Food and Drink, Marrakesh
If you absolutely need something you can't find anywhere else you can try the Marjane hypermarket on the edge of town. We broke our pushchair and needed a cheap replacement - we tried here and found one. It's huge and is stocked with everything you can think of. The hypermarket itself contains a number of smaller shops, but all around the hypermarket a large shopping district has grown up with many major international stores. If you can't find what you want in Marjane, it might be in one of the shops nearby. Be warned, though, as it is expensive, even by European standards.
It's located on the edge of town, but easily reached by local bus. The stop is right outside the hypermarket, and you can't miss it across the huge car park. You can try taking a taxi, but they will charge you a fortune because it's so far out and they can't guarantee a return fare. Before we took the bus we couldn't get a taxi to take us there for less than 100 dirhams - he just drove off. The local bus ticket cost less than 10 dirhams for the three of us.
Acima is a local branch of European style supermarkets that can be found in the new part of Marrakech - everything in the Medina tends to be hole in the wall places. You won't find anything like Acima there. These supermarkets are big and sell everything you'd expect - and much of it is imported from abroad. If you want to buy things like alcohol, nappies or some Western comfort food, this is the best place to find it.
There are two Acima supermarkets in Marrakech that I know of and have visited. The nearest to the Medina is at Las Torres Majorelle, opposite the Majorelle Gardens (not opposite the entrance just one of the side walls). It's a few minutes walk from the local bus station on the north side of the Medina. The other Acima is bigger and closer to the centre of Gueliz. It's on Boulevard Albdelkrim Al Khattabi, just off Place Bir Anzaran (buses run here) on the way to the main train station. You'll find it on the street opposite the big Shell petrol station.
Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, but that doesn't stop every Muslim, especially in Morocco. Getting a beer in most restaurants is easy, bars tend to be a bit on the seedy side, and buying it for yourself is possible, but you need to know where to go. In Marrakech the big supermarkets, like Acima, Carrefour and the Marjanne hypermarkets all sell alcohol, but be warned they tend to be in separate areas and have an earlier closing time than the rest of the shop. The nearest Acima to the Medina is in Gueliz at Las Torres Majorelle, a small shopping area near the local bus station and opposite the Majorelle gardens.
It's perfectly fine to buy alcohol, although in some shops they may wrap it in brown paper to keep it low profile. It's also expensive, as the government taxes it heavily to reduce consumption - expect UK prices. Drinking moderately and privately will not cause you problems, but drinking in public and, worse, open drunkenness is considered very bad behaviour. Even when Moroccans get drunk they tend to keep quiet about it... unless you are a football fan from Casablanca. I saw a group of these ahead of me in the queue and they stank of alcohol and had their hands full with bottles of Jack Daniels and Stork beer. Friendly enough though.
Morocco produces its own beer and small amounts of decent quality wine. The most popular beers are Casablanca, Spéciale Flag and Stork. They are all simple, refreshing beers - watery and lightly fizzy. The wines are good quality too, and you can get a very pleasant one for around ten euros. I bought a bottle of Essaouiran Shiraz and it was excellent, if a little plain. I think the Moroccans like their drinks the way they like their food - uncomplicated.
Moroccan, is now one of my favourite cuisines, with it's tasty tagines, cous cous, etc.
Whenever I travel, I usually try to buy spices, a recipe book or other food related objects.
On this trip I bought a teracotta tagine (see my off the beaten tracks tips for more details) I'm afraid I haven't used this yet, it's more of an ornament at the moment, but I have cooked a few tagines using my old faithful cast iron casserole dish.
Argan oil (the new olive oil!!) Afraid I only bought a small bottle, for moisturising purposes from Essaouira- but I spent the exorbitant sum of £9 in Sainsburys for a bottle of organic Argan Oil for culinary purposes-
Top Tip- If You're visiting Essaouira, snap up a bottle or 2- or a crate load of Argan Oil, to sell to foodies back home for a fraction of the price of Sainsburys!! (See my Essaouira page for lots more info on Argan Oil
35 spices- a versatile spice mix, used in many Moroccan dishes, I've used most of mine already, in lots of non Moroccan dishes too.
What to buy: All manner of foodie stuff
Tagine cooking pots
Tea glasses and tea pots
Spices - especially the 35 spices mix
What to pay: From very little to as much as you want!
Throughout the street markets you will find containers of wonderful fragrant spices including coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, saffron and paprika. Moroccan dishes are made up of most of the ingredients. A lot of the spices are imported into Morocco.
Go to Djema el Fnaa and buy... dried fruits and nuts. All vendors have more or less the same displyed prices so you shuldlook around in order to get the best quality. Ask them to taste what you intend to buy... they will not object to it.
What to buy: We looked for pistachios, but we didn't find any of the quality we were looking for. We found some really delicious dried apricots, though... definitely yummy.
What to pay: The displyed price is about 100 dirhams for the apricots.
Go to the souk... wander about, get lost and try to find where they sell olives. Most likely there are several places - the one we found is somewhere off the covered souq...
What to buy: Buy olives... green olives, black olives... all sorts of olives. Moroccan olives are quite delicious and worth bring home. They can make for a really tasty present or souvenir. Take your time, ask the vendor to let you taste some... you'll be hard pressed choosing the best ones.
What to pay: Bargain a bit - but in general they cost very little
It's very nice to go somewhere you don't have to haggle. Also a good place for buying picnic things.
To get back to the Medina (or wherever) after your shop it's normal practice to share a taxi with whosoever is heading in the same direction as you and splitting the fare. This may involve a very cramped ride back. Enjoy.
IF YOU WANT TO PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD YOU'LL NEED TO TAKE YOUR PASSPORT WITH YOU.
What to buy: Normal supermarket stuff with a prevalence of French products.
Huge tubs of olives. Baguettes at 4 pence each. Wine ranging from paint-peelingly nasty cheapies to very good ones. Branded spirits. Household goods - cheap tea glasses and the like.
The spice stands in Marrakesh are so colorful, and the aroma is even better. Spices are great to bring back as gifts because they don't take up much room in the luggage. I brought back saffron, because it is expensive in the states, and a few curries.
I would recommend that you ask someone where you are staying to direct you to the best spice vendor (this applies for mint tea also because the quality varies). Also, make sure that you pack the spices air tight so they don't spoil.
The silk scarves in the souks are beautiful and abundant, and also easy to pack. Other items that are worth purchasing are clay tajines, lanterns, rugs, leather bags, slippers, teapots, tea cups...and, maybe, a hookah! I'm sure I left something great out...
What to buy: Spices, mint tea, olives, scarves, leather goods, tajines, lanterns rugs, teapots, tea cups, hookahs etc.
We visited a few different food markets during our stay in Marrakech. Probably the most interesting was a large covered market - Souq el Kheir, which is located on Avenue Houmman el Fetouaki, close to Qzadria Square. There were some unusual foods on offer here, and the market was filled with local women doing their daily/weekly shop. The meat at the butchers looked particularly good here.
We also had a wander through the Bab Doukkala food souq, which not only has food stalls but shops selling attractive cooking pots so you can make your own tajine back home.
We stumbled across a large (possibly wholesale) fruit & vegetable market which was located just off Boulevard Allal al Fassi, between the Jardin Majorelle and the bus station. We had a look around there for a while, but we soon became unpopular for taking photos so we quickly moved on.
What to buy: Also, at the start of the Medina souqs, close to Djemaa el-Fna, there are some interesting food stalls with jars of colourful olives and preserved vegetables. And don't miss the stalls selling big bags of mint - perfect for a nice afternoon cup of mint tea
Marrakeshis do their "grocery" shopping for the most part in various areas of the souks as well as at tiny little closet-sized stores at which you walk up and tell the man behind the counter what it is you want, and amazingly, he'll probably have it somewhere right behind him (eggs, shampoo, what have you). However, you will not find beer or wine within the souks or at the closet-sized stores.
This means you must trek into the ville nouveau. No worries, just take Mohammed V boulevard (on foot, by taxi, galeche or bus) in the direction of the new city. Acima exists on Mohammed V boulevard.
Here you'll find a traditional grocery with isles and isles of food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, a nice deli/bakery with a great "scoop-it-yourself" spice section (and olives! mmmm! get some olives). They've got a great cheese selection considering. And, an area at the opposite end of the store that contains quite a selection of wines (mostly French and Morrocan), beer and even liquor.
We came here to buy an assortment of cheeses and wine to share with our new friends that ran our riad.
What to buy: Olives, spices, cheese, wine, beer...
What to pay: Good cheese is priced SO much better than it is here, in the U.S., great brie, goat cheeses, etc. Big chunks for like $1.50! Bottles of wine are in the $5-8 range.
What to buy:
The dates that you can buy in Marrakesh are not from Marrakesh. The local dates tend to rot within a few days, so they sell dates from other parts of the country or from Algeria and Tunesia.
I did not mind at all, I just enjoyed the taste of all of them! Period!
From my journal:
'We stop at a spice store where all the shelves are full of jars with the most amazing things in them. Apart from the familiar and not so familiar spices, there are things like shells, dried insects, some sort of animal jaws with the teeth in them etc.
We are given a demonstration of a few spice mixtures – the saadia and the ras el hanout and others – various medicinal herbs – for sinuses, migraine, stress, rheumatism etc – and the herbs used for make up and shampoo. Very interesting.'
What to buy: From my journal:
'I buy a couple of spice mixes and the sinus / migraine cure. My mum buys a ‘magic lipstick’ which is supposed to go darker the sexier the lady. It was pretty dark on my mum!'
On hte main squre you have at least 40 street karts selling and making orange juice.
What to buy: orange juice fresh one. you can ask for no ice and on the hour for the real fresh one. they can have some orange juice already made, fresh anyway, but the real thing is the real thing.
What to pay: very cheap: one big glass costs 1.5 dirham.
you can get a 1.5litre bottle for 10 dirhams 1 euro
You can buy all kinds of spices you can think of. just name it ans buy them on the large amount of shops selling these kinds of products. dont buy for the first price. try to negociate. ask for a special price.