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Visiting the world’s largest wholesale market Rungis near Paris is an important item in my bucket list, even though one has to get up very early to get a glimpse on this huge belly. But barely having touched the Moroccan soil I found myself at the Al Massar wholesale market, the belly of Marrakesh.
A little adventure: getting there
My guide told me how to take the bus, which I thought would be an adventure, but when you are used to public transport, it usually works out because most bus drivers will tell you when to get off. Seems to be an international phenomenon in my experience.
I still needed my GPS to walk down the last kilometer to the market. After the last turn the whole structure was visible: a large space enclosed by a wall with entrances guarded by the police and surrounded by parking lots. But the policemen were not the first ones I talked to. Some food stall served the public outside the market. Taking a picture of them was possible after a short friendly negotiation and a tea. Then entering through the gate, the friendly policeman gave me bad news: no photos. Still I could enter with my camera.
A world on its own
I saw lots and lots of vegetables and fruit. It was melon season, but bananas, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, apples and much more was abundant, really abundant everywhere. Under big open hangars tons of wooden boxes carried the produce and each was numbered in big characters with the number of the owner. These men, and they were almost all men, sat at their spot, drank tea talked to each other. When a retailer came to buy some produce the cases got weighted on big scales. Then motorbikes with platforms in the back transported the purchase outside the market area. Good idea, trucks or cars would have been a disaster despite the size of the market.
As not the whole area is paved, the rain has it’s toll, adding a little to the slightly chaotic feeling. But the wooden cases in their standardized size and numbering gave it all structure.
Even though I was the only foreigner at the market, I never felt being observed. The focus was business, but people had still a little time to answer my questions as long as they could speak some French. So I learned – and unfortunately forgot – where the best apples, oranges and watermelon came from in Morocco. And I was allowed to take pictures in most of the cases when I asked, which made me happy and relieved me a little in the sense that I took the policeman’s words as an indication rather than an order.
As so many people are working at the market, there is a need to serve some food. The little stalls offer quite a wide variety, sometimes simple things like very fresh bread, a little cheese and olive oil. Or fried fish with some hot sauce and fresh vegetable, shish kebabs, of course mint tea and many other things. I ate my way through and can only recommend it to any anybody else. Great taste and a good way to start nice conversations.
After a couple hours or so, I decided to go leave the belly of Marrakesh. I found a few people who help me to find the right bus stop, and indeed after a short while the right one arrived and for a very little money I got back to my hotel, happy to have found it again and happy about my first market visit.
All in all: Al Massar wholesale market in Marrakesh is for hardcore fans of markets, an own world with friendly people, hearty food providing a sense for local business.
A little link list:
- My post on a Marrakesh covered market – easier to access as a tourist