Scroll down for the map including directions
“20 minutes before we continue” our guide told us. Well we just couldn’t respect it despite all our efforts, too much to see.
Coming from the Atlas mountains to Marrakesh the road passed a huge open field full of trucks, tents and people: market day galore in Azilal. The market or “souk” as it is called takes place every Thursday in this commercial hub. Rolling down the hill the view was just mesmerizing, the place exuded such a busy, chaotic ambiance. Coming closer the order became very clear.
The main alley went straight from the entrance for a couple hundred meters or so to the end no curve no nothing. The stalls were grouped by the products being sold. First came the area where everything second hand can be found. At the end the butchers and barbecue guys worked under their tents. In between home & beauty products, a healer, dates and popcorn. Yes, popcorn and plenty of it!
Piles of popcorn as I have never seen before, even in the US. Are they being eaten in front of the TV? I don’t know. But the display was amazing: one stall had them colored party balloon like and pressed in blocks. Looked almost like a cake or bread to be sliced. Another stall had popcorn piled up in a huge white mountain shining like diamonds in the bright sun. And the vendor still continued producing them. You have to see it to believe it, so check the picture gallery above.
Walking further we came by a quacksalver. A crowd formed a circle around a bold fifty year old man who talked loudly and fast to a lady with her child, touching its head. After a while they went out of the center but did not look much happier than before, but who knows. A few more people gave him some coins, but before continuing his job, he took a drum, talked even louder and soon I discovered that he had a fat snake at the ground as well. She was not moving, apparently having been fed beforehand. Somehow I felt like being part of a movie on medieval times, the show was great.
At the end of the souk, the butcher section was in full working mode. Unlike the other sections this area was covered with white sunshades to keep the open hanging meat fresh. The sights are definitely different from butchers or supermarkets in Europe or North America where things are presented in cuts often packaged in lots of plastic. Here often the whole animal can be seen, poultry anyway, but also sheep are hanging down from hooks, their fur having been taken off, but still the cut in the throat to be seen. Whole beef was a bit to heavy to be hung under those constructions. Strangely enough there were not so many flies sticking on the meat, maybe they do not like mountain areas? The whole scenery was very archaic, but gave me a clear reminder that an animal has to be killed when I eat meat. A clear contrast to my usual life.
We stumbled across the date guy on the main alley. He showed a great variety of them and with his elegant hat he looked almost like a professor. Here in the deep rural Berber areas, French is not widespread making communication a little bit difficult especially when wanting to know more about the produce. We tried it, but could not get the right explanations for all the different colors, shapes and consistencies of the dates. They ranged from light and firm to very dark and soft, all with distinct tastes. The were a very good snack as we continued the road.
I looked out for a souvenir, and I found something which seemed interesting enough without getting potentially to much attention by any airport customs. I could not really identify this thing at the beauty product stall which was just a cover on the ground with assorted products. I was about 25cm long consisting of some branches and “hay” in the middle wrapped with a 2 cm large bark strip of something. As it was explained to me later, that not the inside was the merchandise, but the wrapping was. This wrapping, bark is used to clean the gums and to give them a nice color. Not sure if I will try it, as the thing looks really unique.
We were much over the promised twenty minutes but there was so much to see …. Our guide forgave us for being late, his generosity will be remembered forever.
All in all: A must see when you are in the area. take your time, there is so much to discover, a great experience.
A little link list:
- Extensive geographic documentation of the Azilal province in French (PDF)