Back at the town square just as hundreds of food vendors were starting to gear up for the evening rush, I wandered through the souk, losing myself in the alleyways where everything was for sale — shoes, dresses, spices, sweets, carpets, antiques, and just about anything else. Luckily, while there was plenty of cheap imported junk mixed in with more authentic wares, any moderately keen eye could tell which was which, and which shops specialized in locally-sourced crafts, clothing, or condiments (I walked away with some argon oil and lotion for my wife).
Exiting one end of the souk, I wandered by the photography museum and came away impressed by the intense realism mixed with romanticism evident in the early 20th century black and white images on display, largely from French photographers. They portrayed a Morocco before the dawn of mass tourism, when local traditions were still very much unaltered by the wider world.
The same could be said of the Museum of Moroccan Arts, also located in the old city — handicrafts, pottery and housewares were on display from a time when these objects were meant for functional and ceremonial use, rather than export and sale. As sunset approached, and after an afternoon on foot exploring the city, it was time for a refreshment.
The main square was now abuzz with activity, and familiar sounds mixed with more exotic ones as I threaded my way to a restaurant on the corner where I spied a balcony with a view. Buying a cold Coke in a glass bottle bought me access to the balcony, and from that vantage point I was treated to the heartbeat of Marrakech’s tourism economy.