03 Aug2010


A gorgeous, colorful, fragrant tableau of local ingredients, dishes, sauces, condiments and old-fashioned bottles of Coke, set out in a glass-enclosed display case was enough whet the appetite! The weekly Berber market held on Mondays in the town of Ourika, a gateway to the Atlas mountains, has hundreds of vendors that include Berber farmers and purveyors from within say a 20 kilometer radius, as well as merchants from other parts of the country. We had driven about an hour from our hotel to visit this market as well as take in other sights in the area.


This snapshot of the market from a nearby hill, barely illustrates the size of the market, with several hundred vendors at least. Reading up a bit on local culture and customs, I was surprised to see that taking photos of people, particularly older people in rural settings, was considered impolite, so for the first time ever, I was in a spectacular market with tremendous photo opportunities, but I didn’t feel comfortable snapping shots like I normally do. Our driver and guide asked a few vendors for permission to take photos but they declined, so I didn’t take any close-ups of people and many of the shots in this post were taken surreptitiously, literally shooting from the hip. :)


We arrived at the town of Ourika around 10 in the morning, an hour or two after the market had started doing business, but several vendors were still arriving by donkey. Goods were loaded into wonderful baskets that were draped over the donkeys.


We parked a few hundred meters away and walked to the market. Our guide was a bit protective in that two women, and tourists at that, would still be considered a rather unusual sight, and he took up the rear while I went ahead of Mrs. MM and the Teen. Never once did we feel unsafe, but we did feel like we were out of place. By the roadside was a vendor with boxes upon boxes of beautiful dried herbs and spices.


Another vendor had several varieties of teas, the leaves used to make the dyes for henna ink/tattoos, baked good and sweets, etc.


I was amused to see the local version of deep-fried doughnuts on offer, and doing brisk business.


Sugar in a solid conical form is apparently a big deal. For house warming ceremonies, birthdays, engagements, etc. sugar is brought as one of the traditional gifts… probably harking back to a time when sugar was a seriously hard to come by commodity in this neck of the woods (or is it dunes of the desert?)…


In one part of the market, there were mixed kebabs of all types, cooked to order… marinated first ins oil, herbs and other spices.


Local breads were for sale still warm, fresh from the ovens…


And freshly pressed home made olive oil was sold for some 10 cents U.S. for a cup or so, or maybe it was even less than that! I so wanted to take a photo of the olive oil vendor but he declined, and allowed me to shoot just the ladle with oil… Buyers came with their own glass bottles, so there was no plastic packaging and they bought their olive oil fresh every week…


Sacks filled with cloves, peppercorns, oregano, lavender and all sorts of spices were positioned right near the places where you could “rent” tagine cooking facilities. These guys kept the fires going, and you could cook and season your own tagine, walk away for an hour and come back when it was all done… Everyone seemed to have their own personal blend of spices and it all smelled so fragrant and appetizing!


In another part of the market, they had an extensive selection of nuts and dried fruit…


…these guys bargaining for dates. From palms, that is. :)


Cactus fruit were unusual for me, and apparently quite sweet, but I didn’t get a chance to taste one.


The produce section of the market was amazing, lots and lots of fruits and vegetables, and clearly just unloaded from their donkeys/carts/trucks and harvested within the last day at most. The oranges, melons and surprisingly, grapes all looked amazing. The area around Marrakech looks quite dry and not exactly arable, but towards the atlas mountains, the valleys are fertile and supplied with lots of water during the spring and summer as the snow on the mountains melts… resulting in extremely verdant patches of farmland that produces all of these fruits and vegetables.


It was a pleasure to spend an hour just wandering through the market. We didn’t spend too long nor do too much as the Teen was hobbling in her cast (barefoot) and her toes were occasionally grazing the sometimes muddy ground on which the market was set up…


With oranges in abundance, and so intensely sweet and flavorful, it’s no wonder the carafes of orange juice at the hotel are huge and you can drink as much as you want!


Humongous green peppers or capsicum, oranges, cucumbers…


…red onions, potatoes, carrots, zucchinis…


…green and red grapes, oranges, peaches and nectarines.


Unusual (for me) gourds or squashes.


Mountains of herbs such as mind, coriander, etc. Passing by an herb vendor gave new meaning to the word MINTY. The fragrance was intoxicating.


And finally, the mystery vegetable for Marketman. Our guide didn’t seem to know what it was called in English, nor how it was used. Any of you guys know what this is? Gener, would your Moroccan spouse be able to identify it? All in all, a wonderful hour-long visit to a countryside market. So much more appealing than anything in crowded Marrakech. On other days of the week there are markets in other towns outside of Marrackech. Highly recommended.



  1. Footloose says:

    You missed out on a real treat if you did not taste those wonderful doughnuts. I cannot tell from your photo how the frying grease was, the ones I tried in Fez were fished out of what looked like boiling mud but turned out to be the best doughnut I ever tasted and this coming from somebody neck deep in Tim Horton doughnut territory.

    Those modest Moroccan merchants show more sense and decency by declining to be photographed than the mass of attention starved people back here who’ll stop short of nothing for any kind of publicity.

    Aug 3, 2010 | 7:45 pm


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  3. natie says:

    vibrant!!! i love visiting markets.. i could smell the herbs and spices!

    Aug 3, 2010 | 7:47 pm

  4. marilen says:

    Celebration of God’s bounty! MM, again thank you, as we merrily tag along with your wonderful vacation. It has been a feast for the eyes – the great photos and wonderful writing – culang na lang, the smells – like the minty herbs, camel breath……

    Aug 3, 2010 | 7:52 pm

  5. Kaya says:

    It’s always nice to see the vibrant local colors of markets.

    Aug 3, 2010 | 8:25 pm

  6. erleen says:

    Amazing! The donuts look flaky. Sayang you did not taste one. The mystery vegetable looks like some sort of okra.

    Aug 3, 2010 | 8:26 pm

  7. Joni says:

    Wow MM, this is why I love your blog so much. :)

    Aug 3, 2010 | 9:29 pm

  8. DP Travels says:

    Nice, this is a very local market, no tourists around =) I’ve been in the Ourika valley last year as well but did not visit this market, however I crossed the river and climbed the falls. Did you go up as well?

    And did you also go to as far as Essaouira and Ouarzazate? Beautiful places.

    Re: fotos, those traditional and older muslims do not really like their fotos taken, something to do with valuing their bodies as a temple of god. I was reprimanded a few times which I often respond by scuttling away free, so I was careful after that and have always asked for permission. The younger ones don’t really mind though while the women especially those wearing the niqab and burka, they shy away or hide behind their husbands.

    Aug 3, 2010 | 10:33 pm

  9. Nina says:

    The mystery veggie looks like cardamom pods to me.

    Aug 3, 2010 | 11:53 pm

  10. www.triportreats.com says:

    This reminds me of the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market in Istanbul! But this is so much nicer because it’s outdoors. Hope the Teen’s cast isn’t gonna be a hassle on the trip.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 12:02 am

  11. robin sabalones says:

    cardamom pods, or a baby okra ?

    Aug 4, 2010 | 12:06 am

  12. Carlos says:

    I’ve tried the cactus fruit before when I was living in Malta. They are also called prickly pears. I would say the closest as far as taste is concern is the dragon fruit, but it is sweeter and texture is softer. I love eating them especially when cold. Just watch out for those nasty hair like thing on its skin. I had my bad experience with them. Its hard to remove from your skin and it hurts.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 12:18 am

  13. natie says:

    mystery vegetable is a variety of okra..

    Aug 4, 2010 | 4:24 am

  14. zena says:

    Love visiting markets overseas. The colors and the smells! Makes one wish that baggage allowance was still 70 lbs. =)

    Aug 4, 2010 | 5:18 am

  15. vic says:

    looks like young okra. the mystery vegetable that is…

    Aug 4, 2010 | 5:27 am

  16. Marketman says:

    Hi everyone, you know, I did think it was okra, and in fact asked our guide if it was young OKRA, but maybe he didn’t understand the English term for it. But a quick check shows several moroccan recipes with Okra so this may very well not be a mystery any longer… Thanks! :)

    Aug 4, 2010 | 8:33 am

  17. joyce says:

    thanks for the exotic market tour ;P by any chance is that you in the white pants and the green shirt? i imagine the home pressed olive oil must have been wonderful.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 10:04 am

  18. Marketman says:

    joyce, yup that’s my backside again… :)

    Aug 4, 2010 | 10:26 am

  19. Mimi says:

    On sugar dunes: they were made that way for easy transport and storage as the people were nomadic and always on-the-go. They just hammer off a chunk for drinking sweet tea anywhere in the desert.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 10:39 am

  20. millet says:

    just imagine if our sari-sari stores had these giant jars of olive oil to be retailed by the cup!

    Aug 4, 2010 | 10:40 am

  21. millet says:

    footloose, what kind of oil were the donuts fried in?

    Aug 4, 2010 | 10:51 am

  22. Uniok says:

    The Paki will brag they have bigger “lady finger” than the Arab. I told them we have that too. and we are all loughing.. Our Arabic Language Instructor from the Admin ask me what is it in Tagalog. Sabi ko “Okra”, yung nasa pic ganun na talaga kalaki.

    Theres so much beautiful things and culture here in the middle east. Did you know that the oldest christian church can be found in Jubail, KSA.

    U can find Heavenly places in Morroco but they have this Castle that the locals dont want to hear..

    Aug 4, 2010 | 11:21 am

  23. adam says:

    Hi MM. Out of curiosity did you try the kebabs, lamb etc at any of the markets you visited or did you (quite understandably) err on the side of caution? I caught something on TV the other night – a travelogue on Morocco – and it was claimed that the steetside lamb in Marrakesh was sensational….

    Aug 4, 2010 | 12:29 pm

  24. Marketman says:

    adam, I have to admit, we did not try these kebabs, though they looked good. The water basin at the stall and other hygiene issues made me think twice this early in the trip. We did, however, have some great lamb at restaurants and stalls in Marrakech.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 12:38 pm

  25. j. says:

    Prickly Pears are awesome, they stain bad though, and if you juice them, you’d have to drink them within an hour or two, they turn a little bitter. It looks like you had plenty of adventure and fun!

    Aug 4, 2010 | 3:25 pm

  26. Aswang says:

    With the premise that the unidentified vegetable is something related to okra and knowing that the okra belongs to the Abelmoschus genus, I consulted Wikipedia. The search yielded one the following:

    Abelmoschus caillei – West African okra

    Considering that Morocco is in North Africa, West African okra might be the Holy Grail of our quest.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 4:42 pm

  27. Footloose says:

    Millet, olive oil. That’s all they had before the advent of soya, rapeseed and palm oil and evoo worship even more distant in the future.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 5:30 pm

  28. Footloose says:

    Sticking to the subject of okra, it is a popular vegetable in Brazil obviously owing to the original massive influx of captive manpower (slaves) imported from Africa. It is called quiabo over there and probably for some lingering superstitious avoidance of invoking the name of the devil (diabo), The Devil Wears Prada was translated in Brazil as O Quiabo Veste Prada.

    Aug 4, 2010 | 6:23 pm

  29. natie says:

    MM, I remember in your previous posts, esp the one re ROSEL.. along with Okra,they belong to the hibiscus family…

    Aug 6, 2010 | 12:25 am

  30. Anne :-) says:

    Mountains of herbs such as mind, coriander, etc. – was that supposed to be mint?
    I hope I can join you on your travels to Morocco! Very nice!

    Aug 9, 2010 | 9:35 am

  31. Ben says:

    This is the best write-up of this market I can find online. My girlfriend and I are travelling to Morocco in April and this is high on our to-do list.

    Sadly I can’t find the town “Ourika” or the village “Tnine Ourika” on any maps. Yes Ourika valley – but that’s not a small place. I would just ask our guide, but I don’t plan on using a guide. We will be hiring our own vehicle and travelling independently.

    Do you know of a nearby town that is mapped (preferably on Google maps)?

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Mar 11, 2012 | 8:19 pm


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