Berber Pharmacies, Marrakesh
At least once on your wanderings around Marrakesh, You'll probably be 'invited' into a Berber Pharmacy. They vary in style, from the 'clinical' brightly lit shop, where the staff wear white coats, to the stalls in the souks, with the outside being festooned with parts of dead birds, reptiles and animals. Some of these have live terrapins and chameleons etc in tanks.
Whichever establishment you venture into, the routine is much the same - jars of spices (cumin, ginger, cardamom, Ras El Hanout -35 spice mix, etc) are opened for you to sniff, perfumed waxes are rubbed onto your skin, black cumin seeds are tipped into a muslin square, then held against one of your nostrils "for the snoring"! Mint tea " Moroccan Whiskey", Argan oil "For the wrinkles"! Arnica oil "for the bruises" Flower oils, soaps, incense, semi precious rocks, black olive oil soap "for the shower, then scrub off" (I guess this is used in the Hamman) henna, and lots more besides are flourished in front of you.
This was the first Berber pharmacy I went into, the pharmacist was quite knowledgeable. As I'm a nurse, I was quite interested in finding out about some of the remedies that are prescribed for various ailments.
I bought about 50gm of the 35 spice mix for 50dh.
Later, visiting other pharmacies, I knew 'the sales talk' and was able to just ask for the items I wanted.
I was given a pot of berber lipstick by one stall holder, after buying some argan oil and rose face cream. (These worked wonders on my skin!!)
I kept seeing small bundles of a dried plant in these places, as I passed one stall, I asked the owner what it was, he explained it was a Berber toothbrush, and proceeded to present me with one as a gift!
Being curious in Marrakesh lands you in some interesting experiences... We wandered up some stairs to find this place, Tim being drawn magnetically to more Frankincense crystals. The man that owned/ran the place led us into a room, all four walls lined with a mélange of curious jars containing colorful and unusual contents. We were to sit on a bench and he put on his presentation, to us in English and to a mom and her two children who'd also wandered in, in French.
Jar after jar, he took down from the shelves, unscrewed the lids and held to our noses. I became his 'model' for applying kohl. He had me look up as he dragged the little wooden stick containing a black powder to my lower eyelid. OUCH, but wow. He rubbed chunks of fragrant wax-like musk on our wrists, and sprinkled orange water on our arms, he also gently shoved (oxymoron, i know) this little mesh pouch of dark matter practically up our nostril which we were to inhale, a sure fire cure to all sorts of headaches and such. I had a sneezing fit. Ginseng was touted as good for the memory, yes, but more importantly, Moroccan Viagra. The whole experience was cool. We walked away with all sorts of little scented delights that day.
This was a pleasant surprise!
"...Two women taught us about the different spices and cosmetics, one by one. We even got to try some. One batch of herbs was used for clearing sinuses. They wrapped it in a hankerchief, held it up to our noses, and made us inhale. It was powerful stuff and left all of us with watery eyes. Then, they offered an oil that takes away headaches. They rubbed it on our foreheads and then gave us a massage. I was in absolute heaven! After they finished showing us everything, we made our purchases. I didn't buy any cosmetics or elixirs, but happily purchased two bags of Moroccan Mint Tea."
Argan Oil is a very rare and precious oil which has been used for centuries by the Berber tribes of Morocco and there are dozens of shops and vendors just waiting to sell some to you.
NB: Argon oil is not transparent - if you can see through the bottle/oil it is fake.
It is good for many uses such as brittle nails, dry hair, aging/dull skin, lips, stretch marks & scars, acne (I think you are mean to add henna to it for this). It's Morocco's 'cure-all'
Argan oil comes from the Moroccan Argan tree. It is produced from its kernels. You will see Berber women sitting grinding them down in the old-fashioned way... if you show interest you will end up buying! :-)