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Had Draa market, Essaouira: one of Morocco’s largest markets

Had Draa market, Essaouira: one of Morocco’s largest markets

Had Draa market is a fascinating insight into traditional Moroccan life, a feast for the senses, and one of the largest markets in Morocco.

Held every Sunday, thousands of locals descend on this sleepy town to buy and sell goods. You can find everything from shoe menders to basket weavers, blacksmiths to carpenters, spice sellers to butchers.

If you’re looking for an authentic Moroccan experience during your visit, this should be top of your list of things to do in Essaouira.

What time should you go to Had Draa market?

Market sellers arrive from sunrise to set up and much of the cattle selling takes place in the early hours. However, the market is still bustling from 9am to 12pm, so don’t worry about missing breakfast to get there.

What to wear at Had Draa market

Please dress modestly to walk around the markets (cover shoulders and wear long trousers / skirts). Women to do not need to cover their heads.

As the ground is uneven and dirty in places, closed-toe shoes are advised, especially for the meat section.

Cash only

If shopping, don’t expect to pay by card. This is a cash only zone and you will be expected to haggle. Keep your cool when negotiating a fair price; be firm but polite.

Does it feel safe

Men dominate the markets here, whether they are selling or buying. I have walked around the markets as a solo female traveller and also with my kids (we all have blonde hair). People will say hello as I look different, and I have been asked if I’m married when I’ve been on my own, but never felt threatened or uncomfortable.

Taking photos

Had Draa market is a photographer’s dream. But always ask before taking photos. If someone says ‘no’, don’t push it, and move on. Some may ask for money (that’s up to you) and others may just want a chat.

A word on the meat section

The meat section at Had Draa market, which is actually a halal abattoir, is very raw and bloody. Goat and cow legs with hooves alongside bloody carcasses hang along the footpaths and require careful manoeuvering around when strolling along. Expect to see goats heads, cow heads, and camel heads on display too. This area is best avoided if you know this will make you quesy.

Cafes

Behind the meat section and dotted around are makeshift cafes serving mint tea and BBQ’d meat. Again, this is very dominated by men, but women and children are welcome to sit down to eat and drink.

How to get to Had Draa market

It’s a 25 minute journey from Essaouira to Had Draa market.

The easiest way to get to Had Draa market is to arrange a driver through your accommodation. Otherwise, if you would like to use public transport, there is either the bus or Grand Taxi.

Bus times are irregular and no one seems to know the exact times. It’s a case of turning up to the bus stop outside Bab Doukkala (to the right), asking around and waiting. It’s easier getting a bus back to Essaouira as there often seems to be one waiting until it’s full to go. The bus fare between Had Draa and Essaouira is 10DH per person.

The most convenient public transport option to get to Had Draa market from Essaouira is to take a Grand Taxi. This is the exact same fare as the bus (10DH per person). Grand Taxis leave from the Grand Taxi station, north of the medina (click here for location). To save walking to the Grand Taxi station, you can get a petit taxi there (7DH). When you get to the Grand Taxi station, say that you would like to go to Had Draa and you will be led to a taxi. On market day, you will only be waiting 5 mins until the Grand Taxi is full and ready to go. Or you can pay for the other seats and have the Grand Taxi to yourself.

Essaouira Grand Taxis station

To head back to Essaouira after exploring Had Draa market, return to the Grand Taxi station where you were dropped off in Had Draa. This is where the bus to Essaouira goes from too, and it’s likely that one will be there waiting for you.

Bus back to Essaouira

What else is there to do in Had Draa?

Had Draa is also home to Val d’Argan, Morocco’s most southerly winery. The winery is open to tours and wine tasting, although, tours do not run on a Sunday, which is when the Had Draa markets are open.

However, in the summer months, the restaurant at Val d’Argan is open on Sundays for lunch and a dip in the pool. Quite a contrasting experience to a wander around the markets!