I went to Marrakech in search of magic
Not your average souk shopping experience.
There was no address, no name, no coordinates—only descriptions from three separate sources.
“Can you just go check it out? It should be past the animal cages—my dad will go with you,” I implored my friend Cricket as we stood in the middle of the souk in Marrakech, Morocco, the evening air still a balmy 90-degrees. But Cricket wasn’t having it: “Just follow me—we’ll all go together. You have to see this.”
Morocco was always a dream destination for me, but it always seemed a bit too far and my time too limited to properly explore it. So I had never actually booked a trip there. Then, in late spring, my heart was shattered. As I slowly woke up from the fog of heartbreak, I turned back to my comfort of the metaphysical to help heal. I decided to turn a one-way ticket to London I had booked months ago into a two-week trip to Morocco: I’d go to Tangier, Chefchaouen, Essaouira, Agafay Desert, and the Atlas Mountains… but this story is about Marrakech.
In search of magic
My parents, my friend Cricket, Cricket’s husband, my friend Mittens and her boyfriend joined me in the former imperial city, where I rented a riad in the old medina. I did an open call to action to fill up the five-bedroom riad.
It was the perfect jumping-off point for my search: I was after a stall where, my sources told me, true Moroccans went for magic. Think potions and spells—some for cheating husbands, others for fertility, still others for health…. The list goes on and on, but the danger is very real: Black magic is stigmatized in the region, and so getting any definitive information on where I might connect with a healer was near-impossible; even just uttering the word “magic” would get me looks.
On the verge of giving up, a friend recommended that I reach out to Charlie, the founder of Epic (a travel agency that specializes in creating truly one-of-a-kind experiences in Morocco and Portugal). He, in turn, connected me with Marlene of Coco-Morocco, a private sourcing company that can basically help track down whatever you’re looking for.
Could she help me find this mythical, magical stall? Marlene, being the impeccably chic badass blonde with zero fear, led us through Marrakech and pointed us in the right direction so we could start on our own metaphysical search party. (If you’re heading there and are in search of anything, absolutely reach out to her.)
Marrakech is a sensory overload, making New York City look like the kiddie pool in comparison. Besides the colors and incredible scents, there’s yelling, bargaining, and chaos in the souks. (Most Moroccans speak Arabic, Berber, French, and maybe English if you’re lucky.)
Something about this alley felt different…magical.
We wound through the narrow alleys, and as we walked deeper into the souk the product changed from slippers and spices to animal pelts, exotic feathers, and tiny (moving!) animals in cages. I was simply too scared to lead. As Cricket and my dad forged on, my mom, Cricket’s husband, and I huddled behind them, holding our breath and closing our eyes. Something about this alley felt different…magical.
As we inched onward, a man in a long white robe suddenly appeared and, zeroing in on me, said, “You come for the magic. Only real Moroccans. Follow me.”
We followed him into his closet sized, sweltering hot stall, where we all stood shoulder-to-shoulder with glass bottles of rocks, powders, and herbs. I had been told to come to him prepared to share exactly what I wanted—love, money, good health, whatever—but before I could speak, he just looked at us and left.
Another man came in, motioning to us to sit on empty cages. “Real Moroccans find us. Magic,” he said. How did we find it? Honestly, I don’t think it was from any of the descriptions we were given; instead, it truly felt like we were guided there by some sort of force.
After what felt like an eternity, sweat pooling from the oppressive heat, the first man reappeared, with an austere-but-kind expression on his face and four white papers in his hand. Each paper had a mixture of selenite, black and white feathers, tan feathers, seeds, grains, powders, and a variety of unidentifiable objects.
He folded each paper into a tiny square and taped it endlessly. Then he proceeded to do a ritual of saging and smoking the individual packets. He called us one by one and did a ritual over us and thanked Allah, before directing us to keep the packet next to us.
We paid, said, “Chourkan!” (that’s “thank you” in Arabic) and left that tiny stall. I put the packet in my wallet—and haven’t taken it out since.
In search of crystals
With a bit of magic on my side, I then set out to find something a little more tangible: Colbaltoan calcite, a crystal indigenous to Morocco. It comes in various shades of pink and is great for the heart chakra and releasing buried emotion—which was exactly what I needed.
I kept hearing that there were no crystal shops here, but I had trouble believing that could be the case. One of my close friends, Mittens, connected me to a woman who left the US to live in Marrakech; she wasn’t positive, but had heard some rumors about a spot in the souk where I might be able to find some.
As with many things in Marrakech, a lot of recommendations come through word of mouth—and often with no addresses. So all I had was a small lead…and the hope that her emailed descriptions would be enough to guide us there.
With spotty wifi, we ventured into the souk. Although every single guidebook recommends that you get a guide, we opted to go in without one, trusting that Marlene had amply prepared us for this solo expedition. (Besides, I’m a New Yorker—I can bargain on my own.) I had read about hiding my blond hair and not exposing my shoulders; although I did oblige to hide my shoulders, I didn’t hide my hair.
While scanning what feels like thousands of stalls in the souk, I froze when I saw what looked like a crystal. I literally felt like I found a needle in a haystack. Rendered mute, I walked toward the stall.
The stall owner saw me looking at the crystals and started to show me various ones that were hidden away. “You want good energy?” he asked. I pulled out a photo of cobaltoan calcite and, after looking at it for a few seconds, he mumbled, “Stay here.” He disappeared for nearly 15 minutes, before emerging with dyed agate.
While scanning what feels like thousands of stalls in the souk, I froze when I saw what looked like a crystal.
“I’m looking for natural—not dyed,” I explained. Again, he disappeared for 15 minutes. Again, he returned with dyed agate. Again, I told him it was dyed.
“Okay, no problem,” he told me. “Follow me.”
Yes, I blindly followed him through a maze of the souk reminding me of Canal Street, until, five minutes later, we arrived at our destination: A stall adorned with crystals, helmed by an elderly man. I showed him the photo. “It’s expensive and doesn’t exist really anymore—I only have one large piece.”
Maybe because I was tired, maybe because I was fried from standing under the blazing sun; whatever the reason, I didn’t believe they had what I was looking for.
And then, from beneath a pile of papers, he pulled out one of the largest pieces of cobaltoan calcite I had ever seen. After I asked for a second one, he told me this was it—but he did have calcite with pyrite. Another insane specimen appeared.
Overly excited, we began the bargaining process. What started at around $1,000 USD ended up being about $400 for two huge pieces and a small cobaltoan calicite. (Back home, just one of these stones would cost that.) He wrapped them all in one newspaper ball with a handle, and I left feeling like the luckiest person in the world.
If you’re seeking crystals in Morocco, go to the souks, have patience, ask questions, and bring pictures. I’m here to tell everyone that crystals do exist in Morocco—you just have to have the patience and perseverance to find them.
In search of healing
The only appointment I was able to make through Mitten’s contact in Morocco was one with a blind healer, Dr. Said Oumassou.
Google came up with nothing about him, which of course I took as a good sign: In my experience, the more off-the-beaten path, the better when it comes to connecting with healers abroad. Plus, I’d had a really bad muscle spasm that was going on for almost a week, so I was in desperate need of healing (how original, I know).
Getting to a destination by cab in Morocco is sort of a cross-your-heart situation; I showed the coordinates (Dr. Said is located in the French Quarter) and prayed the driver would bring me to the correct location.
He did—and once I got there, I walked up the stairs-for-days to his office (FYI: Prepare to get your steps in when you visit Morocco), arriving to a stark and bare office.
After checking in with his secretary, she brought me to a white room with a table to lie down on. Suddenly, I really got nervous. More nervous than any other session I have done internationally. What if I had gone too far in the name of journalism, and actually made my muscle spasm even worse?
Dr. Said came into the room, introduced himself and his technique, and then started to tap on my body and ask questions. He was charming and inquisitive, with a thick French accent that made it hard not to relax. I couldn’t believe it as, without me saying anything or sharing any medical records, he identified the places where I had broken bones many years ago.
What if I had gone too far in the name of journalism, and actually made my muscle spasm even worse?
The cause of the muscle spasm in my shoulder, he said, was my right knee. Then he added, “Someone betrayed you. You are sad. You don’t love yourself. You are ashamed.” He pulled my arm around and kept saying the same things as he touched my heart and face with my hand.
He was right; I was feeling betrayed and I was in pain.
Suddenly the pain in my shoulder disappeared as he continued tapping and repeating the same words: “You forgive him. You forgive yourself.”
This tapping went on and on, with the doctor saying words and moving my arms around my body. Tears streamed down my face, and I realized that my fear of making a mistake was replaced by the realization that I had to come clear across the world to be healed. A blind man who hadn’t practiced his English in decades helped me feel better than I had in four months.
As Dr. Said would later explain, he’s developed a new treatment method called Informational Etiotherapy. His approach aims to address the deeply rooted causes behind body dysfunctions, and the method is based on seven treatment protocols: ideal self-images, physical-mental alignment, spirituality and symbolism, diagonal approach, the five senses, and the three dimensions.
Whatever it was, it worked. (And I kid you not: Almost everyone staying with me went to visit Dr. Said, all reporting that they felt physically and emotionally better afterwards. I can’t recommend him enough—if you find yourself in Marrakech, go visit him and tell him I sent you.
What I realized at the end of my trip was that in Morocco, we’re all seeking magic (even if they call it by a different name–“healer” seemed more culturally appropriate)—you just need to be willing to find it.
The Magic Spot
Find the Nomad Restaurant in the Medina. Look to the left—go down the alleyway and then make another left. If you see animal skins, feathers, and animals in cages, you’re at the right place.
The Crystal Spot
There’s no address for this one either—your best bet is to just wander and ask locals if they know where it is.
Dr. Said Oumassou
Avenue Yaakoub Mansour Immeuble Ahlam, Gueliz, Marrakech
Bonus: Dr. Said will be in New York City and accepting appointments February 24-28, 2020; to book, email Houda Nahed at email@example.com.