3 mins

The sights and sounds of Marrakech

Lynn Alexander embraces the spirit of Marrakech - and goes shopping for argan oil

Djemaa el Fna (Tina Hutton-Fellowes)

The air is suddenly filled with voices, coming together in song. The mosques from all over the city call their flock to prayer; although we've heard the call every day since we arrived, this one is different and more beautiful. 

We’re enjoying the sunset on the rooftop terrace of a riad, high enough to hear the chants merging together in a melodic chorus. One deep, rich voice dominates; the call from the Koutoubia, the largest mosque in Marrakech.    

The prayer call is intermingled with the sound of snake charmers' flutes and African drumming coming from Djemaa el Fna. As the evening draws on, smoke rises from the stalls, bringing with it the smell of spiced meat and fish, the Moroccan spices sweetening the air and making it difficult to pass without sampling.

The same is also true of the souks. The winding, narrow, covered streets tempt passers-by with eye-catching wares. The merchants joke and call out, keen to haggle for your custom. Traffic jams are ten-a-penny, caused by cart-pulling donkeys and scooter riders with a death wish. Getting out without an injury is a feat; getting out without buying something almost inconceivable.

One of the best things to buy is argan oil. Produced from the kernels of the argan tree, the oil is renowned for its nutritional, medicinal and cosmetic properties.

There are two types; the darker oil, made from roasted kernels, gives a nutty flavour to salad dressings and dips, and Moroccans believe regular consumption helps reduce cholesterol.

The lighter, yellow oil is used for cosmetics; rubbed on the skin it acts as a moisturiser and can help with conditions like eczema and psoriasis. When buying cosmetic oil, follow this insider's tip from herbalist Zoubir Aznag:

“Many people sell fake cosmetic argan oil in Marrakech so test before you buy. The colour should be yellow, there should be no smell, and when rubbed on the skin it should evaporate within a minute, leaving the skin smooth.”

Lynn Alexander travelled to Marrakech with Wanderlust Journeys

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