Soak Up the Sensations of Souk el Henna
For most people, the hustle and bustle of a Moroccan marketplace or ‘souk’ is one of the first images conjured to mind when the name ‘Morocco’ is mentioned. Men wearing djellabas, haggling over prices while carpet merchants line the doorways of the narrow, white-washed alleys – it is all a part of the Moroccan experience that simply cannot be missed!
Some markets or souks are more popular than others and usually they have a specific focus making them worthy of specific attention. This is certainly the case with Souk el Henna in Morocco. This little market is known for its henna and is situated in one of the most picturesque squares in Fez. At the center of the square is an ancient, gnarled fig tree that seems to fit the scene perfectly. It also provides welcome shade to a number of the spice sellers who station themselves at its base. At the one end of the square there is a plaque dedicated to the Maristan Sidi Frej. There is also a medical center and a psychiatric and teaching hospital. The latter two were built by Youssef Ibn Yakoub, a Merenid ruler, in 1286. As such, the buildings are of immense historical and even medical interest. The psychiatric hospital was one of the first the world had ever seen and as such it was used as a model for the first official mental hospital later built in Valencia, Spain, in 1410. The hospital operated until as late as 1944. In some respects this old building makes a fitting backdrop for the madness of Souk el Henna and the supposed powers that some of the herbs sold here are said to have.
Souk el Henna in Morocco is really more than just a henna market. Rows and rows of spices are on sale here and the air is thick with their aroma. The sellers are usually herbalists who are only too happy to mix up a ‘magic potion’ for your specific needs if you ask them to. You can also find hennas, of course, and kohls, as well as some interesting aphrodisiacs for sale at the stalls and shops in and around the marketplace. A number of stalls here also sell blue Fassi pottery and you may pick up a good bargain here if you are looking to buy some ceramics. Other items you might find at Souk el Henna include alcohol, copper trays, handmade tiles, water pipes, silver jewelry, books, toys, wooden utensils, perfumes, beauty products and bird cages. So give this great market a try and be sure that you will find a bargain here!