10 Feb Medina Life Today
Life for many residents in the medina continues much as it has for generations. Children still take the daily bread to the local communal oven to bake. Everything you need for life from fresh produce to computers and cellphones can be bought here. And donkeys and mules are a common form of transport for all the traditional and modern goods.
The Marrakech Photography Museum’s exhibition includes interesting photos of Marrakech in late 1800s early 1900s where the Koutoubia and other buildings around Jamaa El Fna are very recognizable from how they look today. The souks have also not changed a lot – there are just motorbikes and jeans now in addition to the jellabas (traditional clothing for men and women) and donkey carts that there were then and are still now.
Jamaa El Fna is still the centre of activity in the medina and, especially at night, is the main attraction in Marrakech for locals and visitors from around Morocco and the world. There are many food stalls where you can eat everything from french fries to snails to sheep’s heads. The space that is wide open during the day becomes full of crowds around all the musicians, snake charmers, and carnival-type games. Although fewer in number these days, storytellers practicing their ages-old art still attract the largest crowds, and even if you don’t understand Arabic are still very entertaining to watch.
The souks emanating from the main square are packed with traditional handcrafts for sale – jewel-coloured leather shoes and bags, traditional clothing in every colour and material, beautiful lamps, every type of rug and carpet from all over Morocco, spices, Argan oil products, silver jewellery and much, much more. Tucked in alleyways between the main souks are the more local shops selling modern clothes – lots of jeans and long skirts and the ubiquitous fluffy women’s pyjamas that are perfectly acceptable as street wear as well as sleepwear. Bargaining for purchases is the norm, which can be intimidating for some people, but Moroccans are very welcoming and adaptable to the needs of all their visitors so there are also many ‘fixed price’ shops in the medina now.
The rhythm of medina life is determined by daylight and therefore the time of year. In winter (December-February) the souks don’t fully ‘wake up’ until after ten o’clock in the morning and after 9 o’clock in the evening are mostly closed. The rest of the year they open around nine o’clock in the morning and are a hive of activity until around midnight, or even later during Ramadan when many locals stay up most of the night and rest during the day. Unless there are school holidays, the medina streets are especially busy before and after lunchtime as all the children return home to eat and then go back to school for the afternoon.
However, the best way to explain the life of the medina (apart from visiting!) is through pictures. So here are some of our favourites taken by photographer Relja Ivanić who visited us in Marrakech in November 2014. Enjoy!
Photo credits: Relja Ivanić www.reljai.com