulous, and prices have increased as traders have gotten wise to the desirability of tulip tables and chairs, butterfly chairs, and cowry-shell lanterns. But those prepared to dig deep and haggle hard are still likely to come away with a gem or three. Indeed, the main problem with spending a morning at Souk el Khemis is the ensuing need to buy a house to put it all in.
144 Arset Aouzal Rd, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
There isn’t a houseware buyer in the world who doesn’t whisper of the treasures that can be unearthed in this Aladdin’s cave of a store spread over several floors and houses in Dar el Bacha. Alas, these days Mustapha Blaoui is probably Marrakech’s worst-kept secret, but it’s no less magical for that. Whether your preference is for a fuchsia-colored juju hat (all the rage for giving a pop of color to a boring old wall), bone-handled cutlery, a silver teapot and engraved glasses, a chrome-plated art deco mirror, giant beaded heads from the Cameroon, or Syrian furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl, chances are Mustapha has it. Even if it doesn’t, you can easily lose yourself in this labyrinth of rooms for several hours, swept up in the magic of the Orient.
Rue de la Liberté, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
Often described as a “Little Paris,” Gueliz has grown into itself in recent years with many of the city’s designers and restaurant owners choosing to set up their flagship fronts there. The Rue de la Liberté is now shoulder to shoulder with fashionable restaurants such as Kechmara for live music, cold beers, and killer burgers; Bistrot Le Loft for platters of French cheese and charcuterie; and the swanky new Asian Resto-Lounge for Chinese steamed dumplings, sushi, and Thai classics; as well as the wine bar Le 68. There’s a Caudalie Spa for great pep-up facials and some must-visit boutiques for snagging made-in-Morocco gifts. Try Lalla, just across the junction at Boulevard el Mansour Eddahbi, for must-have handbags, weekenders, and clutches; Patisserie Al Jawda for delectable Moroccan pastries to take home; and Sidi Marrakech for men’s tailoring. Cross over the main boulevard Mohammed V, and you’ll hit Atika for Tod’s-style suede loafers—brilliant for traveling—in a kaleidoscope of colors. Then hit the Rue Vieux Marrakchi, home to stalwart Moor, for natty embroidered kaftans and cushions, and the envelope-pushing David Bloch Gallery, which showcases the best contemporary urban artists from North Africa.
When in Marrakech it’s very difficult to resist the urge to shop, especially when it comes to carpets and textiles; the city probably has the best selection in all of Morocco. If you have nerves of steel, then the carpet souk on the Rahba Lakdima is a good place to start, but be warned that the traders in these parts are rapacious. If you prefer a rather less intense experience, head for Soufiane’s flagship store near Dar el Bacha, where you can view your carpets in the serene environment of a tranquil riad and then retire to the very sexy green-tiled rooftop for a glass of mint tea. For increasingly popular supersize Tuareg reed-and-leather mats, go to Kulchi (by appointment only), which has an extraordinary collection from the owner’s travels through the south. For gorgeous cotton bed linens and towels trimmed with delicate Marrakchi embroidery in muted shades—think aubergine, dove gray, and charcoal—Valerie Barkowsi’s (next door to Mustapha Blaoui) is the place to head.
Passage Prince Moulay Rachid
Described by writer Tahir Shah as the “greatest show on Earth,” no visit to Marrakech would be complete without a visit to the famous night market on the Djemaa el Fna. Arrive before sunset and park yourself at one of the various cafés with terraces overlooking the square to watch performers set up; then venture into the fray in search of adventure. Silk-clad acrobats, wide-eyed storytellers, sly snake charmers, jangling belly dancers, and capricious monkey handlers all emerge from the darkness, ringing the edge of the food stalls with their own special brand of entertainment. When you tire of the heckling, prowl the market in search of good things to eat: bite-size morsels of grilled lamb rubbed in cumin, sardines fried in chermoula, peppery snails, and sheep’s heads for the brave. Then nudge up alongside a family of locals at the table and settle in for the feast. If you’re nervous about going it alone, you can sign up for a food tour with Canadian tour guide and all-round good egg Mandy Sinclair of Tasting Marrakech; she’ll help you find the best stalls while introducing you to the secrets and delights of traditional Moroccan street food.