The Seattle Souq

A souq is the main market in the Arab world. Seattle's got one too, called Pike Place Market. If you've never been, and you are in the NW, you must make the opportunity to go. It actually has much of the feel of a Middle-Eastern Souq, though the main languages are English and various Asian languages. I visited back there with my mom recently, and we both felt it had the feel of San Francisco.

The souq is about 5 stories tall, built into a hill, inside multiple buildings, so that you enter at sealevel on one street and exit at the top of the hill. It would probably take days to truly visit all the shops there. Street vendors and shop owners specialize in beauty as well as merchandise, and like a legal Derb Ghallif, you can buy pretty much anything there, if you search long enough.

Specialties include a variety of seafoods, like these Dungeness Crabs, and the most famous place in all of the market, the Fish Throwing Place, where you order their seafood, and then, with song and dance, the vendors throw the large salmon or bags of shrimp at each other over customer's heads as they prepare it for you.

As in Jamma f'Naa in Marraksh, there are a mulitude of acts to see as well, some sad, some spectacular. I don't know what the guy below is playing, but I call it the big

stick with the long string, and it sounds like an Asian-Appalacian mix. The gentlemen above had some righteous Gospel harmony, and I only wish I could audio them so you could listen. My mom wanted to simply stand for an hour listening to them. And the guy below demonstrates and reveals card tricks. If you look close you might figure this one out...

Press Play Twice, and then turn the computer over on it's side to the right. Or, maybe it's easier to turn your head. It's up to you.

But the main reason we went to the souq was to get a present for my sister-in-law, who's birthday it had been. I stopped in at the Jasmine Thai-Moroccan restaurant at Pike Place Market (rather the perfect place for my old roommate, Collin), existing because the guy is Moroccan and his girl-friend Thai. Limited fare, but cheap, reasonably Moroccan, and open in the day. And the guy remembered me from when I visited there a few years ago, and it was so good to speak Arabic again with him. And get to introduce my mom, 'cause I'd never gotten to introduce family members while I'd lived in Morocco, and that's important.

There's 4 Moroccan restaurants in Seattle, and I've now been to three. Kasbah I went to a year ago, and the food is excellent, the atmosphere authentic, with easy access to large dishes to corporately eat out of. The Marrakesh, which I ate at recently, I sadly can't recommend. There is belly-dancing, which in the Arab world is done only before women, husbands, and tourists. And in front of the latter, becomes a sad objectifying parody of the real thing. The waitresses knew no Arabic or anything of Moroccan culture, and didn't even know what a tas was (the hand-washing bowl), even after I described it, and they had just finished dispensing it. The lack of authenticity was confirmed later when the Moroccan proprieter confessed to me that I'd spent more time in Morocco than he, as he'd spent maybe three months there his whole life, going back only on short business trips to gather supplies. If in Seattle, visit Kasba instead.

But the really nice thing about Jasmine is that, right across the alley (a people alley, not for cars), is the only Moroccan store in all of Seattle, which, I've got to say, is pretty impressive to even exist in an American city. They sell a wide array of goods, as you can see, from lamps to clothing, drums and pottery dishes, glass tea cups and purses. The latter is what I picked up for Trina. Now, being that it's America, with a higher standard of living, and you have to pay taxes and for shipping, you have to expect higher prices on these items. And Saleh, the owner, wasn't present, with whom I'd bargained off the tax a year ago buying a pottery tajine dish (that wouldn't therefore break on an airplane). So I'm rather proud that I managed to get the initial price of 160 dirhams knocked down to 140. (Honestly, I think I might have gotten better, but another customer said, "140 Dirhams? I think that's the best you're going to get.")

It was really great to be able to spend that kind of time with my mom, in an atmosphere she enjoys. The afternoon was complete as we left, with a requisite Seattle protest against the Free Trade Association.


The pictures you’ve taken are superb. They look as if they were shot by a professional. I can see you had a wonderful time in Seattle. Hope I can be there one of these days.
Yasmeen said…
I'm glad to hear that now in Seattle people can get Moroccan taste! The magic of Morocco can engulf the mind and spirit with its rich and storied past. From the snow-capped mountains to the dunes of the Sahara, to the beautiful beaches and various Morocco property lining the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean, Morocco is a place like none other. And now people can remember better impressions after Morocco or get them before they go to Morocco.

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