Grumpy Camel


Visiting a Berber Market in Morocco

Exploring a Berber (or Amazigh) market is one of the best cultural experiences you can have in Morocco. One of the largest Berber markets takes place in Amizmiz, a dusty village at the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. Every Tuesday, farmers travel to Amizmiz to sell and trade their crops and livestock. Meanwhile, merchants from Marrakech set up stalls at the market to sell products that are unavailable in remote mountain villages.
Amizmiz is only an hour’s drive from Marrakech, and a trip to the town can be combined with a trek through the High Atlas Mountains. There’s a direct bus, no. 45, that departs from Sidi Mimoun bus stop in Marrakech to Amizmiz every 40 minutes. Amizmiz is the last town on route 45, but make sure you get off at the taxi stand.
If you’re visiting Amizmiz without a guide, you need to walk up the hill next to the taxi stand to get to the market. Amizmiz is not a very big town, so you’ll be Ok on your own – although I would still recommend getting a local guide. Jamal was born and raised in Amizmiz, where he still lives, so we honestly couldn’t wish for a better and more knowledgeable guide to show us around the town.
Well off the tourist radar, the market in Amizmiz offers a fascinating glimpse into Berber life and culture. A good way to absorb the town’s bustling ambiance is to sit down at one of the coffee houses near the taxi stand with a glass of mint tea. This is possibly the busiest part of Amizmiz, where merchants arrive in vans loaded with all sorts of products.
Donkeys are widely used as a method of transportation in rural Morocco, especially to carry goods and people to mountain villages that are inaccessible by car. You might feel sorry for the poor creatures, but you probably won’t be able to resist the temptation to ride on one if you get tired halfway through your mountain trek.
Just like Marrakech, Amizmiz can be a shock to the senses, but at least you don’t have to weave your way through crowds of tourists and deal with insistent shopkeepers.
The market area is crammed with makeshift stalls and locals looking for the best deals. The food stalls are generally overflowing with sacks of grains, pasta and dates, while crates of fresh vegetables and fruits spill onto the path.
Some areas of the market are not for the faint-hearted. Chickens are slaughtered and plucked on the spot. The overwhelming smell of raw meat might make your stomach churn – but it’s all part of the experience, I guess.
Walking around the market can be exhausting. Hawkers’ cries, unpleasant smells, crowded paths – you’ll be craving some fresh air after all that, and possibly some food. You can end your morning in Amizmiz by going for a short trek in the mountains and stopping for a quiet lunch (and a much-needed rest) in a Berber home.
Our trip to Amizmiz and the High Atlas Mountains was led by Jamal, who runs Berber Travel Adventures. Together with a team of qualified, English-speaking guides, Jamal organises tailor-made hiking trips around Morocco.
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