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April 25, 2012

Tradition and modernity in North Africa's largest bazaar

North Africa’s largest bazaar, Souq al-Ahad in Agadir, Morocco, is currently undergoing a facelift – bringing modern building materials to what is otherwise a very traditional space. At Nokia Connects, we’re always looking for the most inspiring stories from around the world – so I went along to the souq to see how the changes are affecting the local community.

Shoes for sale in the Souq al-Ahad

Amidst the narrow alleyways and crowded stalls of Agadir’s Souq al-Ahad (literally ‘Sunday market’, though it’s open throughout the week) you can find everything from aromatic spices to spare car parts. People have been buying and selling their wares in the half-light of this covered market for many years, the smells of spices and roasting fish lingering stubbornly in the air as whole families pick their way across the dirt and stones. The stalls are protected from the elements by haphazard pieces of corrugated iron, and when the rain inevitably finds its way in, it turns the floor of the souq into a swap of reddish mud that clings to the feet and ankles of passersby.

But not for much longer. For the past few months, the souq has been undergoing a renovation and expansion – cement is being brought in to cover the floor and a new roof is being put in place across the whole of the souq to keep out the harsh coastal storms. Even with the work half-finished, and the periodic bulldozer blazing a trail down some of the wider passageways of the bazaar, the change is obvious. What was once dust and mud has been transformed into smooth concrete, meaning that both people and goods remain clean and dry within the confines of the market walls.

Part of the new concrete floor of the souq – the roof has yet to be finished

This is a huge improvement for the shopkeepers and stallholders of the souq, who say they used to have to spend money replacing goods that became damaged or dirty, not to mention getting periodically wet and muddy themselves. The new face of the souq is also likely to bring in more tourism, the lifeblood of Agadir, rather than just the few intrepid travellers who previously ventured beyond the sea front in search of a more ‘authentic’ shopping experience.

No longer needing to worry about the state of their wares, the stallholders in Souq al-Ahad can now spend all their effort concentrating on what is most important to them – selling their goods. And with all the competition from surrounding stalls, the race is on to find ingenious and creative ways of getting a potential buyer’s attention.

Traditional crafts on sale in the souq

Souq al-Ahad is a great example of how modern know-how can be used to complement and enhance a traditional way of doing things – in this case buying and selling goods in a market. It’s also a great place to see the creativity and ingenuity of the local people – whether that be in the crafts, food and handmade goods on sale, or in the techniques they use to sell them!

How would you get people’s attention to sell your goods?! Have you been to Souq al-Ahad or know of another inspiring story you think we should be covering? Then let us know in the comments below or @Nokia_Connects!