Reflections From Morocco

February 09, 2014

Reflections From Morocco

This week I was reminded why the souk is my favorite part of Morocco. A few American friends were visiting me from Rabat, the capital in the North, and I took them to souk al-hed (Agadir’s local marketplace) for lunch and a stroll. Later on our walk, I spotted a lovely djellaba (a traditional piece of clothing that both men and women wear). This djellaba was sleeveless, beautifully-embroidered, and perfect for summertime. The only downfalls: it was purple, and I wanted white, and it was too small. I searched high and dry (dragging my friends along with me) for the perfect-fitted white djellaba. Nothing. As I was giving up and ready to leave the souk, I stopped by one last shop to see if it had what I was looking for.

The shopkeeper was friendly and immediately pulled up chairs and started brewing mint tea, a common sign of hospitality and exchange in Morocco. After what seemed like endless cups of tea (when I'm looking away is the best time to refill), we began discussing the types of djellabas in the shop. Like the other shopkeepers, he did not have the djellaba that I wanted in white; however he immediately offered to take my measurements so he could make a djellaba just for me. I always knew that Moroccan tailors can make just about anything you wanted, but I had never before asked one to make clothes to fit me. The tailor needed no size, no dressing room, just his measuring tape.

The idea is this: life in Morocco is simple. An advisor once told me: “in Morocco, things have a way of working themselves out,” and most of the time, they do. There are times I feel frustrated with the locals’ lack of urgency and timeliness, but in all honesty, integrating in Morocco, particularly the southwest city of Agadir, has helped me to live more in the present, and less in the past and the future. Each time I visit the souk, each time I sit down for another glass of tea, I am reminded to slow down and I walk away more clear than before.  

--Renda Nazzal, Agadir, Morocco


Vocabulary Review:

Souklocal marketplace filled with every single item a person would need: argan oil and amlou, fresh fruits, vegetables, olives, and spices, handcrafted merchandise such as leather shoes, bags, meticulously-painted ceramics, and carpets made in villages from the Atlas Mountains. Other common items are home furnishings, beauty products, everyday clothing, and any piece of knock-off technology you can think of.

Souk al-hed—meaning “Sunday market” (though it’s open on days other than Sunday), is in Agadir and is one of the largest and most organized open-air markets in all of Africa.

Djellaba—a long, loose-fitting unisex robe with full sleeves for everyday wear. Djellabas are worn in North Africa, particularly Morocco and Algeria, and are traditionally made of wool. Though nowadays djellabas have become more lightweight and trendy.

Medina—most known as the “old city.” This is the area of a city which was untouched by the French during colonization in Morocco (1912-56). Instead of interfering with the already-established city walls, the French built new cities around them, today often called in French, the “ville nouvelle.” The city of Agadir no longer has a medina because of the devastating earthquake in 1960; the earthquake destroyed the city and took as many as 20,000 lives.